Thursday, March 4, 2010

Uranium Mining Begins Near Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, AZ — In defiance of legal challenges and a U.S. Government moratorium, Canadian company Denison Mines has started mining uranium on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. According to the Arizona Daily Sun the mine has been operating since December 2009.

Denison plans on extracting 335 tons of uranium ore per day out of the “Arizona 1 Mine”, which is set to operate four days per week. The hazardous ore will be hauled by truck more than 300 miles through towns and communities to the company’s White Mesa mill located near Blanding, Utah.

After being pressured by environmental groups, U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar initially called for a two-year moratorium on new mining claims in a buffer zone of 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, but the moratorium doesn’t include existing claims such as Denison’s. The moratorium also doesn’t address mining claims outside of the buffer zone.

The Grand Canyon is ancestral homeland to the Havasupai and Hualapai Nations. Although both Indigenous Nations have banned uranium mining on their reservations the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management may permit thousands of mining claims on surrounding lands.

Due to recent increases in the price of uranium and the push for nuclear power nearly 8,000 new mining claims now threaten Northern Arizona. Uranium mined from the Southwestern U.S. is predominately purchased by countries such as France (Areva) & Korea for nuclear energy.

In July of 2009 members of the Havasupai Nation and their allies gathered for four days on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at their sacred site Red Butte to address the renewed threat. Red Butte has long been endangered by the on-going threat of uranium mining.

Under an anachronistic 1872 mining law, created when pick axes and shovels were used, mining companies freely file claims on public lands. The law permits mining regardless of cultural impacts.


Currently there are 104 nuclear reactors in the United States which supply 20% of the U.S.’s electricity. In January the Obama administration approved a $54 billion dollar taxpayer loan in a guarantee program for new nuclear reactor construction, three times what Bush previously promised in 2005.

Since 2007, seventeen companies have now sought government approval for 26 more reactors with plans to complete four by 2018 and up to eight by 2020. New reactors are estimated to cost more than $12 billion each.

Although nuclear energy is hailed by some as a solution to the current U.S. energy crisis and global warming, those more closely impacted by uranium mining and transportation recognize the severity of the threat.


Uranium is a known cause of cancers, organ damage, miscarriages & birth defects.

Drilling for the radioactive material has been found to contaminate underground aquifers that drain into the Colorado River, and sacred springs that have sustained Indigenous Peoples in the region. In addition, surface water can flow into drill holes and mine shafts which can also poison underground water sources.

Emerging in the Rocky Mountains in North Central Colorado and winding 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California, the Colorado River is held sacred by more than 34 Indigenous Nations. The Colorado also provides drinking water for up to 27 million people in seven states throughout the Southwest.

The river that carves the Grand Canyon has been extensively used by the agricultural industry and cities that are dependent for drinking water, so much so that it now ceases to flow to the Gulf of California, forcing members of the Cocopah Nation (The People of the River) in Northern Mexico to abandon their homelands and relocate elsewhere.

Today there are more than 2,000 abandoned uranium mines in the Southwest. U.S. government agencies have done little or nothing to clean up contaminated sites and abandoned mines. At Rare Metals near Tuba City on the Diné (Navajo) Nation a layer of soil and rock is the only covering over 2.3 million tons of hazardous waste. A rock dam surrounds the radioactive waste to control runoff water that flows into nearby Moenkopi Wash. Throughout the Diné Nation, Diné families have been subject to decades of radioactive contamination ranging from unsafe mining conditions to living in houses built from uranium tailings. Well water is documented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as undrinkable in at least 22 communities such as Black Falls on the Dine’ Nation. According to the EPA, “Approximately 30 percent of the Navajo population does not have access to a public drinking water system and may be using unregulated water sources with uranium contamination.”
Flocks of sheep and other livestock still graze among radioactive tailing piles and ingest radioactive water.

According to the Navajo Nation up to 2.5 million gallons of uranium contaminated water is leaching out of the Shiprock Uranium Mill near Shiprock, New Mexico into the San Juan River every year. At the Church Rock Mine in New Mexico, which is now attempting to re-open, up to 875,000 cubic yards of radioactive waste continue to contaminate the land.

In July 1979 a dirt dam breached on the Navajo Nation at a uranium processing plant releasing more than 1,100 tons of radioactive waste and nearly 100 million gallons of contaminated fluid into the Rio Puerco (which ultimately flows into the Colorado River) near Church Rock, NM. This was the single largest nuclear accident in US history. Thousands of Diné families that live in the region, including those forced to relocate from the Joint Use Area due to coal mining, continue to suffer health impacts resulting from the spill.

