Oglala Sioux Tribe, Environmental Groups, and Concerned Citizens Join to Fight Cameco, Inc. Uranium Mine License Renewal and Exp

October 10, 2008   12:34 PM

CONTACT: Oglala Sioux Tribe, Environmental Groups, and Concerned Citizens
Katya Kruglak 703.304.507
David Frankel 308.430.8160
Oglala Sioux Tribe, Environmental Groups, and Concerned Citizens Join to Fight Cameco, Inc. Uranium Mine
License Renewal and Exp
WASHINGTON – October 10 – 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 1954.

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.

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 petitioners.

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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