Fall Quarterly 2017
By Haul No!
This article was edited for length, with permission, from the original post at: www.haulno.org
In December 2016, Indigenous anti-nuke and sacred sites organizers formed volunteer-based Haul No! to raise awareness, organize, and take action to protect sacred lands, water, and health from the toxic threat of radioactive uranium ore transport from the Grand Canyon to the White Mesa Mill. In March 2017, Energy Fuels Inc. (EFI), the owner of Canyon Mine and White Mesa Mill (the only commercially operating uranium processing plant in the US), announced that it could start mining uranium in June 2017. Haul No! kicked into gear and started organizing an awareness and action tour along the 300-mile planned haul route.
Bluff, Utah — Shut Down White Mesa Mill
Haul No! initiated the tour on June 13, 2017 in Bluff, Utah, just 20 miles south of the White Mesa Mill. Since 1979, the mill has processed and disposed of some of the most toxic radioactive waste produced in the US. Energy Fuels stores the mill tailings in “impoundments” that occupy about 275 acres next to the mill, which was built on sacred Ute Mountain Ute land. The site includes more than 200 rare and significant cultural sites, several of which have already been destroyed by Energy Fuels.
The White Mesa Mill is currently undergoing renewal of its Byproduct Radioactive Material License and Groundwater Quality Discharge Permits.
Ute Mountain Ute residents of White Mesa joined Haul No! and shared their experiences with the Bluff community. Ephraim Dutchie spoke about the spiritual quality of the land and the environmental racism they experience from mill workers, pro-mill residents, and law enforcement. “They don’t care about our community they only care about money. White Mesa is not the only community that will be affected by this. Keep water pure and land sacred,” Ephraim said.
Bluff and White Mesa residents expressed great concern that their drinking water will be contaminated by further milling. In the past two years alone, two spills have occurred en route to the mill. Both involved trucks from the Cameco Resources uranium mine in Wyoming, and one spill spread radioactive barium sulfate sludge along US Highway 191.
The next day, Haul No! met up with Ute Mountain Ute organizers at the White Mesa Mill. Haul No! volunteer Leona Morgan, who also organizes the Radiation Monitoring Project, donned her hazmat suit and mask to monitor radioactive pollution at the entrance of the mill. Part of the crew went directly to the mill site to bring the message that we want them to shut down. Yolanda Badback, White Mesa Concerned Community Organizer, confronted EFI workers as law enforcement agents arrived in response to a call regarding trespassing and vandalism. Yolanda stated, “This was our land and now it’s poisoned, Energy Fuels has no right to be here.” There were no issues aside from a warning.
Oljato, Utah/Monument Valley/Kayenta, Ariz. — A Legacy of Abandoned Uranium Mines
Our next stop was Oljato, Utah, which is located within the iconic Monument Valley. Oljato Chapter was the first to pass a resolution opposing transport in December 2016 and has long been plagued by abandoned uranium mines.
More than 523 abandoned uranium mines remain throughout the Navajo Nation, where Diné families have been subject to decades of radioactive contamination. The Navajo Nation banned uranium mining and milling in 2005 and transport of radioactive materials in 2012, though this matter is one of conflict due to lack of jurisdiction over state and federally-controlled highways such as EFI’s planned Canyon Mine haul route. This point is a policy focus of Haul No!
While two of our group headed to Blanding, Utah to testify at a White Mesa Mill hearing, the rest of the crew headed to Kayenta. Folks there stated that they’ve already seen trucks that look like uranium hauling barreling through their town. We clarified that at this point we know that uranium and arsenic-laced water from Canyon Mine was being transported in unmarked vehicles, and that this may be un-permitted—but no ore has been mined or transported. It was very clear that those in attendance do not want any more radioactive transport through their community.
Tuba City, Ariz. — Rare Metals’ Deadly Legacy
At the Tuba City Flea Market, our table volunteers heard constant accounts of cancer and passing of relatives due to work at the Tuba City Rare Metals mill. From June 1956 to November 1966, the mill processed 796,489 tons of uranium ore. In 1988, Department of Energy started cleaning up this Superfund site, where a layer of soil and rock remains 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.
During our presentation that evening, Leona asked how many of the 40 or so people in attendance had a relative or were themselves directly impacted by uranium mining or milling, and everyone raised their hands. All expressed strong opposition to further transport of radioactive materials through their lands.
Flagstaff, Ariz. — A Critical Point Of Intervention
Our tour continued on Monday, June 19 in Flagstaff, where 65 people attended our presentation. The next day our crew and local residents delivered a petition to Flagstaff City Council calling for a resolution and ordinance to oppose uranium transport. The City of Flagstaff has jurisdiction over a small part of the transport route and organizers see this as a possible stopping-point to safeguard all communities.
Cameron, Ariz. — A Legacy Of Abandoned Uranium Mines
On Tuesday, June 20 we made it to Cameron, where everyone at our tour stop had been directly impacted by uranium mining and expressed great concern of high-level radioactive ore coming through their lands. The small community has faced uranium contamination for decades. Cameron officials have already expressed that they are willing to block uranium transport if necessary.
Gathering at Red Butte
The Haul No! Tour culminated at the Red Butte Gathering hosted by the Havasupai Tribal Council, June 23-25. We set up camp near Sacred Red Butte on traditional Havasupai homelands about 4 miles from Canyon Mine. Haul No! offered training in Non-Violent Direct Action and gave updates on the mine and transport issues. We listened to talks, participated in prayer walks, and round danced in blistering Arizona temperatures. We will focus more on the Red Butte Gathering in Part 2 of the Haul No! Tour Report Back.
Flagstaff City Council
On July 5, 2017, our request for “Consideration of Council Action to Oppose Uranium Transport” was approved despite a surprise appearance by Energy Fuels President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers, who claimed that the transport is not more dangerous than other transport that happens on a daily basis. He also informed the Council that EFI’s preferred route would go north of the San Francisco Peaks and not through Flagstaff. The agenda item will be discussed at the City of Flagstaff regular council meeting on October 10, 2017.
—Arianne Peterson and Leona Morgan helped edit this article.