In 2005 the Diné Nation government banned uranium mining and processing within its borders due to uranium’s harmful legacy of severe health impacts and poisoning of the environment. And yet, high cancer rates, birth defects and other health impacts still bear out the uranium industry’s dangerous legacy.


Today the US has nearly 60,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear waste stored in concrete dams at nuclear power plants throughout the country. The waste increases at a rate of 2,000 tons per year. Depleted Uranium (DU) is a byproduct of uranium enrichment and reprocessing which has controversial military uses including armor piercing projectiles. DU has been found to cause long-term health effects ranging from harming organs to causing miscarriages and birth defects.

In 1987 Congress initiated a controversial project to transport and store almost all of the U.S.’s toxic waste at Yucca Mountain located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Yucca Mountain has been held holy to the Paiute and Western Shoshone Nations since time immemorial.

In February 2009 Obama met a campaign promise to cut funding for the multibillion dollar Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project. The controversial project was initially proposed in 1987 with radioactive waste to be shipped from all over the U.S. via rails and highways. Currently a new proposal for an experimental method of extracting additional fuel from nuclear waste called “reprocessing” renews the threat to desecrate the sacred mountain on Western Shoshone lands.

Western Shoshone lands, which have never been ceeded to the U.S. government, have long been under attack by the military and nuclear industry. Between 1951 and 1992 more than 1,000 nuclear bombs have been detonated above and below the surface at an area called the Nevada Test Site on Western Shoshone lands which make it one of the most bombed nations on earth. Communities in areas around the test site faced exposure to radioactive fallout which has caused cancers, leukemia & other illnesses. Western Shoshone spiritual practitioner Corbin Harney, who has since passed on, helped initiate a grassroots effort to shutdown the test site and abolish nuclear weapons.

Indigenous Peoples in the Marshall Islands have also faced serious impacts due to U.S. nuclear testing. In her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence & American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith reports that some Indigenous Peoples in the islands have all together stopped reproducing due to the severity of cancer and birth defects they have faced.


In March 1988 more than 8,000 people converged for massive 10 day direct action to “reclaim” the test site, nearly 3,000 people were arrested. Groups such as the Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) and Shundahai Network continue their work to shut down the test site and resist the corporate and military nuclear industry.

Throughout the 1980’s a fierce movement of grassroots resistance and direct action against uranium mining near the Grand Canyon had taken shape, galvanized by the Havasupai, Hopi, Diné (Navajo), Hualapai tribes and a Flagstaff group, Canyon Under Siege. Prayerful and strategic meetings were held once a year throughout the 80s. In 1989 a group known as the ‘Arizona 5′ were charged for eco-actions including cutting power-lines to the Canyon Uranium Mine. Attributable in some part to the resistance and but mainly to a sharp drop in the price of uranium, companies like Dennison were forced to shut their mines down.

Mt. Taylor, located on Forest Service managed lands in New Mexico between Albuquerque and Gallup, has also faced the threat of uranium mining. The mountain sits upon one of the richest reservers of uranium ore in the country, it is held holy by the Diné, Acoma, Laguna, Zuni & Hopi Nations. In June 2009 Indigenous Nations and environmental groups unified to protect the holy Mountain and through their efforts Mt. Taylor was given temporary protection as a Traditional Cultural Property.

For 7 years Indigenous People from throughout the world have gathered to organize against the nuclear industry at the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum on the Acoma Nation.

At the 2006 Indigenous World Uranium Summit on the Diné Nation, community organizations such as Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) joined participants from Australia, India, Africa, Pacific Islands, and throughout North America in issuing a declaration demanding “a worldwide ban on uranium mining, processing, enrichment, fuel use, and weapons testing and deployment, and nuclear waste dumping on native lands.”

Klee Benally (Diné) is a collective member of Indigenous Action Media, on the Board of Directors of the Shundahai Network, and is a musician with the group Blackfire.

Author Mary Sojourner assisted editing this article.

