|The Energy Net|
A History of Scandals Under Heavy construction (sept 22th 2008)
Its pretty hard to outdo some of the excellent online resources on the history of uranium mining. Please check out the articles on the left if you want a closer look.
This introduction is an attempt to place this issue in an appropriate perspective. The size of the uranium mining industry is collosal. But, because the impacts of the industry are almost completely hidden from the public, most of us don't understand the scale of the impacts this first step of the nuclear fuel-cycle has.
The satellite image above left, is of the Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia. The mining and milling facility covers 23 square Kilo meters. This is currently the biggest uranium mine in the world. The middle image is of the actual Mining pit which is nearly a mile long. Then on the right image is of one of the large dump trucks that are being used to haul the uranium from mines like Rossing. (You can click on the images to get a closer look)
The above uranium digging shovel is from a major Cameco mining operation in Canada. The black dots on the left, of which there are at least 15,000 represent uranium mines in the western U.S. Thousands of these mines have been abandoned by the companies that once mined these sites and have yet to be cleaned up. Cleanup estimates range as high as $30 billion.
No, not every mine in the U.S. is as large. There are less than 10 active uranium mines in the U.S. as of September 2008. In a study of some 3,500 uranium mines, five mines produced over 1 million tons of uranium ore, while nearly a thousand more operations produced between 1,000 or more tons of uranium ore. In 2005, Rossing mined 12 million tons of raw ore, producing a total of 3,700 tons or uranium ore. Rossing (Rio Tinto is primary company involved) produces 8% of the world's uranium ore, while Canadian mines, mostly owned by Cameco, a large French company produces nearly a quarter of the world's total uranium ore. Rossing also used 225,000 tons of acid and over 3 million cubic meters of water to produce the finished uranium yellowcake. Rossing also has tailing pond that is over 1,500 acres in size.
Below is a list of metals that can be expected to be found during mining operations, that will be released into the environment.
The federal government estimates that there are nearly 44 billion cubic yards of uranium tailings left over as part of this country's uranium mining operations. Attempts to stabilize these tailing piles (both dry and wet) have not been sucessful. It will cost over $1 billion to move 16 million tons of uranium tailings that are adjacent to the Colorado River, the water source for millions of westerners, at Moab Utah. Removal of the tailings started in May 2009 but won't be complete until 2025 according to the DOE.
Historically, uranium ore was hard rock mined at locations, located
mostly in the southwest or in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.
Due to cheaper better quality uranium yellowcake from other parts of
the world, the U.S. industry collapsed in the late 1980's. Leaving behind
thousands of abandoned uranium mines and mills. Cleanup of the thousands
of uranium mines and milling operations was started in 1978. With some
sites like the scandalous Grand Junction Colorado fiaso where tailings
were used to build streets, schools and the foundations of businesses
and homes have been completed. But this is not the case for the Navaho
tribal lands. Nixon tried to designate the area as a National Sacrafice
Area in the 1970's. The government's actions speak volumes as it took
Waxman hearings in 2007 to finally awaken the EPA and DOE from sleep.
Ralph Nader on the 1872 Mining Act
This nearly 130-year-old relic of efforts to settle the
West allows mining companies to claim federal lands for $5 an acre or
less and then take gold, silver, lead or other hard-rock minerals with
no royalty payments to the public treasury. Thanks to the anachronistic
1872 Mining Act, mining companies-including foreign companies-extract
billions of dollars worth of minerals a year from federal lands, royalty
From 1987 to 1994, the mining companies gave $17 million in campaign contributions to congressional candidates-a small price to pay to preserve their right to extract $26 billion worth of minerals, royalty free, during the same period. More recently, in the 1997-1998 election cycle, the industry-led by the National Mining Association, Cyprus Amax Minerals, Drummond, Phelps Dodge and Peabody Coal rained more than $2 million in contributions on congressional candidates.
Those campaign donations are concentrated on a relatively
small number of key members who go to bat for the industry-including
Senators Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, and
Representatives J.D. Hayworth, R-Arizona, and Don Young, D-Alaska. Because
of the way the Congress, especially the Senate, functions, it is much
easier to block changes in the status quo than to enact changes. The
industry's focused contributions ensures it has enough heavyweights
and devotees on call in the Congress to block the perennial efforts
to reform the 1872 Mining Act.
