For Immediate Release
Oglala Sioux Tribe, Environmental Groups, and Concerned Citizens Join to Fight Cameco, Inc. Uranium Mine License Renewal and Exp
WASHINGTON - A Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) panel is currently
deciding the fate of the uranium mine near Crawford, Nebraska. In two
separate cases petitioners, made up of individuals from Nebraska, South
Dakota and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; as well as the Oglala Sioux
Tribe; the Oglala Delegation of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty
Council; a Lakota cultural group, Owe Aku – Bring Back the Way, and an
environmental group, Western Nebraska Resources Council, are seeking to
intervene in the 10-year license renewal proceeding for Cameco, Inc.’s In
Situ Leach (ISL) uranium mine and to block the expansion of that mine.
On July 28, 2008 thirteen individuals and groups filed suit to prevent the
license renewal. A suit was filed in November 2007 to block the North
Trend Expansion of the same ISL mine. Plaintiffs oppose the renewal of
Cameco’s license to operate an ISL uranium mine and the expansion of the
mine because of suspected contamination of drinking water sources due to
the mixing of the mined water with community groundwater. Further threats
are presented by spills and leaks into The White River, which flows from
the ISL mine towards Chadron and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and which
cuts through the land of several of the Petitioners at Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation. Plaintiffs say that threats to public health and safety
exist due to the faults and fractures that link the mined and drinking
aquifers and that there is evidence that the company suppressed data about
the fractures and faults in order to keep mining. They also claim that
the license application is missing key information, such as the fact that
the Crow Butte mine is wholly-owned by a Canadian corporation and that
foreign ownership of the mine is not allowed by the Atomic Energy Act of
ISL uranium mining involves oxidizing and dissolving uranium from
sandstone particles at the bottom of the aquifer, massive pumping of the
water and returning “geo-chemically changed,” contaminated water back into
the aquifer where it can flow into other aquifers used for drinking water.
Many of these aquifers have known faults and fractures. Petitioners argue
that the mine concentrates Arsenic in the mined aquifer creating a “toxic
soup” underground that moves to mix with drinking water.
The petitioners assert that Cameco and the NRC have violated the rights
held by members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe including federal water rights
to clean water under the Winters doctrine, the federal trust
responsibility and the Ft. Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. A recently
discovered cluster of pancreatic cancer and a new Johns Hopkins Study link
diabetes with inorganic arsenic in the water such as that being released
by the ISL mine. “We are concerned about the releases of contaminants into
our drinking water. These contaminants are going to remain in our water
system, coming out of our kitchen sinks, for decades. We are concerned not
just for ourselves, but for our children, and our children’s children,”
says Debra White Plume, one of the plaintiffs from Pine Ridge.
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ISL mines owned by Cameco, Inc. in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Canada have all
had major spills and leaks and were recently fined by state regulators for
permit violations ($1.4 mm in Wyoming and $100,000 in Nebraska). Cameco
also polluted Lake Ontario from its plant in Port Hope, Ontario which has
been discharging the toxic cocktail of uranium, arsenic and radium into
Lake Ontario and causing adverse health and environmental impacts.
Petitioners also assert claims that the mine’s claimed economic benefits
to the community are overstated. “Besides the environmental and public
health costs, on a purely economic level this mine uses up more value in
water than the value of the uranium being mined. Uranium hype comes from
market speculation. There is already a 70-year uranium supply, and a lot
of speculation about increased demand for new nuclear power plants that
cost 11 billion dollars each and may never get financed or built. On the
most basic level it doesn’t make sense to expand this foreign-owned mine –
rather, it should be put into local ownership and full time water
restoration activities,“ says David Frankel an attorney for the
In addition to its Renewal, and the North Trend Expansion being litigated,
the Petitioners expect Cameco to file for license amendments to expand the
mining area called the Three Crow and the Marsland Expansions.
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