View Outta Your Backpack Media’s URANIUM PSA

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hopi and Navajo Stop Black Mesa Project

Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition 928-637-5281, David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club 213-387-6528 x214 Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, 541-914-8372,
Photo: Hopi and Navajo protest in Denver by Mano Cockrum

Hopi and Navajo Residents Stop Peabody’s Coal Mine Expansion on Black Mesa
Department of Interior Administrative Law Judge Vacates Mining Permit for Peabody’s Black Mesa Mines

BLACK MESA, Ariz. —Peabody Western Coal Company’s Black Mesa Coal Complex has suffered a major setback as an Administrative Law Judge for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) vacated a permit for the massive coal mining complex. The judge vacated the permit in response to one of several appeals filed by Navajo and Hopi residents as well as a
diverse coalition of tribal and environmental groups. The permit, issued by the DOI’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), allowed Peabody to operate and expand the Black Mesa mine and the Kayenta mine under a single permit.
Wahleah Johns, co-director of Black Mesa Water Coalition and one of the petitioners in the appeal said, “As a community member of Black Mesa I am grateful for this decision. For 40 years our sacred homelands and people have borne the brunt of coal mining impacts, from relocation to depletion of our only drinking water source. This ruling is an important step towards restorative justice for Indigenous communities who have suffered at the hands of multinational companies like Peabody Energy. This decision is also precedent-setting for all other communities who struggle with the complexities of NEPA laws and OSM procedures in regards to environmental protection. However, we also cannot ignore the irreversible damage of coal mining industries continues on the land, water, air, people and all living things.”
The Administrative Law Judge’s order decides issues raised by members of the Hopi Nation in one of many appeals brought in response to OSM’s final permit, which was issued in the waning days of the Bush Administration. The “life of mine” permit issued by OSM authorized and expanded mining operations at Black Mesa beyond the year 2026 for the remaining
portion of an estimated total of 670 million tons of coal. The order cited violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“This is a huge victory for the communities of Black Mesa impacted by coal mining and proof that Peabody can’t have its way on Black Mesa anymore,” said Sierra Club’s Hertha Woody, also a member of the Navajo Nation. “Coal is a dirty, dangerous and outdated energy source that devastates communities, jeopardizes drinking water and destroys wildlife habitats. This
decision is yet another example of why it no longer makes sense to burn coal to get electricity.”
The Black Mesa Coal Mine Complex has a long history of controversy stemming from concerns about air and water pollution, impacts to local residents, the drying of aquifers and sacred springs, and coal’s contribution to global warming. Heavy metals and pollutants that result from mining operations are toxic to humans and harmful to wildlife.
“This is a vindication of what we have been saying for years,” said Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity. “As a result of this huge victory, business-as-usual at Black Mesa has come to an end and a transition toward a green energy economy in the Four Corners region can truly begin.”
“It is good news that our concerns were heard. Water is very precious that should not be used for coal mining but instead should be used for our people. I am pleased with this outcome,” said Calvin Johnson of the grassroots organization C-Aquifer for Dine’.
“Dine' C.A.R.E. commends DOI Judge Holt,” said Anna Frazier of Dine’ C.A.R.E. “This is a hopeful step toward a better consultation with OSM and other regulatory entities. The ultimate goals for our people and our land are for OSM to withdraw the life of mine permit, as there is no purpose and need for it, to move toward permanent closure of the existing Kayenta Mine
and transportation complex and to begin total reclamation on Black Mesa.”
The coalition of tribal and environmental groups who filed a related appeal of OSM’s permit included the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Diné C.A.R.E., Dine Hataalii Association, Inc., To Nizhoni Ani, C-Aquifer for Diné, Diné Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council. Legal representation in the appeal was given by the
Energy Minerals Law Center attorneys Brad Bartlett and Travis Stills and Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
- # # # -
For more background information please visit:

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Hundred Thousand Strong March Against Climate Change in Copenhagen

Global UN Climate negotiations (COP15) are proceeding in Copenhagen with over 100 heads of state expected to attend in the next week. With 2009 the 5th hottest year on record, Scientists are saying a Climate Treaty is more urgent with Global carbon emissions still increasing and acidification threatening marine biodiversity.

There are major differences between the industrialised nations, the large developing nations of India and China, and the poorest and most vulnerable countries as typified by Tuvalu which proposed to fortify the Kyoto agreement, and Bolivia. Summary of Negotiations by Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne (video)

In Copenhagen 100,000 people marched, however after 3pm police charged into the march and made arbitrary mass arrests estimated to be about 1,000. Further protests are occurring the next week inside the conference center and on the streets, check Denmark Indymedia for details and reports.