Indigenous Uranium Forum
The genesis of the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum began in July and August of 1987 when the Rural Tribal Enterprise Program of the University of New Mexico Gallup Campus held a series of conferences on the environmental and health impacts of uranium development in the Grants Mineral Belt. The coordinator of the conference series was Anna Rondon (Navajo) and the presenters included Diana Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo) and Esther Yazzie (Navajo) of the Tonantzin Land Institute; Chris Shuey, Paul Robinson, and Ray Morgan (Navajo) of the Southwest Research and Information Center; and Navajo-Ute researcher and writer John Redhouse.
In September and October of the same year, Anna, Esther, Ray, and John took it on the road as they and other red delegates from throughout the indigenous world attended and participated in the First Global Radiation Victims Conference and the First Indigenous Uranium Forum in New York City, New York. At the Forum, John wrote a concept paper entitled "Indigenous Uranium Forum Network: A Structure for Continuing Resistance" that proposed to institutionalize the Indigenous Uranium Forum. The concept paper was written at the request of Indigenous Uranium Forum coordinator Tom LaBlanc from the mighty Dakota Sioux Nation.
In November, 1987, Tom, Anna, and John met in Albuquerque and agreed to regionalize the Indigenous Uranium Forum so that IUF regional affiliates could take the lead in organizing regional actions such as the Second Indigenous Uranium Forum which was proposed by Tonantzin Land Institute board president Esther Yazzie to be held at uranium-threatened Red Butte on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As a result of the meeting and agreement, the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum was born.
In January, 1988, Tom, Anna, and John (also of the Tonantzin Land Institute) met with Tonantzin Land Institute co-directors David Lujan and Diana Ortiz and jointly agreed to meet with the Havasupai Tribe based on the proposal made at the First Indigenous Uranium Forum.
In May, 1988, the Havasupai Tribal Council passed a resolution approving the proposal. The Havasupai Tribe would host and co-sponsor the Second Indigenous Uranium Forum at Red Butte. Other co-sponsors included the Tonantzin Land Institute and the Indigenous Uranium Forum.
In September of that same year, the Second Indigenous Uranium Forum was held at Red Butte. The gathering was also called the First Grandmother Canyon Gathering and three more gatherings were held by the Havasupai Tribe from 1989 to 1991.
In 1989, Tonanzin Land Institute consultant Anna Rondon and volunteer Keith Curley (Navajo) organized the Third Indigenous Uranium Forum at Mount Taylor. The gathering was part of the Time for Healing Pilgrimage which began at Red Butte and ended at the Petroglyphs near Albuquerque.
In 1990, Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum coordinator Anna Rondon coordinated the Fourth Indigenous Uranium Forum at Cove on the Navajo Reservation. The Cove Chapter hosted the gathering which was also co-sponsored by the Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee.
In 1993 and 1997, the fifth and sixth Indigenous Uranium Forums were held at Paquate at Laguna Pueblo and in Church Rock and Crownpoint in the Eastern Navajo Agency of the Navajo Nation. The village of Paquate hosted the fifth IUF which was also co-sponsored by the Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment. The Church Rock and Crownpoint chapters hosted the sixth IUF.
1999 and 2000 Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum co-produced a video with Philippa Winkler, Desert Concerns Radioactive Mines to Radioactive Weapons. This video was shown at the United Nations as an educational piece to advocate banning the use of depleted uranium. Subsequently, the ban was successfully endorsed.
The Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum has existed for 22 years.
There are four unpaid staff and volunteers: Anna, John, Louise Benally Norman Brown, Jirhon Geardon, (Indigenous Environmental Network) (Navajo), and Supai Waters (Havasupai) Manual Pino, Acoma,
Anna and Manual Pino will focus on fundraising efforts. Others?
