Lakota Win Standing to Oppose Uranium Mine

Lakota Win Standing to Oppose Uranium Mine

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John Ahni Schertow
December 15, 2008
 

A panel of judges from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted the Lakota and other petitioners, standing to argue against the license renewal of Cameco Inc.’s In Situ Leach (ISL) uranium mine near Crawford, Nebraska.

The decision was announced on November 21, nearly four months after the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Delegation of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, the Lakota group Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the Western Nebraska Resources Council, and several concerned citizens intervened to halt the 10-year renewal of the mine.

At the time, the group petitioners cited major health concerns with the mine, particularly surrounding a set of faults and fractures that could allow Arsenic, Radium, Thorium, and heavy metal-contaminated water from the mine aquifer to mix in with public water sources.

They further stated that Cameco was aware of this danger, but kept silent about it in order to continue with the mining operation.

Exposure to such contaminants can lead to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, infant brain seizures, and several other incurable diseases. Arsenic exposure has also been linked to diabetes, which the Lakota are presently suffering from at a rate of 800 times the national average.

Beyond health risks, the petitioners further pointed out that Cameco cannot technically hold a legal mining license because of a provision in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which prevents licenses from being held by “any corporation or other entity if… it is owned, controlled, or dominated by an alien, a foreign corporation, or a foreign government,” reads the act.

Cameco, the world’s largest uranium supplier, is a wholly-owned Canadian mining corporation.

In their descision, the judges admitted to nine points of contention in total, “including the failure to disclose non-radiological impacts, failure to consult regarding cultural resources, failure to disclose impact on surface waters, including The White River, failure to disclose fractures and faults connecting the mined aquifer and drinking aquifers, failure to disclose that wastes are released on-site, failure to include recent research, failure to account for the value of non-degraded wetlands, and failure to disclose foreign ownership,” explains Alex White Plume.

“On the issue of foreign ownership of the mine and the concealment of that fact, the Commission ruled, ‘its resolution in this proceeding is potentially fatal to Crow Butte’s proposed renewal of its license. The Board is of the opinion that it is in the best interest in the management of this proceeding that this issue be segregated from the other contentions and briefed on the merits up front.'”

“David Frankel, attorney for Consolidated Petitioners, says that briefs on the issue of foreign ownership and concealment are due by end of December, with responses in January, and a decision about 30-45 days thereafter. If the Commission rules against the company on the foreign ownership issue they will either lose their license and start 20 years of full time water restoration or sell the mine to a US company.”

Whatever the decision, opposition to the mine will by all means continue, “to make the water safe for our children and grandchildren,” says Debra White Plume, Executive Director of Owe Aku and a member of the Oglala Sioux.

In addition to the license renewal, the Petitioners are further expecting Cameco to try and expand the current mining area to include another two uranium mines. They say they will oppose these as well.

For more information, contact Katya Kruglak at 703.304.5075; or, visit savecrowbutte.org, uraniumisnotmyfriend.org/

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