Uranium mining in NE

If you where in a plane flying over northwestern Nebraska, and your plane happened to be flying near the town of Crawford, you may notice that there was many small dots peppering the landscape. The dots are small boxes, black and white, each one with a number. Each box is covering the opening to a well, some as deep as a thousand feet. The wells are for mining uranium.

I have been living in Nebraska on and off for six years, and in those six years it has never been brought to my attention, until recently, that Nebraska is home to the second largest uranium mining project in the entire U.S. The mining company is named Crow Butte Resources. The method they use to extract the uranium, at first thought, does not seem to be as environmentally destructive as the dynamiting and removal of millions of tons of earth. But with the possibility of contaminating an aquifer spanning eight states, it could prove to be worse for the population dependent on that resource than the environment.

The mining practice used is called an In Situ Leach operation. What it entails is the digging of wells deep into the earth to reach the uranium deposits. After the uranium ore is reached, instead of removing the earth and rock in the way, the well is used to pump a solution into the well to dissolve, or leach, the uranium into a solution and then pump it out and extract the wanted minerals. To put up an enviro-friendly front, the company’s that use the ISL technique claim they can return the water back to its previous state for such things as agriculture. But ground water restoration for this process is a very troublesome task which is not yet completely effective. It is as of yet impossible to restore water to it’s original conditions, and still this is a requirement the company must fulfill. The leaching process is done right over the ogallala aquifer. which is the largest aquifer in north america extending through eight states, and the source for clean water for many in the mid-west. The Crowe Butte Resources company can produce as much as one ton of cake uranium a day.

The environmental impact this has on the region is not completely understood, and while researching this article i found what i consider minimal information. The information i did find does not convince me this is a safe way to extract uranium from the earth(never mind the fact i don’t agree with any of the uses for uranium anyway). The water that is pumped out of the well is put into large storage ponds the size of a football field, some larger. At the Crowe Butte ISL mine there have been several leaks in these ponds. Meaning the water can percolate into the ground and possibly reach the ogallala aquifer which it is built over. Here is a list of regulation violations that i have found, possibly not comprehensive.

License Violations at Crow Butte ISL uranium mine (Nebraska)

May 14, 2004: leak detected at Pond 1
December 23, 2003: Monitor well placed on excursion status
December 26, 2002: Monitor well placed on excursion status
September 10, 2002: Monitor well placed on excursion status
April 4, 2002: Monitor well placed on excursion status
December 4, 2001: Monitor well placed on excursion status
March 2, 2001 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
September 10, 2000 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
May 26, 2000 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
April 27, 2000 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
March 6, 2000 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
July 2, 1999 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
August 7, 1998 : Spill of 10,260 gallons of injection fluid
March 21, 1998 : Monitor well placed on excursion status
August 12, 1997 : Discovery of Pinhole Leaks in Upper Liner of Process Water Evaporation Pond
(details on post-Nov.1,1999, events available through ADAMS, Docket No. 04008943)

Source: Paydirt

*An excursion can be defined as any unwanted or unauthorized movement of recovery fluid out of the production zone as a result of in situ mining activities. (a spill of the industrial solution containing uranium)

A spill at an ISL mine in New Mexico will take as long as 40 years and 3 billion dollars to clean up presenting health risks to the surrounding community. In Crawford NE, there is little dissent from the community. As little as five people go to meetings to address the issues of the mine. The possibility of a 40 year clean up in NE because of mining efforts that could contaminate our water supply is enough of a reason to act against this corporation. And then there is the uses of uranium once it is extracted. We all know the dangers of nuclear energy. We all know the efforts of the US to be the worlds strongest nuclear power, and the conflicts between nations that result. It is common knowledge that depleted uranium has increased the cancer cases in Iraq since the first Gulf war. And with a radioactive life span of 4.5 billion years, depleted uranium related illnesses will be a gift from the US military that will last much longer than any “democracy” we may manage to force upon them. Does Nebraska’s residents really want to contribute to all these issues? I know i don’t.

Iraqi War, just part of a Bigger Problem

With the escalating conflict in Iraq, we as concerned citizens have to speak up and constantly remind people of the situation in Iraq. Conservative estimates put the Iraqi death toll at 10,000 and the US death toll at just over 1,000.

This war in Iraq is about as transparent as it comes. When you look at the reconstruction contracts being dealt out to mostly US corporations and the windfall profit gained, Iraq starts to look more and more like a big corporate grab bag. The two largest contracts dealt out, Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary Halliburton (oil) & Bechtel (water), have made out pretty nicely from their campaign contributions to the Bush Administration:

Bechtel Group Inc. with $3,310,102 in campaign contributions has made $1,029,833,000 in reconstruction contracts

Kellogg Brown & Root (Halliburton) with $2,379,792 in campaign contributions has made $2,329,040,891 in reconstruction contracts

This isn’t including the money that will be pouring in from the strong hold that these private interests will have on Iraq’s resources. When this conflict is resolved their will be 15 permanent military bases in Iraq, provided that the US ever secures control in Iraq. A good portion of these military bases are conveniently located next to oil fields.

