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One Small Tribe Beat Coal and Built a Solar Plant

 The Moapa went from suffering at the hands of coal to benefiting from the profits of renewables

Color Lines, Yessenia Funes  APR 10, 2017 Tucked between scattered red desert rocks, the Moapa Band of Paiutes dwells on a little over 70,000 acres in southeastern Nevada. It’s a small tribe with a population of no more than 311, but those numbers
haven’t stopped its members from shutting down a giant coal generating station to protect their health and land.

While President Donald Trump is attempting to revive the coal industry, the Moapa Band has proven how dangerous that industry can be to health. Tribal members suffer from high rates of asthma and heart disease, though the tribe’s small size makes it difficult to accurately quantify. The coal-fired Reid Gardner Generating Station sits outside the Moapa River Indian Reservation, just beyond a fence for some tribal members who have had to deal with the repercussions of its air pollution and toxic coal ash waste for 52 years.

“The whole tribe was suffering from it,” says Vernon Lee, a tribal member and former council member who worked at the plant 15 years ago. “It’s just bad stuff. We all knew that.”

Coincidentally, the day after the station last stopped operating (on March 17), the Moapa Band of Paiutes launched the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, the first-ever solar project built on tribal land, in partnership with large-scale solar operator First Solar. Companies started approaching the tribe about leasing its land around the same time their organizing took off, and things essentially fell into place. 

Despite all this—and the impending closure of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, also run by NV Energy and impacting Navajo Nation members who work there or live nearby—President Trump is pushing forth with a coal-first energy agenda……..

the tribe’s prevalence of cardiovascular and respiratory issues are consistent with what is generally caused by air pollution, says C. Arden Pope III, an environmental epidemiologist who currently teaches economics at Brigham Young University but has served on the EPA Science Advisory Board and chairs the EPA Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis.

Coal releases heavy carbon dioxide emissions, but it also emits a cocktail of pollutants dangerous to health: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, particulates and fly ash that is then placed into nearby ponds. Lee calls them “chemical soup ponds.” These pollutants can lead to respiratory issues, heart problems, as well as neurological and developmental damage.

Pope has examined the health of the Moapa Band. Back in 2012, he attempted to conduct a study on the tribe but was unable to establish conclusive findings because the tribe’s numbers are so small. Then, there was the issue of no valid control group because, as Pope put it, “they all lived so very close to the power plant that…they were all being exposed.”

Still, Pope did collect a lot of data, and the health impacts were enough for him to have a strong opinion about how the generating station was impacting their health: “Do I think that the exposure to air pollution likely had adverse impacts on their health? The answer to that is yes.”

And he says that their high rates of respiratory and cardiovascular issues are in line with greater empirical research on air pollution. Without a conclusive study, however, it was difficult for government officials to take tribal members seriously.

“But we wouldn’t care,” chairwoman Simmons says. “We smelled it and felt it.

Then, in 2010, they met Vinny Spotleson, who was working with the Sierra Club at that time. That changed everything.

It all started with letters. That’s how tribal members first thought they’d give the EPA and state agencies like the state’s Division of Environmental Protection a piece of their mind. “People wrote [many] letters,” Simmons tells me, adding that they never got a response.

When they met Spotleson in 2010, Simmons realized that they finally had the support needed to be taken seriously by officials. Before then, Simmons says government agencies would shoot back with numbers from air quality reports she and other Moapa people didn’t fully understand. But Spotleson introduced them to lawyers and scientists. From there, all the Moapa had to do was tell their stories. Simmons remembers Spotleson telling her, “Just say how you feel, and they’ll never be able to prove you wrong.”……

with the help of the Sierra Club, the Moapa Band of Paiutes entered into a legal battle against the Bureau of Land Management for approving the expansion project in Moapa Band of Paiutes, et al v. BLM, et al. Part of their campaign involved growing public awareness. The residents in Las Vegas whose homes were powered by the plant had no idea where it was or that it even existed—much less what it was doing to the Moapa.

“We did see a lot of people in the community, in Las Vegas, in southern Nevada, really engaging and making this campaign their own,” says Elspeth DiMarzio, another Sierra Club campaign organizer who worked with the Moapa. “Once they were aware of the issue, they could see that their neighbors in Moapa were suffering because of an energy that they were receiving.”……

the tribe ultimately lost that case in 2013—but they didn’t lose everything.

Legislators introduced Senate Bill 123 in February 2013, which would require certain utilities (like NV Energy, the one behind Reid Gardner) to reduce their coal-based greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating at least 800 megawatts of electricity by 2019 and replacing part of that lost energy with 350 megawatts of renewable energy like solar or wind. This came after these three years of organizing by the Moapa and its allies.

By April, NV Energy gave its support for SB 123. In June 2013, the bill became law—with a stamp of approval from NV Energy and the Moapa.

The plant shuttered for good March 2017…….

The tribe now leases its land to Capital Dyanmics, which owns the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project. The plant provided 115 construction jobs for tribal members and employs two permanently as field technicians.

The power goes to Los Angeles, and the tribe receives revenue from leasing their land. But they’ve been discussing and attempting to find bidders for two other solar projects with the thought of launching one that would bring that power into their homes.