The structure and function of the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum has always been indigenous as in American Indian or Native American. For example, our coordinator is Navajo. Our adviser and newsletter editor is Navaho and Ute (which makes him a Nava-Ute or a Uta-Ho). Our planning committee is also tribal and intertribal. At all our forums, we speak and do for ourselves.
The headquarters of the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum is located
In addition to these appropriate technologies, we support conservation and a paradigm shift toward energy sovereignty. Weatherization and energy efficiency are effective strategies for building resilience in indigenous communities which is consistent with our mantra.
Food sovereignty as it appertains to the growing and harvesting of
traditional foods such as mutton and chile is another crucial element
of sustainable development essential to the maintenance of healthy and
vibrant tribal communities on a regional if not bioregional scale. Traditional
food economies must emerge or re-emerge in the wake of the uranium and
nuclear holocaust past and present if we are
We work with the Navajo Nation, All Indian Pueblo Council, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Zuni Pueblo, Hopi Tribe, Havasupai Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, and the Kaibab Paiute Tribe. We also work with the Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee, Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, Laguna-Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment, Hualapais for a Better Tomorrow, Paiute Earthkeepers, Seventh Generation Fund, and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
We provide a forum for those who until then had no voice. At the forums, we do not speak FOR the people. We speak WITH the people. And we stand with them against the advancing uranium cavalry.
We work with the World Uranium Hearing Society and the Nuclear Free Future organization.
We plan to co-sponsor the Seventh Indigenous Uranium Forum at Acoma
Mount Taylor is one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation and is also sacred to the Laguna, Acoma, and Zuni pueblos and the Hopi Tribe. Yet it has also been the site of significant uranium exploration and development and now there are major plans for large-scale mining and milling of uranium on the endangered sacred mountain.
Uranium drilling, extraction, processing, and waste disposal are not only dangerous to the public health and environment but in the case of Mt. Taylor, constitute violent forms of desecration and sacrilege visited on our sacred turquoise mountain.
The Forum proposes to focus much-needed public attention on the Rape of Mount Taylor and to serve as a vehicle to launch a regional intertribal campaign to end this madness in the Grants Mineral Belt and elsewhere in Indian Country, from Grand Canyon to White Mesa, where deadly and runaway uranium technology threatens the lives and future of our people.
The Indigenous Uranium Forum will be the seventh in a continuing series which began in Gallup in July and August, 1987 as preparatory conferences to the First Indigenous Uranium Forum and the First Global Radiation Victims Conference held in New York City in September and October of 1987. The Gallup preparatory conference series was organized by Anna Rondon of the University of New Mexico Gallup Campus Rural Tribal Enterprise Program and was appropriately named "Uranium Mining in Your Backyard."
After the First Indigenous Uranium Forum, Anna organized the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum which has held gatherings at Red Butte, AZ, Mt. Taylor, Cove, Paquate, Church Rock, and Crownpoint, NM from 1988 to 1997.
The Forum has provided a voice for Navajo, Pueblo, Havasupai, and other indigenous radiation victims and empowered them to organize and unite against uranium and nuclear threats in their backyards and throughout the Southwest region of Turtle Island.
Uranium-threatened Mount Taylor was also the site of the First Mt. Taylor Gathering in 1979, The Third Indigenous Uranium Forum in 1989, and the Tenth Protecting Mother Earth Conference in 1999. Every ten years since 1979, there has been a gathering at Mount Taylor by indigenous people to honor the earth and strategize on the work to keep uranium in the ground. With your help, we will continue this sacred tradition in 2009.
Issuing a Declaration on the Rape of Mount Taylor and developing a program of action to implement its mandate based on resilience building as a valid and continuing form of resistance, decolonization, and liberation. This document will be given to the President Obama administration and to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Success will be measured by the lasting effectiveness of our work at the local, regional, national, and international levels from Mount Taylor to the Grandmother Canyon to the Colorado Plateau to the Black Hills and to the Four Directions of Turtle Island, Aba Yala (the Red Quarter of Mother Earth), and all throughout the Indigenous World.
The host group and co-sponsors will jointly conduct the evaluation of the forum in the context of the ongoing forum series.
The results of the evaluation will be used in the planning of future
forums and actions.