Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 16, 2009

Uranium mining in Lakota Territory: Hearing over foreign ownership

Uranium Mine Foreign Ownership Hearing: Judges Say Issue Potentially Fatal to Cameco, Inc.

By Debra White Plume

The Atomic Licensing Board Judges Panel have scheduled a hearing for March 24, 2009
at 10 am at the Federal Courthouse in Rapid City, SD. The Foreign Owenership issue is raised by petitioners challenging the Cameco, Inc. license renewal and expansion for the Crow Butte Uranium Mine and its North Trend expansion plan near Crawford, Nebraska. The petitioners include the Oglala Sioux Tribe, The Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council Oglala Band,
Owe Aku, the Western Nebraska Resource Council, American Horse Tiospaye, and several individuals from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Nebraska panhandle.

On the issue of foreign ownership of the mine and the concealment of that fact, the Judges Panel ruled, "its resolution in this proceeding is potentially fatal to Crow Butte's proposed renewal if its license. The Board is of the opinion that it is in the best interest in the management of htis proceeding that this issue be segragated from the other contentions and breifed on the merits up front."

The Atomic Energy Act and other laws prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from granting an In Situ Leach uranium mining license to a foreign company.

If the March 24 hearing decision rules against the company on the foreign ownership issue, Cameco, Inc. will either lose their license and start 20 years of full time water restoration, or they will have to sell the mine to a U.S. company.

Cameco, Inc. also owns and operates two ISL uranium mines in Wyoming, the Highland and the Smith, both near Douglas, WY which produces 2 million pounds of "yellow cake" each year. Cameco recently paid the state of Wyoming $1.4 million in fines for license violations, and was fined $100,000 by the state of Nebraska for license violations at their Crow Butte ISL mine near Crawford. The Crow Butte ISL mine annually produces 800,000 to 1 million pounds of yellow cake.

"We have been notified that the Powertech, Inc. uranium exploration company will send representatives to the hearing", said petitioner Debra White Plume, "as Powertech is also a foreign owned corporation based in Canada who has applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an ISL mining license in the Edgemont area. The EPA is sending officials to the hearing as well, because Powertech has to apply to the EPA for its Underground Injection Control permit (for permanent storage of waste water) and for its aquifer exemption of the aquifers in the Black Hills. We have also been told that Uranium One, who is planning to ISL mine for uranium in Wyoming will have company officials at the hearing. This issue can have an effect on all these uranium mining corporations as they are all foreign owned corporations based in Canada."

The March 24 hearing is open to the public.

Photo provided by the Lakota Media Project. Contact number: 605-455-2155.

Debra White Plume
Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way

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