Many thousands of people attended a global weekend of vigils organised by and other protests with Walk Against Warming In Australia attracting 90,000 people, with 40,000 attending a Melbourne rally. (Video)

Aggregation and Video: icop15 aggregation | cop15live video
Radio: Climate Radio | Radio Mundo | Radio Indymedia - Urban War in Copenhagen?, 9 hour detention for Japanese man for nothing
Background on Tuvalu: Climate Adaption Issues | Speech at Melbourne Climate Rally

In Copenhagen Saturday 12th began with the NOAH Flood for Climate Justice Demonstration which started at 10am and marched, danced and waved to Højbro Plads [photo report]. The 12dec Demo started at Christiansborg Slotsplads / Parliament Square [google route map], including a CJA group, and it was soon clear that it was massive, with estimates quickly reaching 100,000 protesters. This was also part of a Global Day of Action on climate change. People were also meeting at Hojbro Plads in the same area for another action in the city.

Police Make Indiscriminate Mass Arrests

At around 3.15pm the police charged into the march near to where the CJA System Change not Climate Change group had joined the march, as well as people from the Ntac called demonstration. They cut off hundreds of people including many who were marching as part of Libertarian Socialist bloc [Pics 1 > 2 > 3 | report | video]. By 5pm several hundred had been handcuffed and made to sit on the floor, where they remain in the cold for hours. The police's press office reports that those arrested today are between 700-900 people, later revised to close to one thousand. - See AerialTwitpic. See CJA Press Release, of these only three were eventually charged with anything.

Following the enormous mass arrests of climate protesters, accounts are emerging of the poor conditions within the specially set up detention facilities, with people handcuffed for up to eight hours following their lengthy detention upon the streets. Despite this obvious repression climate campaigners remain determined to push the message that we need System Change not climate change.

Further Information see: Denmark IMC Features

Friday, December 4, 2009

EPA Withdraws Water Permit for Peabody Coal Black Mesa

For Immediate Release, December 3, 2009
Contact: Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition, (928) 213-5909

Anna Frazier, Dine CARE, (928) 380-7697
Andy Bessler, Sierra Club, (928) 774-6103
Nicole Horseherder, TO’ Nizhoni Ani, (928) 675-1851
Brad Bartlett, Energy Minerals Law Center, (970) 247-9334
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 914-8372

Pollution Permit for Peabody's Black Mesa Coal Mine Withdrawn by EPA Following Appeal by Tribal and Conservation Groups

BLACK MESA, Ariz.— In response to an appeal brought by a diverse coalition of tribal and environmental groups, this week the Environmental Protection Agency withdrew a controversial water permit for the massive Black Mesa Coal Complex, a coal-mine complex located on Navajo Nation and Hopi lands in northeastern Arizona. EPA’s permit withdrawal means that discharges of heavy metal and pollutants – including selenium, nitrates, and other heavy metals and toxic pollutants from coal-mining operations at the Black Mesa Complex – are threatening washes, tributaries, groundwater, and the drinking water for local communities, but are not being regulated.

“EPA is to be commended for doing the right thing in this instance and withdrawing the inadequate water permit for Black Mesa,” said Wahleah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “Our community was shut out of the permitting process and our requests for public hearings on the permit denied. If a new permit is issued, the agency must ensure that impacted communities are meaningfully involved in environmental decision-making.”

The coalition’s appeal of Peabody’s permit cited violations of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act, in addition to asserting that the EPA failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of leaky waste ponds and failed to provide local residents with adequate opportunities for public participation.

“EPA’s recent Notice of Withdrawal of Permit is further evidence of Peabody Coal Company’s illegal coal mining operation on Black Mesa that is not only destroying the land which is the living flesh of our Mother Earth but is now polluting – with an expired discharge permit – the region’s natural water system which are, in real physical and spiritual terms, the lifeblood and veins of our female mountain,” said Anna Frazier of Dine CARE.

The Black Mesa Mine Complex has a history of controversy stemming from concerns about air and water pollution, impacts to local people, the drying of aquifers and springs and coal pollution’s contribution to global warming. Heavy metals and pollutants that result from mining operations are toxic to humans and harmful to wildlife. Excessive selenium can damage the nervous system and harm livestock, and acid mine drainage can seep into waterways and aquifers, with consequences for ecological and human health.

Nicole Horseherder of TO' Nizhoni Ani (Navajo for Beautiful Water Speaks), who lives 20 miles south of the Black Mesa Complex, said: “I am very happy about the EPA’s decision to withdraw the permit. I am glad to see a federal regulatory agency finally doing its job. In the course of our struggle to protect the water and bring awareness to the impacts of this coal-mining operation, we have never had such a favorable decision by any agency charged with regulating the impacts of Black Mesa.”

