Support the Call to Clean Up the Mines

 Above photo: The Clean Up The Mines team visits a large abandoned Uranium mine in Southwestern South Dakota. Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills stands in the foreground. By Ellen Davidson.

Throughout the United States, but primarily in the Great Plains and the West, a silent polluter is responsible for cancers, birth defects and many diseases including kidney and autoimmune diseases. Yet, most people living in close proximity to these polluters are unaware of the danger.

I am talking about 15,000 abandoned Uranium mines. Most of them are open pits that continue to emit radiation and clouds of radon gas. When it rains, radioactive and toxic heavy metals are washed into the aquifers and rivers. When it is dry, dust carrying radioactive and heavy metals blows across the land. In the heart of the US’ agricultural belt, these radioactive and heavy metals enter our food supply. Animals breathe in the toxic dust or drink contaminated water. Metals are taken up by plants that are harvested for animal feed or human consumption.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION TO CLEAN UP THE MINES.

These mines are the result of the great Uranium Rush, larger than the Gold Rush, but they are rarely talked about. Now the abandoned mines are ‘America’s Secret Fukushima‘, as we wrote in June, 2013. Radiation can’t be tasted, felt or smelled. It is an invisible pollutant. There is no safe dose.

In 1948, the Atomic Energy Commission stated that it would buy any Uranium that people had to sell. This unleashed a frenzy of mining for the next 25 to 30 years. People dug Uranium ore up on their land and brought it to buying stations in open bed trucks without knowledge of the health hazards. Most of the Uranium ore was on federal or tribal lands. Private corporations contracted to mine on those lands and employed workers throughout the 1950′s without advising the workers of the danger of radiation or providing protective gear even though the links between radiation and cancer were known at the time. Many of the workers were Native American. Some of them brought their families to the area around the mines where children played and meals were cooked as the workers blasted and hauled out the rocks.

The private corporations who operated the mines had no legal responsibility to clean up after they left. And so, for decades, the mines have been open scars upon the land continuing to pollute. There is no single registry of the locations of the mines, but from multiple sources, it is estimated that there are 15,000 of them. Some are close to national monuments like Mount Rushmore. Some are located in towns, near houses and schools. According to EPA data, ten million people live within 50 miles of a known abandoned Uranium mine.

Popular Resistance, in partnership with other groups and individuals, is part of the Clean Up The Mines! campaign that has been working to introduce legislation in Congress that would catalog the mines, require public education about the hazards of the mines and require cleanup of the mines using the highest standard to protect the air, land and water. Though legislation has been written, it continues to languish and has not been formally introduced.

That’s why we need you. We must build a loud voice from the grassroots demanding that leadership make this huge silent public health danger a high priority.

It’s time to clean up the mines! Please sign and share this petition.


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  • I cannot overstate how important this initiative is to me and to all of us. Here is one example of the devastation caused by these mines: Recently, about 200 of us spent a week in the Black Hills of South Dakota listening to the Lakota people from Pine Ridge and other reservations tell us, among other things, of the horrific consequences these abandoned mine have had on their health and the health of their beautiful sacred mountains, the Paha Sapa, Black Hills. The aquifers under the Black Hills and the PIne Ridge Reservation are polluted with radiation now. This area has the highest cancer rate in the nation and strikingly high instances of other health conditions associated with exposure to radiation. Because the population of South Dakota is small, it is hard to draw the attention to this problem, so that resources can be obtained to solve it. This is totally unacceptable. These mines, and all of the mines need to be cleaned up now. Please sign this petition and talk to your congressperson about co- sponsoring and helping to pass the draft bill called the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act which has been submitted to Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-NM). You may believe that this is a “local” issue, confined to the areas where the abandoned uranium mines are. But it is not. It is an issue of our responsibility as Americans and human beings who inhabit this earth to do everything in our power to right this wrong. Susan Myoyu Andersen, Zen Peacemaker Order
  • When I read Lawrence Symonds’ remark I think of how easily we get distracted from what really matters. Whether these mines are on the scale of Fukushima or whether 3 Mile Island was overblown is irrelevant. Statistics from credible sources can’t be disputed no matter how much the industries pay “experts” to tow the party line. The “sow the seeds of doubt” strategy is a familiar one used by anyone in power dedicated to keeping the power and avoiding the accountability for any actions that destroy but are deemed necessary for the endless production of MORE. Economics almost always trumps the public good in a society dedicated to consuming, a society that thinks, peace, happiness, and harmony come from the mindless consumption that always demands the endless production of MORE. If we want to change our life, as surely we must, we must change our mind first.
  • When you drill down on the facts, those three events were not quite the nuclear disasters they have been touted to be. Fukushima was caused by an earthquake followed by a Tsunami. It was built on or near a fault, and the nuclear reactor problems were exacerbated by poor design and lack of proper protocols. Chernobyl suffered similar deficiencies, but the fact is, people and animals have lived and raised vegetable crops in the disaster area in the decades since with no unusual health problems. Three Mile Island was far from a melt-down and the hype was hugely overblown. Check out the documentary, Pandora’s Promise, for a different perspective. Finally, new technology now available would eliminate virtually all prospects of serious accidents, and Gen4 reactors are much more efficient, can use existing nuclear waste as fuel and leave a minimal carbon footprint.
  • Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island…. Nuclear is not the solution. The courage to change the whole paradigm of how we live is.
  • No doubt we need to clean up the mines, but it is important to know that with current Gen 4 reactors able to use less uranium and even spent fuel from old reactors, we will not need more uranium mined in the foreseeable future - that is if we can get new reactors approved and built in the normal 20 year cycle starting now. Realistically, we cannot reach the CO2 depletion rate needed to slow global warming by taking coal burning generators off line without nuclear. We just couldn’t build wind and solar capacity large enough or fast enough to satisfy all the country’s energy needs.

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