Thursday, July 19, 2007

Uranium mining in the Black Hills of South Dakota

With the increasing push by environmentalists, eco-conscious consumers, and global warming advocates for alternative fuels, there has been a major push to reexamine nuclear power. In fact, there are over 31 states in the U.S. alone that have nuclear reactors or plants, and the list is growing fast. As a result, mining for nuclear plant resources has surged. Hugh efforts are underway in western Colorado for uranium mining and other western states. However, what really gets me is how these big resource extraction companies can basically do what they want with little or no accountability towards how their actions effect indigenous peoples.

Lets look at a recent example. Powertech, a Canadian mining company, began drilling uranium exploratory wells in the Dewey Burdock area northwest of Edgemont, South Dakota, a few weeks ago despite the approval of their permit being appealed in court. THEY HAVE NO PERMIT! This is the standard big-business method: start first and then either ask for permission later or apologize after the fact.

Two environmental organizations, Defenders of the Black Hills and ACTion for the Environment are appealing the decision made by the South Dakota Board of Mining and Environment. Cindy Gillis, lead counsel for the two groups had previously sought a preliminary injunction and a restraining order. Judge Delaney denied those requests and said a "stay" was the proper procedure, and one was filed on April 30. A hearing was held on June 19, 2007, in the Pennington County Courthouse and the Judge denied the stay stating there was not enough environmental information to show harm to the plaintiffs.

Are you kidding! There is not enough environmental information to show harm to the plaintiffs? The Black Hills are one of the most sacred areas in all of the northern Plains. There are more oral traditions and creation myths centering on this area than one would care to count. Sioux, Cheyenne, and many other American Indian tribes regard this area as one of their spiritual and cultural epicenters. If drilling is allowed, especially for something such as uranium, which has a high pollution factor and leaves an enormous environmental footprint, the area will be damaged for generations and generations to come. What is even worse, none of the archaeological aspects of the drilling sites was taken into account. The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment has admitted that it sent the state archaeologist to the wrong site! Can you believe this!

I'm not explicitly against nuclear power - scientists claim that if handled in the proper way it is clean, efficient, and long-lasting energy. Great. However, that does not mean we need to run roughshod over people to get it. Part of the eco-conscious, global warming, sustainability movement that is slowly growing in the U.S., Europe, and other countries involves not only looking out for the environment, but also looking out for people. Indigenous people are just like you and me. Trying to live their lives as best they can. Can't we just give them an equal voice, listen to their concerns, and perhaps take them and their culture into account? I doubt such actions would harm "progress."


Here are a couple of links on the issue. The central movers on this issue are the Defenders of the Black Hills.

For more late breaking news check out The Silkwood Project.

Finally, for one of the best photo shows I have ever seen - and to get a really good idea of what this looks like on the ground - check out Uranium Mine Photos.

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Ahni said...

Hi Peter. Do you have any links on hand with further info?


Peter N. Jones said...


I put in some links at the bottom of the post here.

Ahni said...

Great Peter, thanks!


igmuska said...

hey thanks for the link back to my photos of the Riley Pass uranium mine.
Besides the site you should check out my blog

That place made me physically ill, and lost a bunch of hair...very dangerous, radiation is hot, hot, hot!!! Don't take children out there if you are going to check it out for yourself!

Peter N. Jones said...


Yes, radiation is very dangerous and I would never recommend anyone going out there without proper equipment and knowledgeable people.

Also, thanks for the heads up on the Environmental Nightmares Blog.

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