For three and a half decades, Peabody’s coal-mining operations on Black Mesa have been dependent on the sole source of drinking water for Navajo and Hopi communities. Between 1969 and 2005, Peabody pumped an average of 4,600 acre-feet of water annually from the Navajo Aquifer, causing significant damage to Navajo and Hopi community water supplies. The permit withdrawn this week would have allowed Peabody’s to continue discharging heavy metals and toxic pollutants into washes, tributaries and groundwater relied on by communities.

“The indigenous peoples of Black Mesa know that water is life and environmental justice has been served by EPA’s decision,” said Hertha Woody, a local Sierra Club leader and member of the Navajo Nation. “No one should have to question the quality of their life-giving waters. It is good to know that more will be done by EPA to protect these waters in the future.”

“As a result of EPA’s permit withdrawal, Peabody will be under increased pressure to comply with the Clean Water Act – especially if it continues discharging heavy metals and pollutants into tribal waters,” said Atwood, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney who worked on the appeal. “Our coalition will continue to evaluate EPA’s response and enforcement of our Nation’s laws protecting water.”

The diverse coalition of organizations involved in this effort include the Black Mesa Water Coalition, TO’ Nizhoni Ani, Dine CARE, Dine Hataalii Association, Inc., Dine Alliance, C-Aquifer for Dine, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. The organizations were represented in the appeal by Brad Bartlett of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colorado and Atwood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Black Mesa mine closed in 2005 after the utility company owners, led by Southern California Edison, could not reach agreement with the Navajo and Hopi tribes on coal supplies and an alternative to pumping groundwater from the Navajo aquifer to feed the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada. When the Office of Surface Mining issued a permit to Peabody to resume mining operations, neither it nor Peabody identified a new purchaser of coal from the mine. In addition, federal agencies’ analysis of the permit failed to adequately consider the impacts of global warming on endangered fish in the Colorado River.

By contributing to global warming-related droughts and pumping groundwater from the Navajo aquifer, permitted mining would exacerbate the effects of more than 30 years of Peabody’s groundwater depletion that has drained billions of gallons of water from aquifers. Peabody’s pumping has depleted wells and decreased surface flows in area springs and creeks upon which residents and wildlife depend. Despite evidence of continuing aquifer deterioration, the Office of Surface Mining and Peabody are seeking to continue extracting 1,236 acre-feet of groundwater from the Navajo Aquifer for mining operations throughout the permit period ending 2025.

In February, the same groups that joined in this effort also appealed a “Life of Mine” permit that authorizes mining operations at Black Mesa into the year 2025 for an estimated 670 million tons of coal. That appeal is still pending.

For more background information please visit:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

JP Morgan Chase Luncheon Crashed and Interrupted

A small group of concerned citizens crashed the ASU/JP Morgan Chase Economic Forum Luncheon today at the Phoenix Convention Center Plaza. After scoping out the perimeter, apparently a couple of them started panhandling to throw off the lone security guard at the front door until an unrelated security guard told them to leave the Convention Center property. Another donned a bridesmaid's dress after arriving and entered through the front door unstopped. After reporting to the others outside, the rest of the group entered and after being asked if they could be helped, the group refused assistance and walked into the banquet hall. At that point, the group weaved their way through the tables and walked onto the stage, where a small group of bankers were eating and one of the group approached the podium and spoke into their microphone calling them out for Chase's financial ties to APS and coal plants locally and beyond. After being interrupted and with the microphone off, the group began chanting to the bankers to stop funding coal-mining and to cut off financial dealings with APS. They were escorted out by a single security guard who tried to open the back gate for them to leave until a higher up worker came out to refuse to open said gate and threatened to call the police. The group ran up a worker's ramp to easily scale a wall around the establishment and caught the next approaching light rail train, escaping with no arrests.

Victory and Solidarity,


Climate Day of Action

We had a glorious day of events out here on November 30th, starting off with a march
of under ten people carrying banners and drums from Civic Space Park
through downtown Phoenix, stopping outside of about five banks to protest
coal plants, including three of the top financeers of coal power: JP
Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. From there, we marched to
the offices of APS and their parent corporation, Pinnacle West. We rallied
at that point for a while and did a banner drop denouncing APS involvement
in coal mining at Black Mesa. Next, we marched back to Chase Bank and
occupied it, bringing our banners and drums in with us. After about five
minutes of chanting anti-coal slogans and calling them out for funding a
coal plant in Springerville and financial affiliation with APS, we were
asked to leave by security and were profiled as we left. Finally, we
marched back to Civic Space Park. To check out our pictures, go to:

Victory and Solidarity,