Friday, November 16, 2007

Uranium Impacts Native and non-Native Seek Justice

Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance ? Church Rock Uranium Monitoring Project

Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining ? Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment

Navajo Uranium Radiation Vicitms Committee

New Mexico Environmental Law Center ? Post '71 Uranium Workers Committee

Sierra Club Environmental Justice Office ? Southwest Research and Information Center

Press Release

For More Information:

Thursday Nov. 15, 2007

Mitchell Capitan, 505-786-5209

Linda Evers, 505-287-2304

Candace Head-Dylla, 505-401-4349

Chris Shuey, 505-262-1862

Robert Tohe, 928-774-6103

Grass-roots and nongovernmental organizations

seek justice for uranium impacts in meetings with members of Congress

WASHINGTON , DC — Representatives of grass-roots groups and nongovernmental organizations from New Mexico and Arizona told members of Congress last week that they want a federal moratorium on new uranium development in the region until the widespread environmental and public health damages from past mining and milling are resolved and workers and communities are fully compensated.

The organizations were in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Navajo Uranium Roundtable sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall of New Mexico, and co-hosted by Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona, and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr.

The groups, which represented communities in the Eastern Navajo Agency, Acoma and Laguna pueblos, and the Milan and Grants area, supported the Navajo Nation's requests for funding to clean up hundreds of abandoned mines in Navajo communities, fully compensate uranium workers, conduct health studies in uranium-impacted communities, and honor and respect the Navajo Nation's 2005 law banning uranium mining and processing in Navajo Country.

Speakers for the grassroots groups joined President Shirley, other Navajo Nation officials, and Laguna Pueblo Governor John E. Antonio, in calling for a federal moratorium on new uranium mining.

Mitchell Capitan, founder of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), based in Crownpoint, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is "tilted toward industry" and cannot be trusted to properly regulate uranium in situ leach (ISL) mines and new uranium mills. He charged that the NRC did not give fair consideration to ENDAUM's technical and legal arguments challenging NRC's 1998 licensing of Hydro Resources, Inc.'s (HRI) proposed ISL mines in Churchrock and Crownpoint. To illustrate his point, Capitan provided copies of a photo from the NRC's web site showing agency officials smiling and shaking hands with executives of a Wyoming uranium company, which had just submitted an application for a new ISL mine — long before the proposed facility is subjected to NRC staff review and approved by the Commission.

Larry J. King, an ENDAUM member and Churchrock Chapter resident, said his community recommends a federal uranium mine clean-up program that would address legacy sites throughout the West. He also called for Congress to force NRC to return to its mission to protect public health and safety. He cited an NRC ruling in 2006 that classified high levels of radiation from mining wastes at a proposed ISL site across the highway from his home as "background" radiation.

Robert Tohe, environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club in Flagstaff , Ariz. , said Congress should give federal land management agencies the authority to deny exploration and mining permits on Native American sacred sites and in sacred places. He noted that several mining companies are exploring for uranium on and around Mt. Taylor , one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo people and a sacred place for Acoma and Laguna pueblos.

Long-time Diné uranium worker advocate Phil Harrison, Jr., who is now a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, and attorney Keith Killian of Grand Junction , Colorado , called on Congress to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to address disparities in compensation awards between Native Americans and non-Indian uranium workers and downwinders. They said the range of compensable diseases should be expanded and attention given to the lack of compensation for dependents of former workers and people who lived, and still live, in mining-impacted communities.

Harrison, Paguate resident Alvino Waconda, and Milan residents Linda Evers and Liz Lucero, all of whom are former uranium workers, supported amending RECA to include people who worked in the uranium industry after 1971. Evers said her group has collected nearly 1,500 surveys of post-1971 uranium workers, and that the vast majority of workers are reporting a wide range of cancers, respiratory diseases and kidney disease. Evers said she expects to report the first results by the end of the year.

