Environment | Opinion

Debra White Plume: Oglala Sioux Tribe battles uranium mine






The Crow Butte Resources Inc. uranium mine in Nebraska, about 40 miles south of the border of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Photo from Nuclear Street

Debra White Plume of Owe Aku Bring Back the Way previews upcoming Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings in which the Oglala Sioux Tribe will challenge a permit for the Crow Butte uranium mine in Lakota treaty territory in present-day Nebraska:
The uranium mining industry is a major water consumer in this big land. The Canadian-based Cameco, Inc. uranium corporation currently operating (for 10 years now) its’ in situ leach (ISL) uranium mine at the base of Crow Butte near Crawford, Nebraska has obtained rights to use 9,000 gallons of water per minute to extract raw uranium ore through 8,000 drilled holes in the ground, through the precious and ancient (and so slow to recharge) glacial Ogllala and Arikaree Aquifers, and has rights to bury its radioactive waste water in deep disposal wells, forever (so far about half a billion gallons). Cameco also ISL mines uranium in Wyoming (where it paid a million dollar environmental degradation fine a few years ago, is it cheaper to pay a fine than obey a permit?). Cameco is the world’s largest uranium producer, ironically, most of their mines are on indigenous lands around the world. Crow Butte is known to the Lakota as a sacred place for vision quest and medicine, and where Crazy Horse spent many of his last days in prayer and solitude before his murder at the nearby Ft. Robinson prisoner of war compound. We can’t go there anymore.

Cameco, Inc. must apply to renew its Crow Butte license, and has filed permit applications to open three additional uranium mines, 30 miles from our southern border inside our ancestral Ft. Laramie Treaty lands. They have opposition. In 2007 several folks and organizations filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to challenge Cameco’s right to mine, presenting scientific evidence that all is not right with this corporations’ mining practices. This was the first time in 17 years anyone in America challenged a uranium corporations’ right to mine. It is truly a David v. Goliath battle.

After years of the intervenors attorneys battling it out with the attorneys of the Cameco corporation and the NRC, the U.S. Atomic Licensing Board (ALB) judges decided which contentions are admissible and so will be argued at the hearing August 24-28. While there are many arguments against Cameco’s right to mine, not all are admissible at this hearing.

Get the Story:
Debra White Plume: Environmental Justice or Corporate Rights to Water? (Indian Country Today 8/17)

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