March 17, 2008

CASPER, WY - Organizations from Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado met in Casper, WY, on Saturday, March 15, to discuss their joint concerns about uranium mining in the Northern Great Plains. Citizens from ten organizations are voicing their concerns about surface and ground water, human health, and local property values.

Defenders of the Black Hills, South Dakota Sierra Club, and ACTion for the Environment attended from South Dakota, which faces mining proposals along the southern Black Hills. The Powder River Basin Resource Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance came from Wyoming, where exploratory and mining permits have been applied for in the state. Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction traveled from the northern part of Colorado where uranium mining is also proposed near Fort Collins. Western Nebraska Resources Council, Nebraskans for Peace, and Nebraska Sierra Club arrived from northwest Nebraska where Crow Butte Resources is seeking to expand their uranium mining operations. Members of Dakota Resource Council from northwestern North Dakota are also facing new plans for uranium mining in their part of that state.

In all five states, companies plan to use 'in situ' leach mining (ISL) which injects a dissolving solution underground into suspected uranium deposits. The solution dissolves the uranium and its radioactive decay products, as well as heavy metals. This radioactive solution is pumped to the surface. The uranium is then removed and shipped to a mill for concentration into "yellowcake." The water is re-treated and then injected back underground in a cycle that continues until all the uranium has been extracted. Reverse osmosis is then often used to remove some of the toxics from the water, and the remaining liquid is either injected underground or retained in shallow ponds. Numerous uranium mining companies are making plans throughout the West as a result of recent increases in the price of uranium.
"In Wyoming, there are significant questions about regulation and oversight of uranium operations," according to Wilma Tope, Powder River Basin Resource Council Board Member. "Citizens need to have a stronger voice in uranium activities." Wilma's family owns a ranch in Crook County, WY, and has banded together with other local residents to pressure regulators to ensure adequate protection of local water supplies - both quality and quantity.
In South Dakota, Powertech Uranium Corporation has started drilling more uranium exploratory wells in an area where they already have 4,000 wells in the southwestern Black Hills. "It's already been proven world-wide that ISL mining contaminates aquifers and then those aquifers cannot be restored to their previous state," said Charmaine White Face, Coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills. "South Dakota relies very heavily on aquifers for drinking water and livestock use. We've been in a drought for the last ten years and the last thing we need to do is poison our water," she said.
ACTion for the Environment is very concerned that South Dakota taxpayers will once again have to take on the toxic messes that are left when a mining company leaves as happened previously with Canadian companies. Powertech is a Canadian company. "The Board of Minerals and Environment should remember what happened when they gave approval for the Brohm gold mine. Now SD people are paying for that mess. Are we going to have to pay for a radioactive mess left by another Canadian company?" said Gary Heckenliable of ACTion for the Environment. "Not only South Dakota residents but all the taxpayers of the United States are going to have to pay for this for many, many years to come," he said.
Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (CARD), formed last year in response to Powertech's proposal to mine in the rapidly-growing area near Fort Collins. "Of course uranium mining always causes some form of contamination. Water at in situ leach mining sites is not returned to its original condition," said Jackie Adolph, a member of CARD. "Most people don't know that federal policies that subsidize the nuclear industry aren't just about power plants. The nuclear industry's largest negative impacts have always been in uranium mining and milling processes."
In Nebraska, Crow Butte Resources (a subsidiary of the Canadian company Cameco Corp.) is seeking to expand one the largest and oldest ISL mines in the country. Organizations have intervened in the NRC's licensing procedures. "We are particularly concerned about protection of local water supplies and cultural resources," said Buffalo Bruce, Vice Chair of the Western Nebraska Resources Council. "The NRC has failed to fulfill its duties under the Trust Doctrine, which protects indigenous rights granted to Native American populations under U.S. treaties."
North Dakota just recently started public hearings to accept comments on ISL mining in that state. Ken Kudrna, a member of Dakota Resource Council, lives only a few miles from where uranium mining is planned to begin.
The groups have issued a common statement:
"We want the uranium industry to know that we stand together on this issue. Whether in a rural setting or a populated area, uranium mining causes radioactive contamination. Past uranium sites continue to contaminate the air, land, and water. Any bonds designed to pay for clean-up of former mining areas have not been sufficient, and taxpayers have been forced to pay the bill. We call on the public and all elected officials to do everything possible to protect the water, land, and local economies from proposed uranium activities."
More information can be found at:
Defenders of the Black Hills: www.defendblackhills.org
Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction: www.nunnglow.com
Powder River Basin Resource Council: www.powderriverbasin.org
Nebraskans for Peace: http://www.nebraskansforpeace.org/
Shannon Anderson: (307) 763-1816

Mission Statement

"Defenders of the Black Hills is a group of volunteers without racial or tribal boundaries whose mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territories, Treaties made between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation."

Speaking about radioactive fallout, the late President John F. Kennedy said,

"Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone, should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."

July 26, 1963 upon signing the ban on above ground nuclear tests