Sunday, August 11, 2013

South Dakota: America's "Secret Fukushima"

Ten-minute video via Charmaine White Face, of Defenders of the Black Hills, where the Great Sioux Nation, local residents, and environmentalists are working  to stop a uranium fracking permit and to make uranium mining companies take responsibility for spills, leaks; and to guarantee protections and restoration of any land or water they have contaminated.

The Black Hills arise in the Great Plains to a height of 7,000 feet. Charmaine White Face describes their historical and spiritual significance: "They cover a vast expanse of land from South Dakota, northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana, forming a sacred landscape for members of the Great Sioux Nation... More than 60 indigenous nations had been traveling to the Black Hills for millennia to conduct spiritual ceremonies, gather medicines and lodge poles.

Since the 1950's, uranium mining companies, seeking quick profits, have created thousands of uranium mining sites on both public and private land throughout the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.  Now the Black Hills are pockmarked with abandoned open pit uranium mines that contaminate the eco-region's air and water.

Now South Dakota is under siege by a Canadian mining company called PowerTech that wants to build hundreds of injection-recovery wells in Edgemont to extract uranium from ore formations hundreds of feet under the ground.  This method could deplete and contaminate  aquifers: the Rapid City Council opposes PowerTech's uranium fracking proposal.
[Alderman Charity] Doyle [whose background is water resources management] discussed the half-life of bi-products coming out of this mining procedure, and said she had heard people compare it to the same process used to put the uranium into the earth, but just reversing it. She said that would be like playing God, and if God wanted the uranium out, He would have accounted for that. Doyle also said Powertech can ensure safety with words on paper, but she can’t find any case of this mining process being done safely.
Prospective tourists and retirees have been scared away from the area by the prospect of breathing and drinking uranium particles. Mining near Edgemont (where uranium was discovered in 1951) has already contaminated the groundwater of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

(Radiation warning sign. Photo: Save the Black Hills)

Some places in South Dakota actually have higher radiation levels than Fukushima's evacuation zone, according to Nuclear Physics Professor Kimberly Kearfott, of the University of Michigan, who compared the readings obtained in northwestern South Dakota at the Cave Hills abandoned open-pit uranium mines.
The radiation levels in parts I visited with my students were higher than those in the evacuated zones around the Fukushima nuclear disaster...
More about the upcoming hearing  on the State of South Dakota's large-scale mining permit for Powertech Uranium's proposed mine scheduled  for the week of September 23, 2013 at Black Hills Clean Water Alliance's website.

For a partial overview of destruction cause by the nuclear chain (from uranium mining to thousands of nuclear test bomb explosions) on indigenous lands worldwide, please see "Nuclear War: Uranium Mining and Nuclear Tests on Indigenous Lands" published at Cultural Survival.

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