Milan residents Candace Head-Dylla, Milton Head and Art Gebeau, representing the Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance (BVDA), handed out information packets showing how groundwater contamination around the Homestake Uranium Mill north of Milan has spread to three aquifers covering several miles of land since first detected in 1961. They said the plumes contain high levels of uranium and other toxic substances and are inching toward Milan 's municipal water wells, yet no groundwater monitoring is being conducted ahead of the contamination plume. Dozens of private wells in communities near the mill have been shut down, but until very recently some residents were unknowingly still drinking tainted water from private wells, the BVDA members said. They recommended that Congress should amend federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, to ensure that that uranium mine and mill wastes and associated discharges are regulated as toxic pollutants.

The grass-roots people were assisted by staffs of Southwest Research and Information Center , Natural Resources Defense Council, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center , Earthworks, and The Raben Group. A list of major policy objectives advocated by the groups follows.

Dr. Johnnye Lewis, a University of New Mexico toxicologist who was invited by the Navajo Nation and Udall staffs to provide scientific guidance, spoke to the need for a comprehensive health study, noting that the lack of health data is often misconstrued as a lack of effect. Dr. Lewis, who is the principal investigator for the first community-based health and exposure study in Navajo communities, emphasized the need for health studies to be conducted by independent investigators to ensure the validity and scientific integrity of results.



1. Seek legislation to impose a federal moratorium on new uranium development until environmental pollution from previous mining and milling is cleaned up, workers are appropriately compensated, and community health studies conducted.

2. Amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to, among other things, include certain New Mexico counties in the areas exposed to fallout from nuclear weapons testing, expand the universe of compensable diseases for uranium workers, and extend eligibility for compensation to workers who worked after 1971. Congress should also investigate compensation strategies for dependents of former uranium workers and for residents of communities impacted by uranium development.

3. Respect and protect the Navajo Nation's sovereign right to enact the Diné Natural Resources Protection Act (DNRPA) of 2005, which prohibits uranium mining and processing by any means anywhere in Navajo Country.

4. Ensure full funding for health studies among residents of communities impacted by uranium mining and milling, and restore cuts in existing studies.

5. Require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to drop work on the proposed Generic Environmental Impact Statement for uranium in situ leach mining and to return to full and fair implementation of its statutory authority to protect public health and safety.

6. Amend the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Atomic Energy Act to make clear and certain that uranium mill and mine wastes are defined as "pollutants" and are subject to the same level of regulatory control and scrutiny as all other pollutants. Uranium mine and mill waste should not be exempt from any federal public health or environmental statute.

7. Enact a comprehensive federal abandoned uranium mine clean-up program, including funds for cleanup of abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo and throughout the Four Corners Area. Ensure that financially viable companies are held responsible for cleaning, or paying for cleanup, of the mining and milling sites they abandoned.

8. Reaffirm the principal of religious freedom by authorizing federal land management agencies to deny exploration, mining and milling permits on sacred sites or in sacred places, including and especially Mt. Taylor in northwestern New Mexico .


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Public Meeting about Abandoned Uranium Mines in the Cave Hills Area

Defenders of the Black Hills

P. O. Box 2003, Rapid City, SD 57709

Nov. 6, 2007

Public Service Announcement

“Public Meeting about Abandoned Uranium Mines in the Cave Hills Area”

On Tues. Nov. 13, 2007, the US Forest Service will hold a meeting in Ludlow regarding the abandoned uranium mines in the Cave Hills area at Riley Pass. The meeting is for the public and will be held in the Ludlow Hall from 5-8:00 PM.

Representatives from Tronox, formerly Kerr-McGee, the mining company that dug the uranium mine at Riley Pass will be there as well as representatives from SD School of Mines and Technology.

We encourage as many people as possible to attend and question how and when all of the 89 mines are going to be cleaned up, the health concerns from no cleanup after 30 years of leaving the mines exposed, possible destruction of more burial and sacred sites in the cleanup process, and how much taxpayer dollars are being used for the cleanup.

