Article by Brenda Norrell
Photos by Grand Canyon Trust
Over 700 million pounds of radioactive wastes from contaminated sites across the country and the world are buried here, just up the road from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community. The mill emits cancer-causing radon gas and puts the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s clean air, water, environment, and people at risk.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and White Mesa community spiritual walk on Saturday was to protest the White Mesa uranium mill and protect their health, land, water, culture and sacred sites.
(Above) The radioactive waste ponds are above the Navajo Aquifer. The Hill, in Washington reports, "White Mesa Mill’s waste ponds covered about 275 acres as of 2021 and sit above the nearby Navajo Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to the White Mesa Community and to southeastern Utah and northern Arizona, including part of the Navajo Nation." (Photo credit: Tim Peterson flown by EcoFlight, Grand Canyon Trust)
Grand Canyon Trust's report describes the waste ponds — some of which lack modern liners — as “a toxic and radioactive goulash” that contains a variety of heavy metals classified as human carcinogens, as well as nitrate and chloroform plumes. https://thehill.com/policy/equilibrium-sustainability/598471-uranium-mill-adjacent-to-bears-ears-has-become-a/
A mile from Bears Ears National Monument, the White Mesa Mill in southeastern Utah is the U.S.’s last functioning uranium mill. It was built to process uranium ore from across the Southwest, including from mines in the Grand Canyon region.
Energy Fuels, the uranium company that lobbied to slash Bears Ears National Monument, is burying radioactive waste a mile from the monument, near the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's White Mesa community. Energy Fuels in Colorado is a subsidiary of Energy Fuels in Toronto, Canada.
Canadian-based corporations are targeting Indigenous areas around the world with mining and radioactive dumping.
Grand Canyon Trust's Report Reveals Facts
The company that is poisoning Utes with radioactive dumping keeps a lot from the public. (1) The radioactive waste ponds are above the Navajo Aquifer, where Dine' and Hopi get their water. (2) Radioactive waste from the Nevada Test Site -- among the deadliest places in the world -- has already been received at the White Mesa uranium mill. (3) The mill has been approved to receive radioactive waste from Japan. The mill is in the process of receiving radioactive waste from Asia and Europe. (4) Energy Fuels in Colorado is a subsidiary of Energy Fuels in Toronto, Canada. Canadian-based corporations target Indigenous people and their lands around the world for genocidal mining and dumping. (5) There was already a radioactive spill in Cisco, Utah, in 1999. Leaking barrels of radioactive waste were found at the mill site in Utah by its workers in 2017. 6) The U.S. history of atomic bombs and death goes back to ore in the Congo, and follows a trail of secrecy and death, and includes the secretive Manhattan Project. Read more in the extensive report by Grand Canyon Trust. -- Censored News.
Grand Canyon Trust's report on White Mesa uranium mill
The Business of Radioactive Waste
Excerpts below from 'The Business of Radioactive Waste'
"In 1996, Norman Begay, a citizen of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, learned that a plan was in the works to ship a toxic and radioactive substance called “Cotter concentrate” from the Nevada Test Site to the White Mesa uranium mill, which sat only a few miles from his house in White Mesa, Utah. Along with Navajo Nation citizen Lula Katso who lived in Westwater, near White Mesa, Begay initiated fierce legal opposition to the shipment of this Cotter concentrate to the White Mesa Mill.
"The Cotter concentrate story begins 9,000 miles away in the Belgian Congo more than eight decades earlier, in 1915.1 There, in the farming province of Katanga, prospectors discovered the highest grade uranium in the world at a place called Shinkolobwe.
"In the 1940s, only a few years after the first uranium fission reaction and the start of World War II, St. Louis-based Mallinckrodt Chemical Company began buying Shinkolobwe ore. The company became the first industrial-scale producer of uranium and uranium products in the United States. Shinkolobwe ore was processed by Mallinckrodt supplied uranium and plutonium used in the atomic bombs dropped over both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"The Cotter Concentrate contains the residue from the original Atomic Bomb, and it therefore has the blood of approximately 1,000,000 human beings on it. Wherever it goes the evil curse it has had upon human life on this planet goes with it. Therefore, I ask for standing in this issue on the basis of the traditional religious beliefs of my people, to insure that such a curse and remembrance not be brought to further desecrate my ancestors and tribal members in sacred Ute lands and burial grounds." – Norman Begay, White Mesa Community Member.
(Utes were denied their voice in the case by the judge. The Cotter Concentrate at Nevada Test Site was reclassified and trucked through St. George, Utah, to the White Mesa mill site, where it was destined to be disposed of in the waste pits.)
Grand Canyon Trust reports that White Mesa uranium mill plans to bring radioactive waste here from uranium mine cleanup on the Navajo Nation. Already, radioactive waste is brought here from other Native Nations.
"In 2018, the Cherokee Nation celebrated as 10,000 tons (20 million pounds) of radioactive waste that had plagued its citizens for decades was trucked off to the White Mesa Mill for processing and disposal. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. called it “a historic day for the Cherokee Nation,” saying “Our lands are safe again, now that we have removed a risk that would have threatened our communities forever.”
"Radioactive materials from the Midnite Mine, which have contaminated water on the reservation of the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington, have been shipped to the White Mesa Mill, as has waste from the FMRI, Inc. - Fansteel plant on Cherokee Nation lands bordering the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. But with every community that celebrates the lifting of its own radioactive burden, the risk to the Ute Mountain Ute community in White Mesa grows.
"In the nearly two decades since the state of Utah took over regulating the mill, radioactive wastes containing not just uranium but also hazardous substances and dangerous heavy metals including arsenic, barium, beryllium, radium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury have been shipped to the White Mesa Mill. Ute Mountain Ute citizens in White Mesa have stopped hunting deer and rabbits and gathering willow branches near the mill. Each year, they lead a spiritual walk from White Mesa up the highway to the mill turnoff, where they call for the mill to be closed and cleaned up," Grand Canyon Trust reports.
Photos copyright Grand Canyon Trust
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