By Debra White Plume
Powertech USA Inc. is embarking on a path of destruction from which there is no return. The company plans to start in situ leach mining in South Dakota’s Custer and Fall River counties that will puncture through four aquifers on the Great Plains and endanger a fragile geologic system.
As a result of ISL mining planned at the Dewey-Burdock site – 12 miles northwest of Edgemont – we on the Plains must face the threat of groundwater contamination for generations, while the corporate leaders reside far away in their homelands of Canada and France.
This new corporation has no history of accountability in adhering to environmental laws or in the clean-up of a mined-out area. There are thousands of reports by mining corporations that document problems trying to contain uranium-laden water at mine sites, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Web site.
Will this new corporation – which will be mining uranium in an area with thousands of improperly abandoned boreholes and fractured aquifers – have the capacity to contain the radioactive water it plans to pump to the surface through miles and miles of pipe? Pipe which leaks, according to the NRC.
Powertech knows about the thousands of uncapped boreholes in their mine permit area, and about the horizontal and vertical faults and fractures between aquifers through which groundwater can spread thorium, radium, arsenic and other contaminants disturbed with ISL mining.
These metals can travel to contaminate clean drinking water which may eventually end up in the pipe that brings drinking water into our homes, or the garden hose that waters our family gardens. Arsenic and alpha emitters make people sick.
The history of earthquakes in the Black Hills makes ISL uranium mining even more dangerous.
Does Powertech have the finances to pay fines for leaks and spills that other corporations have had to pay or to cleanup? It is not clear if the company has the resources to pay for cleaning up its mess, or if water can ever be safely restored.
Powertech’s uranium mining applications to the NRC and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources were deemed inadequate. But rather than denying the applications, both entities helped revise Powertech’s applications.
The fact that the corporation failed to complete a satisfactory application does not create confidence and makes one wonder about these governmental entities: Are they here to look out for the well-being of people and the environment, or for the mining corporations?
The opportunity to view the public records of Powertech’s 6,000 page application as limited to Internet availability is prejudicial. It assumes that everyone has a computer and Internet access and eliminates untold members of the general public.
Let me be clear, this practice impacts the most vulnerable: The poor and the isolated.
The Dewey-Burdock area is in 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territory and in a place sacred to the Lakota People: The Black Hills, the heart of everything that is. The 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty was ratified by Congress and was never amended. Under international law it is our land.
Our ancestors fought the United States, and many people died, to protect the Black Hills and our homelands. There are hundreds of places in the proposed mining area that have been identified as archeological, historical and cultural sites.
Will this new corporation have the capacity to contain the radioactive water it plans to pump to the surface through miles and miles of pipe?
There are tipi rings, stone cairns, graves; there are eagle nests there which need protection. For a corporation to have more rights than human beings is a violation of our basic human rights.
To keep us away from a sacred place is to kill our people and way of life. What kind of government makes such laws that allow a corporation to turn this into a “National Sacrifice Area?”
The laws of the United States, the NRC regulations, and the individuals who sit behind those desks can honor treaty law, the life way of the Lakota, environmental laws, and demonstrate respect for Mother Earth by denying Powertech USA Inc.’s application to mine uranium.
After Powertech has mined for 20 years, used billions of gallons of water, fouled our aquifers and land, and completed processing its yellow cake imported from Wyoming, Powertech’s board of directors and shareholders will remove the pumps that keep radioactive water “contained,” cap the deep disposal wells storing billions of gallons of radioactive waste, dismantle its buildings for shipment to a nuclear waste dump, lay off the handful of local employees, close its Hot Springs Office, and enjoy their profits back in their home offices in Canada and France.
The NRC staff will file away the paperwork of the Dewey-Burdock Uranium Mine – our homelands. Will the file tab read “Radioactive, Keep Out?”
Debra White Plume is an Oglala Lakota author, artist, and activist from the beautiful Pine Ridge homelands.
The preceding story first appeared on Indian Country Today
by Debra White Plume, Feb 2010
The planned uranium mine site in the southern Black Hills can impact four aquifers. Powertech, Inc. USA plans to begin uranium extraction in 2011 and operate for 15 years in the permit area of 10,580 acres located in Dewey and Burdock Counties, north of Edgemont, SD. PT plans to drill 4000-8000 wells to a depth of 400-800 feet underground to extract 1 million pounds uranium per year, initially using 4000 gallons of water per minute. As well as the four aquifers in this area, the site includes the surface water of Beaver Creek and Pass Creek, which empty into the Cheyenne River downstream from the mine site. To permanently store the mining waste of radioactive water and sludge, PT plans to use several evaporation ponds and deep disposal wells. Thirty-eight people currently live within a 6 mile radius of the proposed mine, with a cattle ranch nearby that raises beef for sale as food. PT plans to locate its’ processing plant in the Burdock area. Once this area is mined out sometime around the year 2026, PT plans to continue to use the area as a yellow cake processing site for uranium extracted from its mines in Wyoming and Colorado, according to PT’s Environmental Protection Agency Aquifer Exemption Application.
Who Is Powertech, Inc. USA?