The war in Iraq isn’t just about oil though, it is a matter of economic national security. When you consider the rate of consumption in this country, providing the sufficient amount of resources to fill the demand becomes a hyper-capitalistic neccessity.

When providing resources for your people and protecting investors you have three choices of action as a major super power:

1) Diplomatic means- set up SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs), if said gov’t is not complicit then you impose Sanctions and cut them out of the international economy.

2) Clandestine activity- Funding opposition leaders that go along with business interests, helping in orchestrating violent coups (Nicaragua, Haiti and countless others)

3) Wage war- convince a population of people that war is the only way to bring peace, liberty, and freedom. Usually this is a last resort option because of the amount of work it takes in propaganda, but that didn’t discourage the Bush Administration.

The Iraqi war represents the protection of our very unsustainable “way of life” (if you want to call it that). From the way our cities are designed around the automobile to the food that travels thousands of miles to make it to our grocery store shelfs and eventually our homes, we are peddling faster and faster towards oblivion.

What can we do here in Omaha to find a stable way of life?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I think a good place to start would be education and community forums to spread awareness. Remembering that this is just one small step, we have to go beyond education to developing relationships with each other that lead to stronger communities. An individual evaluation of lifestyle choices and a general respect for all life is also in order.

Instead of looking at someone and thinking “what can I get out of this person” turn it upside down with “if we work together what can we achieve.” This is the kind of mentality that starts community gardens, neighborhood councils, and free schools.

What we have right now, in this capitalistic democracy (Plutocracy), is Old views with new programs that don’t work.

The war on drugs hasn’t stopped the flow of drugs.

The war on terrorism is creating more terrorism (not forgetting that war usually is state sponsored terrorism).

The prison system hasn’t effectively stopped crime in fact a lot of prisoners are either institutionalized or come out of prison more violent than when they went in.

Even liberal progressive programs don’t solve the problems that comes with civilization. I work with Food Not Bombs, we feed homeless people and it makes me feel good, but we aren’t solving the homelessness situation. We redistribute food that would otherwise be thrown away, but we also create a dependency for the homeless instead of addressing their homelessness. To FNB credit, solving the homeless situation is not in the mission statement, but it should be.

Homelessness is a good example of how a system that is praised on it’s ability to provide everyone with basic human needs has failed to do so. Some homeless people dropped out on purpose, and they wouldn’t want to go back. These people have moved on and realized that this system isn’t working for them. Instead of hiding homeless people from the public eye, let’s communicate with them and give them space to build their own homes (like the homeless did in the NYC subways), if they so please.

I am not suggesting that everyone just drop out of the system tomorrow without pragmatically thinking about what it would take to become self-sustainable. I only propose that those of us who claim to be progressive start working towards that end. Social harmony is never going to be passed down by any administration it will only come through our paricipation here in Omaha.

There are certain reforms that I think could be beneficial to everyone especially in the areas of healthcare and environmental policy, so I am not completely anti-reform.

How many of you have ever heard of there being a homelessness situation in Native America prior to European colonization?

The Lincoln Bill of Rights Defense Coalition

The Lincoln Bill of Rights Defense Coalition is a non-partisan, all-volunteer, ad hoc group of Lincoln citizens whose goal is to educate the community about the erosion of civil liberties that are contained in the USA PATRIOT Act and to urge passage of the Defense of Liberty resolution. With this resolution Lincoln will join over 340 other U.S. communities calling for changes to those parts of the Act that undermine a free and open society. More than 2500 members of the Lincoln community have signed the Lincoln Bill of Rights Defense Coalitions petition supporting this effort. Since its formation last August, the Lincoln BORDC has spoken about the Patriot Act to over 60 community organizations including neighborhood groups, schools, civic clubs and religious forums.

The Lincoln City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the resolution at its 1:30 p.m. meeting on September 13.

On July 22nd we held a rally at the Malone Center. You can view an hour-long program based on the speeches given at the rally by going to: www.sjtv.info . A DVD or videotape of the program is also available for local cable programs (it’s been showing on Lincoln’s channel 13 program Social Justice TV) or home viewing.

The rally reflected the opposition among broad sections of our community to the erosion of civil liberties with the adoption of the Patriot Act and other government actions since September 11, 2001. Speakers included:

Leroy Stokes – The president of the Lincoln NAACP opened the evening with a welcome to the Malone Center and an overview of his organization’s concerns with the Patriot Act.

Martha Hunter – As president of the League of Women Voters of Lincoln-Lancaster County, Martha expressed the conviction of her organization that the need to protect against security threats to America must be balanced with the need to preserve the very liberties that are the foundation of this country.

Jassim Al-Idani You might have read recently in the news about how this Lincoln resident from Iraq was a victim of racial profiling, like many immigrants in our country from the Middle East. He told the story of how on a family visit to the Omaha zoo he was held unjustly by the police for two hours.

