Crow Butte Mining , drills for uranium at the Wohlers Ranch on the Niobrara River near Marsland, Nebraska. The area is about 50 miles south of the Pine Ridge Reservation border in neighboring South Dakota. Photo courtesy Wohlers Ranch
Environment | National

Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe contests uranium mining plan

Comment deadline nears on new uranium mining

Oglala Sioux Tribe strongly opposes permit
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

CRAWFORD, NE. – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is giving the public until January 29 to comment on its staff decision to let Crow Butte Resources Inc. mine 4,500 more acres for uranium between here and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the proposed Marsland Expansion Area.

The staff decided no environmental impact statement study is necessary and is requesting input on its December Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), as well as on an environmental assessment.

“After considering all received comments, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will determine whether a final FONSI is appropriate or whether preparation of an environmental impact statement is warranted,” the staff said in an official notice.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe and other intervenors are on record in contesting the permit, which would expand the existing Crow Butte Mine, wholly-owned by and operated for the Canadian uranium giant Cameco Corp.

The other intervenors are Antonia Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook, Bruce McIntosh, Debra White Plume, Western Nebraska Resources Council, and Aligning for Responsible Mining.

The opponents continue to contest the original Crow Butte Mine and an earlier expansion named North Trend, as well. Cameco, the world’s largest private uranium producer, wants to increase its In-Situ Recovery (ISR) activity, which takes local water to inject a leach solution into drill holes in the ore, extracts uranium from the solution, dry’s and packages it into solid yellowcake on site for shipping to nuclear power plants. Toxic and radioactive by-products also are shipped away, while wastewater is drained on the surface or forced deep underground.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff notes that “further development of domestic resources of uranium would contribute to the energy independence of the United States, considering that domestic production accounts for only about 17 percent of the total uranium purchased by U.S. civilian nuclear power reactors.”

Its environmental assessment concludes: “The staff performed a cumulative impacts analysis and concluded that there would not be significant cumulative impacts for any resource areas.” The document further states: “Permitting ISR activities at the Marsland Expansion Area would have a positive potential impact on socioeconomics.”

The resource areas analyzed were land use, geology and soils, water resources, ecological resources, climate, meteorology, and air quality, historic and cultural resources, demographics and socioeconomics, transportation, noise, visual and scenic resources, public and occupational health and safety, hazardous materials and waste management. Interveners in the previous expansion application argued, among other things, that “the current mine sites are within the treaty boundaries; that they possess water and mineral rights under the treaties, that infringement of the treaties would constitute injury.”

Cameco Corporation on YouTube: 'World's largest uranium producer'

The environmental assessment for the proposed Marsland Expansion Area notes that the U.S. Indian Claims Commission confirmed on Feb. 15, 1974, that Dawes County, where the project focusses, “was traditionally occupied and used by the ancestors of the modern-day tribes of the Rosebud, Standing Rock, Pine Ridge (Oglala), Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, Santee, and Fort Peck Sioux Reservations.”

However, it finds that surveys and evaluation of historical and cultural sites conducted by state and tribal historic preservation officers “confirmed the tribal determinations that none of the 12 places is potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places

The consulting tribal governments, for whom the area is significant are: Oglala Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Northern Arapaho Tribe, Eastern Shoshone Tribe, Santee Sioux Nation, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Crow Nation, Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan Hidatsa & Arikara), Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Assiniboine Sioux, Fort Peck Tribes, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Comanche Nation, and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe.

The environmental assessment contains an extensive description of the surface and underground water quality, quantity and use, drawing a conclusion that the mining operation will take place in a hydrogeological layer that is sufficiently isolated to avoid the spread of toxic and radioactive materials released in the ISR process. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received expert testimony to the contrary in prior permit application hearings for Crow Butte Resources Inc. uranium mining.

Interested parties may submit comments online by accessing the Federal Rulemaking website, and searching for Docket ID NRC–2012–0281, or mail comments to:
May Ma
Office of Administration
Mail Stop: OWFN–2– A13 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555– 0001

Address questions about dockets to Carol Gallagher at 301–415–3463;


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