Powertech, Inc. (PT) is a recently formed, foreign-owned uranium exploration corporation from Vancouver, BC, Canada with an office in Denver, CO and Hot Springs, SD. (PT’s parent company is Suez, the giant French-owned
multinational corporation.) PT also has ISL mining plans for Wyoming and currently is in the permitting process for ISL uranium mines in both South Dakota and Colorado. PT has completed exploratory drilling in the Dewey-Burdock uranium mine permit areas, which straddles Fall River and Custer counties 12 miles northwest of Edgemont. PT utilized several thousand drill holes made by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) 20-30 years ago when TVA explored and mined the area. From 1951 to 1964, TVA produced 1,500,025 pounds of yellow cake from this uranium deposit. TVA left many uranium drill holes uncapped and abandoned when they left the Black Hills. TVA sold their claims when the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant approached a melt-down, and the horror of Chernobyl happened. PT acquired the property in the Edgemont area in 2005. PT is also preparing to mine uranium southeast of Edgemont in the Plum Creek area.
How Will the Miners Get the Uranium Out of the Ground?
ISL Mining is a method used to extract uranium ore from underground, using water to inject solutions deep into the uranium ore body through injection wells, then the ‘production well’ pulls up the injected solution with the uranium ore attached. The piping is placed in drill holes which puncture the aquifers. From these pipes, the uranium ore enters the production plant, the solution and dirt debris is shaken off, and the remaining uranium ore is dried to turn the it into a fine powder called “yellow cake”. It is necessary to drill thousands of holes deep in the ground to conduct ISL mining. Arsenic, Radium 226 & 228, Thorium 230 and other contaminants are stirred up during the extraction process and can enter groundwater through leaks in the thousands of pipes used to ISL mine. Such leaks can allow the radioactive water to seep out of the pipe and back into the groundwater, which has happened at ISL mines all over the world. (for info see www.wise-uranium.com ). Water that is used to extract the uranium ore out of the ground is re-used to repeat the extraction process, some of this water is then stored in evaporation ponds, along with the sludge of the contaminants, some is stored permanently underground in disposal wells. The sludge is shipped out as radioactive waste. No corporation has ever been able to clean up the aquifers of an ISL uranium mine site, rather, the state or EPA will relax its water standards.
Water Pollution A Major Concern In SD
Environmental and conservation groups, including the Sierra Club of SD, warn that water pollution will be a major concern if the mining company Powertech is given a permit to mine for uranium. Shirley Frederick, with the Sierra Club’s Black Hills Group, says there’s a high likelihood that aquifers will become polluted if an injection-well recovery system is used to mine the ore. “It’s a huge potential for contamination of groundwater.”
Powertech Inc USA has submitted its uranium mining application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and it can be viewed at the NRC website. The NRC has announced a time period for interested individuals to voice their concerns regarding the uranium mine’s impacts to the environment. This proposed uranium mine will be the first time folks can be heard under the new GEIS.
Photo of Cameco’s Crow Butte ISL Uranium Mine near Chadron, Neb. by Owe Aku, Lakota Media Project
Powertech’s ISL Uranium Mine Plans for the Great Plains (image taken from their website)
My name is ‘Works for the People’. I am a Lakotah/Dakota/Crow. I live at Porcupine, South Dakota on the former Pine Ridge Souix Indian Reservation which is part of the sixty-million acres comprising the Republic of Lakotah. I am also known as Russell Means. And I am now more than 70 winters old.
I read the July 5th communique of David Swallow. It saddened me that this younger man retold the history of the Black Hills from the White Athropological point of view. Which, at best, is incomplete, if not a downright lie. According to the former South Dakota State Archeologist whom I talked to in 1985 to be a witness in the trial of Yellowthunder Camp, a spiritual youth camp put on trial by the US Forest Service.
Our origin story takes a full year to explain, because you have to utilize all four seasons. The sacred Black Hills have two descriptions in the Lakotah language. Paha Sapa and Kȟe Sapa. The white man says that Paha Sapa means ‘Black Hills’. I will attempt to correct their interpretation of my language. The word ‘Pa-ha’ is broken up into two meanings: Pa describes the mountains emerging from the earth. Paha Sapa all together gives you a picture and a description of our sacred mountains as seen from a distance. The Ponderosa Pine gives the illusion of black from a distance and the mountains emerging from the earth. Paha Sapa. Therefore, what you see is holy. The words ‘Kȟe Sapa’ also gives you a description of what the sacred mountains look like close up, with the white stone cliffs, the meadows and the trees and the valleys. Therefore, you know it is holy. Think how profound Paha Sapa is. Just by linguistic interpretation, it begs the question, “Were we here at the plate tectonic movements and creation of these hills?” Wow!
A footnote to the above paragraph: International linguists have established that the indigenous languages of the Western Hemisphere are the most expressive languages on Earth. And the world’s languages become less expressive, as you move WEST!