For more information call (605) 399-1868, or email:

Monday, November 5, 2007

South Dakota ISL uranium mining: Now you see it, now you don't

Einstein once said that nuclear reactors are terrible ways to boil water; I say that poisoning water to mine uranium and promote nuclear energy is even more dangerous since we cannot easily see radioactive poisoning and heavy metal groundwater contamination especially if it is buried deep underground.

My purpose in this blog post is continue my drive to inform the rest of this country about the dangerous situation developing in South Dakota over in situ leach uranium mining. Continuing in this, there are several factors I consider very important background information before delving into this situation with me: (1) the groundwater hydrology in South Dakota hasn't been fully mapped as it has in Colorado where the direction of groundwater flow has been illustrated beautifully; (2) as a volunteer researcher for the Defenders of the Black Hills I attended the first meetings with the State of South Dakota over uranium mining permitting regulations and PowerTech Uranium's application to conduct exploratory drilling in Fall River county where I can only felt that we experienced racism, outright bigotry and environmental injustice from state officials; and (3) our verbal comments as well as those submitted in writing were largely passed over in favor of PowerTech Uranium and its cohorts attending with them, Energy Metals (currently mining in Wyoming), and Crow Butte Resources (currently mining in Nebraska).

Current concerns and fears I share about in situ leach uranium mining are below blockquoted from

The concerns of environmental groups and landholders centre around;

  • Acidification of groundwaters

  • Mobilisation of potentially hazardous heavy metals and, in the case of uranium, radioactive heavy metals.[6]

  • Disturbance of the groundwater table, mixing of groundwater aquifers and general disturbance of the land atop the ore body

  • Destruction of habitat for stygofauna and other rock-inhabiting organisms, bacteria, et cetera.

  • Potential spills of acidic and metal-bearing or salt-bearing leachates upon the surface

As illustrated below, in situ leach uranium mining can experience several dangerous failures that are impossible or very difficult to remediate when these failures occur:

Although in-situ leach uranium mining is supposedly safe, I contend that it isn't, After reading published reports from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and existing controversial conditions reportedly resulting from in-situ leach uranium mining in Texas, Wyoming, and New Mexico as well as Australia and Russia, I should think that modern science could find a different means to generate electricity, other than using coal, uranium, gas, oil or hydropower.

For starters, the restoration process, technically named a groundwater sweep, at an in situ leach uranium mine uses reverse osmosis (RO) where high pressured water called the pore volume (the actual displacement yield of the well field) is injected back through the contaminated ore zone and extracted through another well head pump, then passed through a filter that usually clogs with the contaminated liquid during the first pass. This contaminated material is then removed from the filter and clean water is then repeatedly injected into the ore body until a certain groundwater standard has been achieved, usually pre-mining water quality standards.

The first critical subject to note is as quoted in NUREG/CR-6870:

The concentrate liquid waste from the RO units is either fed to evaporation ponds, injected into deep disposal wells, or dried for disposal at a licensed facility.

The waste is highly radioactive and emit high concentrations of radon to the atmosphere while also having the extreme possibility of escaping into the environment during catastrophic storms or acts of terrorism or through negligence. Disposing of this contaminant into deep disposal wells is just as dangerous since we don't really understand what happens down there yet but "out of sight, out of mind" seems to be valid science acceptable to the NRC.

Another important aspect that the NUREG states is that often the groundwater sweep doesn't remove all of the lixiviant, requiring another process of injecting more poisons (hydrogen sulfide, sodium hydrosulfide, or alkaline solutions) into the earth to stabilize the lixiviant to keep it from continuing to react with the ore body, thereby increasing the levels of uranium in the groundwater. But injecting these other poisons into the groundwater is acceptable to the NRC if it is within the pre-mining groundwater quality standards as measured by pH ratios yet this doesn't mean that it is any better because now its chemical composition is radically different.

NOW as I am finished with this, knowing that you are fully aware of my small perspective on the bigger picture as this form of toxic uranium mining, you must agree that uranium mining in all forms is dangerous to us, to all of us! Call your local congress representative, have them start investigating why uranium mining is allowed to continue in this country although the facts remain that it is very dangerous and toxic. Support all of the groups I have listed in the right sidebar!