Target: Protecting the Rights of Indigenous People
Cameco, the largest uranium mining company in the world, is seeking to expand its Crow Butte mine near Crawford, Nebraska. The mine expansion will impact the water rights and threaten the health, livelihood and sacred sites of both the Oglala and Lakota Sioux Tribes. Petitioners representing the rights of the indigenous peoples to be impacted have moved to intervene in the permit process now occurring before the US Nuclear Regulator Commission. Rock the Earth has joined with the Center for Water Advocacy to support their right to intervene and have their concerns considered in the permitting process.
On February 22, Rock
the Earth joined with the Center for Water Advocacy (“CWA”) to oppose Crow
Butte Resources’(“CBR”) Uranium Mine Expansion.
Located near Crawford, Nebraska, The Crow Butte Mine produces
800,000 to 1 million pounds of yellowcake
uranium per year (current price $89lb). The Crow Butte Mine is owned by
Canadian-based Cameco, Inc. which calls itself
the largest uranium company in the world. Cameco Resources (formerly Crow
Butte Resources or “CBR”), a Cameco subsidiary that owns the mine, represents
10% of Cameco's uranium reserves.
The Issue at
CBR is asking the NRC for a permit to expand uranium mining in and around towns, farms, and Indian territories, directly
impacting indigenous peoples’ water rights and threatening their health,
livelihood and sacred sites. CBR's
process currently consumes and contaminates 4.7 billion gallons of water per
year from the High Plains Aquifer which is also the water source to communities
in eight western states.
On November 12,
2007, five Petitioners from parts of the poorest region in the United States asked the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) to participate in decisions relative to uranium mining and its
harmful effects in northwestern Nebraska and
the Lakota (Sioux) Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Southwest
South Dakota. According to NRC sources, this is the first request
to intervene in an NRC proceeding relating to the expansion of an existing
uranium mining operation in approximately 17 years. The petitioners are Thomas
Cook, Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Corp., Western Nebraska Resources
Council, Debra White Plume, and an Oglala Lakota nonprofit organization called
Rock the Earth
and the CWA supported the Petitioners’ right to intervene in the mine
challenges CBR's request to pump an additional 2.4 billion gallons of
groundwater a year to expand its operations. CBR's application is made while
drought is depleting the aquifers at 160% of recharge.
In addition to
the use of additional valuable water resources, CBR has admitted to:
1. A spill of approximately 300,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste at its
mine in Crawford, Nebraska
2. Failure to clean up one-third of the spills equaling approximately 100,000
gallons of radioactive liquid waste
3. Admission that a broken coupling led to a one gallon per minute leak for
several years into the Brule aquifer.
As one member of
the Western Nebraska
Resources Counsel stated, "In our book, you clean up your first mess
before you are allowed the opportunity to create a new mess."
Petitioners asked the NRC for a chance to submit evidence that a slow-moving, underground
radioactive plume of contaminated water is moving through several
inter-connected aquifers-the Arikaree, Brule and High Plains aquifers.
The Arikaree aquifer lies directly under the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation. Petitioners believe there is a link between 98 wells that were
closed on the Western side of the Reservation because of radioactive
contamination and unusual incidences of cancer, kidney disease, birth defects,
miscarriages and infant brain seizures.
Petitioners from Native American communities also assert that the United
Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples applies. Article 32
acknowledges that Indigenous peoples have a right to "free, prior and
informed consent" with respect to development, utilization or exploitation
of mineral resources. It further provides that "states shall provide
effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and
appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental
impact." To date, no opportunity
has been provided for members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe or Native communities
to analyze CBR's License Amendment or its affect on Indigenous lands and
resources. Petitioners, Rock the Earth
and the CWA stress that it would be entirely consistent with international
human rights standards if the NRC affirms the Indigenous peoples' right to
intervene in the permit process for CBR's application.
On April 29, 2008, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel of three judges agreed with our position and ruled that Petitoners will be allowed to participate in the administrative proceedings! To read the opinion, go here.
and the Environment:
The CBR mine was one of the first ISL uranium mines and
has been in continuous operation since 1991. As a result, it is often
cited as a precedent by other mining companies seeking to do ISL - and there
may be up to 14 in the next 3 years. ISL mining is happening in the Black
Hills, Arizona, Colorado,
and next to the Grand Canyon.
No ISL mine has
ever restored water quality to its pre-mining baseline. Large water
supplies are being converted from drinking water to undrinkable wastewater to
promote nuclear power mostly for foreign profit. ISL also releases radon
into the air as well as thorium, radium, arsenic and other toxins into the
water. There is also frequent contamination from spills and leaks.
Citizen Action is Needed!
None of the Presidential contenders have taken a favorable position on nuclear
materials mining, use, power, weapons or disposal and cleanup (other than some
Democratic resistance to Yucca
Write letters to editors, letters to
congress and state reps to educate them about the true costs of nuclear
material and the need to tighten controls and regulation at all steps. Transition to renewable energy to
fulfill your personal, family and community needs.
to renewable energy to fulfill your personal, family and community needs.
Rock the Earth Amicus Brief to NRC, dated Feb. 22, 2008
Rock the Earth Press Release
NRC Ruling of April 29, 2008 granting Petitoners standing to participate in the license and permit proceedings.
Save Crow Butte
Center for Water Advocacy