Secondly, in 1975, I attended a Lakotah Treaty Council meeting at Mother Butler Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. At that meeting, was a young attorney from the Oglala Souix Tribe, by the name of Mario Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez gave a presentation to the elders present at that Treaty meeting. That presentation was a reiterization of the anthropological claims to where we originated in North Carolina and how we migrated west and arrived around 1750 at the Black Hills. Mr. Gonzalez had a page by page display that was placed on a tripod. The elders present were from most of the Lakotah reservations of the Northern Plains. All of whom had been born in the 1800s. Some couldn’t speak English. Others spoke broken English. None had been to a white man’s school.
At this point I want to mention Wowitan Yuha Mani, aka, David Swallow. He, in his mid-fifties right now, is much like those elders that were present. I must also add that he speaks broken English like the elders and he is a third-grade drop-out (I am proud for him). David Swallow and those elders have a clarity of mind and a purity of heart that only those indigenous peoples who have NOT gone through the brainwashing systems of euro-education.
All of these elders were in their 80s and 90s, one in partciular from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota stood up after Mr. Gonzalez concluded and humbly began the creation story of our people. Because Mr. Gonzalez does not understand our language, David Spotted Horse announced he would speak as best he could in English. He then gave a very abbreviated lecture on our creation story. Very politely and humbly, Mr. Gonzalez and his lecture were firmly rejected. The beauty of Spotted Horse and our creation story included our oneness with Kȟe Sapa. The facts are, we shared this holy land, along with the Bighorn Mountains, which are also just as sacred to us as the Paha Sapa, with other Indian Nations, and are part of our oneness with creation. All of our elders that are gone talked about the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains.
May the Great Mystery continue to guide and protect the paths of you and your loved ones.
Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868
Lakotah Sioux Chief Red Cloud, fed up with the US policy of “treaties” to approve their agenda without living up to their end of the bargain, famously stated: “I have listened patiently to the promises of the Great Father, but his memory is short. I am now done with him. This is all I have to say”
In 1866, the Sioux, under Red Cloud, promised resistance to US soldiers and miners in the Powder River Country of Wyoming, after failed negotiations by the US attempting to establish forts and settlements for gold mining in the area. The Sioux were fast to remember the US’ failure to respect the previous Laramie Treaty of 1851, and the force of 1300 men brought to the Council tipped the US’ hand that the current treaty had the intent of fortifying the Powder River area for permanent annexation by the United States.
The US fought against the Sioux in the Powder River Country for two years, who were attacking wood trains, supply lines, and over-running attack parties on a few occasions. In 1868, the US decided it was not feasible to run a railroad through the areas in conflict, and instead moved the transcontinental railroad south. In doing so, they reconvened another Council at Fort Laramie – this time Red Cloud refused to join the council until the forts in the Powder River Country were abandoned, which they were late in 1868… The US admitted defeat in the invasion of sovereign Sioux territory. The council led to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which established lasting peace on the “honour of the United States”, boundaries of a Sioux nation state – described as the Great Sioux reservation, which set aside the Western half of current day South Dakota, with hunting grounds as shown in the map (the area currently claimed by Republic of Lakotah) – the full text is below.
The treaty allowed for citizenship, should certain Sioux decide to settle into agriculture – but allowed for the stipulation of continued sovereignty of Sioux land, including the Black Hills, with no settlement by whites. This treaty clearly defines land that belongs to a culture, a people, the Sioux. Based on the stipulations set forth by this treaty, the Sioux would operate their lands without interference by the United States Government – a sovereign nation (which all states originate as).
By 1872, President Grant was getting pressure to illegally harvest timber from the Black Hills for increased demand due to Western Settlements, and by 1873 word of Gold Reserves spread throughout the US, sparking an illegal gold rush in the Black Hills. The Custer Expedition was sent to protect the Black Hills from gold miners, until an order (as noted in the 1980 SCOTUS account of the events) from Grant to remove military protection in order to enrage the Indians into war – which the Sioux were ready to fight, stating that their removal would be only at their annihilation… an eerily prophetic claim. The US’ attempts at persuading the Sioux to cede more land failed time and again – leading to the breaking of the treaty (unofficially) – or as the US put it “to whoop them [Sioux] into submission”. This led to the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877, including Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand), and ending with the murder of Crazy Horse by the US.
In 1877, according to the 1980 SCOTUS, further land was taken by the Sioux in violation of the treaties – land including the Black Hills.
The final Sioux resistance occurred in 1890, when Congress broke the remaining Sioux Reservation to approximately the reservations in existence today. The further theft of the land sparked the Wounded Knee Massacre, the last major conflict between the Oglala Sioux and the US.
Based on the treaties signed, and the recognition of sovereign land ownership by the 1980 SCOTUS, there is a clear legal standing to sue for the return of, at least, the land specified as the Great Sioux Reservation – excluding the unceded hunting grounds. The Lakotah, in refusing the payment for land taken illegally under claim of eminent domain (as historically rejected by SCOTUS 1980), may have the standing to sue the US government for the western portion of South Dakota – in which they can live under sovereign powers.
Subsequent posts will emphasize the importance of the Republic of Lakotah, and why every Sioux and freedom loving libertarian should support this endeavor.
FORT LARAMIE TREATY
APRIL 29, 1868
TREATY WITH THE SIOUX– BRUL