Lela Shanks This respected community leader described the harassment her family faced at the hands of the FBI for their leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. We were moved to give her a standing ovation.

Marty Ramirez Marty is a community activist who received the Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam. He focused on the impact on Latino immigrants.

Laurie Lee This UNL professor offered a perspective as an authority on the Patriot Act and a leader of the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska.

Brian Terrell Brians from the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines. He described how earlier this year he, along with three other Iowa peace activists, were served subpoenas by a federal grand jury looking into the legal, peaceful activities of a local antiwar group. He inspired us with the power of our organized strength by describing how the public outcry to this intimidation forced the feds to withdraw the subpoenas.

Brenda Ealey Speaking for the Southeast Library System Board of Directors, she voiced the passionate opposition among librarians to the impact the Patriot Act has on the free exchange of ideas thats so essential to a democracy.

Kenneth Bordeaux – As a Native spiritual counselor Kenneth shared the familiarity his people have had dealing with terrorism – at the hands of the U.S. government.

Lee Witters This VFW member presented his opposition as a World War II veteran to the Patriot Act.

Raneta Lawson Mack The co-author of Equal Justice in the Balance is especially concerned about the impact the conduct of the war on terrorism has had on our right to fair and equal treatment and to due process.

For more information on this effort or a copy of the Defense of Liberty resolution, contact Mark Weddleton at mark (at) weddleton.com or (402) 499-6672.

Below is a list of the places where the Lincoln Bill of Rights Defense Coalition has, working with others, brought our educational campaign on the dangers of the Patriot Act*.

Speaking engagements:
Nebraska International Multicultural Exchange Conference
Hispanic Leadership Conference
Hartley Neighborhood Association
Everett Neighborhood Association
Malone Neighborhood Association
North Bottoms Neighborhood Association
Highlands Neighborhood Association
University Place Neighborhood Association
Unitarian Church
First Presbyterian Church
Eastridge Presbyterian Church
Lincoln Interfaith Council Urban Ministries committee
Lincoln NAACP
Lincoln Educational Association
Central Labor Union
Steelworkers Union
Lincoln Chapter of the Immigrant Rights Network
Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska
Nebraska Library Association annual convention
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Coffeehouse
Green Party State Convention
Nebraskans for Peace State Convention
ACLU Nebraska Annual Dinner
Omaha Peace and Justice Expo
Veterans of Foreign Wars
East Lincoln Rotary
Lincoln Independent Business Association Governmental Affairs Committee
League of Women Voters
Board of Directors of the Lincoln Public Libraries
United Nations Association of Lincoln
Waging Peace conference
Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination
Cornhusker Kiwanis Club
Lincoln NOW
No Limits: Imagining Change – Women as Agents for Social Justice conference at UNL
Lincoln Area Retired Teachers Association
Lincoln High Social Justice Club
Five classes at Lincoln High
Lincoln Southeast Students for Peace
SECC Multi Ethnic Students Organization
Classes at SECC
Two public forums at the City Campus Union as part of UNL students Civil Liberties Awareness Week in November
ASUN at UNL (which passed a similar resolution in January)
Creighton University panel on civil liberties

Debates with U.S. Attorney Michael Heavican:
Omaha Press Club
Trinity Methodist Church
Southeast High student assembly
Tifereth Israel Synagogue
Downtown Rotary Club

Special events organized:
Crescent Moon Coffeehouse Poetry Reading Against the Patriot Act
Rock Against the Patriot Act fundraiser at Knickerbockers
Fremont Public Library public meeting
Gere Public Library public meeting
Eisley Public Library public meeting
Anderson Public Library public meeting
Bennet Martin Public Library public meeting
Walt Public Library public meeting

July 22 book signing at Nebraska Bookstore for the authors of “Equal Justice in the Balance”

July 22nd public rally against the Patriot Act at the Malone Center

Other places we petitioned:
Lincoln National Coming Out Day at Cooper Park
Hispanic Cultural Celebration
Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty October conference
EN Thompson forum by Omar al-Issawi
EN Thompson forum by Amos Oz
EN Thompson forum by Mary Thompson
Vagina Monologues
Joan Baez concert at the Lied
Bus to April March for Womens Lives rally in Washington, D.C.
Haymarket Farmers Market
Jazz in June
March 20th Coalition for Peace antiwar protest
Stand Up for Community: Rally Against Racism
Star City Parade
Talk by Lela Shanks at Saint Paul Methodist on her experience with discrimination
Showing of documentary Uncovered at the Ross
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Rally
Rally in support of the DREAM Act
UNL Native American cultural celebration
Speech by Nadine Strossen, National ACLU president, at Nebraska Wesleyan
Speech by historian Howard Zinn at Nebraska Wesleyan
The Meeting performance at the Malone Center

Showings of “Fahrenheit 9/11″.

Juneteenth celebration in Trago Park.

*Listing does not signify the group has taken a stand on the “Defense of Liberty Resolution”.