They have a new revenue stream and are still deciding on the best way to use it. “We’ve never been in this position before or had these [solar] projects before,” Simmons says. “It’s hard to take off and start spending everything we do have because we want to plan and spend accordingly.”

The Moapa went from suffering at the hands of coal to benefiting from the profits of renewables……http://www.colorlines.com/articles/how-one-small-tribe-beat-coal-and-built-solar-plant

April 12, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, renewable, USA | 1 Comment

Navajo Nation still affected by legacy of uranium mining – contaminated water

Uranium leaves legacy of contamination for Navajo Nation http://www.heraldextra.com/news/state-and-regional/uranium-leaves-legacy-of-contamination-for-navajo-nation/article_8c4df54f-426c-5647-8779-15049d913308.html Apr 2, 2017  SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — For more than a decade, about 20 gallons of uranium-contaminated groundwater have been pumped per minute into a disposal pond from beneath a tailings site on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Energy Department says the pond is a few years away from the end of its life span, and pumping will have to stop since the pond has almost reached its capacity.

The federal government monitors and pumps groundwater from beneath the Shiprock uranium mill tailings site in northwestern New Mexico as part of a long-term project aimed at cleaning up the area.

 Mark Kautsky with the DOE’s Office of Legacy Management recently toured the site near the Arizona-New Mexico state line with a group of students from Arizona.

“The water level has come up the point where that pond is just about full,” he told the students from Shonto Preparatory School.

Over the next couple of years, the pond will be evaporated and its liner will be replaced, the Gallup Independent reported (http://bit.ly/1jl8YBA).

Kautsky said the community of Shiprock should not be affected since its drinking water is piped from miles away and farmers in the area get their irrigation water diverted from the San Juan River about 10 miles (16 kilometers) upstream.

The mill tailings disposal site is located behind a locked fence on a ridge behind the Shiprock Fairgrounds and past the Navajo Engineering Construction Authority.

Families live in mobile homes within several hundred yards (meters) of the site, and yellow signs attached to the fencing display warnings in Navajo not to drink the pond’s water.

The disposal site sits on top of a former mill that processed more than 200 tons of uranium ore a day from mines in Cove, Arizona, and other nearby locations.

 The mill operated from 1954 through 1968. The buildings and equipment were torn down in the years immediately after the operation ceased and initial cleanup of the site took place from 1975 throughout 1980.

The massive rock covering of the uranium tailings was built in 1986 to prevent the escape of radon gas.

Kautsky said it was safer to leave the tailings in place than to move them.

“If you start picking up all of this material and hauling it out of here through the community there would be a lot of potential for accidents to happen,” he told the students.

 The Energy Department began long-term oversight of the disposal site in 1991. Federal officials have said there are over 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the country. Navajo territory spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Energy Department has four legacy management locations on the Navajo Nation: the Shiprock site; disposal sites in Mexican Hat, Utah, and Tuba City, Arizona; and a former processing site in Monument Valley, Arizona.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working with responsible parties and implementing settlements that provide funding to assess and clean up about 40 percent of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land. Linda Reeves, a regional project manager with the agency, said the EPA is in the early stages of its work.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA, water | Leave a comment

How the Trump budget threatens uranium mine cleanup

Native American uranium miners and the Trump budget, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  Robert Alvarez, 30 Mar 17, For minimum wage or less, they blasted open seams, built wooden beam supports in the mine shafts, and dug out ore pieces with picks and wheelbarrows. The shafts penetrated as deep as 1,500 feet, with little or no ventilation. The bitter-tasting dust was all pervasive, coating their teeth. They ate in the mines and drank water that dripped from the walls and, sometimes, developed chronic coughs. And much worse.

Native American uranium miners were essential to the United States’ efforts to create a nuclear arsenal. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, Indian people dug up approximately four million tons of uranium ore—nearly a quarter of the total national underground production in the United States used in nuclear weapons. As they did so, they were sent into harm’s way without sufficient warning, becoming the workers most severely exposed to ionizing radiation in the US nuclear weapons complex. After more than a century, the legacy of US uranium mining lingers. More than three billion metric tons of mining and milling wastes were generated in the United States. Today, Navajos still live near about one third (approximately 1,200 out of 4,000) of all abandoned uranium mines in the United States.

Only after concerted efforts by Navajo activists to spur congressional investigations in 1993 and 2006 did the US government promise to remediate abandoned mines and ascertain their health impacts. But more than a century after the government issued the first uranium mining leases on Navajo land, the Trump administration has proposed deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget—upward of 30 percent overall—putting that cleanup effort in peril.

America’s Indian miners were never warned of the hazards of radioactivity in the mines, where they inhaled, ingested, and drank uranium dust. The water in the mines was especially dangerous; it contained high quantities of radon—a radioactive gas emanating from the ore. Radon decays into heavy, more radiotoxic isotopes, called “radon daughters,” which include isotopes of polonium, bismuth, and lead. The alpha particle emissions of radon daughters are considered to be about 20 times more carcinogenic than x-rays. If they lodge in the respiratory system, especially the deep lung, radon daughters emit energetic ionizing radiation that can damage cells of sensitive internal tissues.

And of course, the miners brought the uranium dust home, along with their contaminated clothing.

A known danger, hidden. …..

How the Trump budget threatens uranium mine cleanup. Even though there is a significant body of evidence, spanning decades, of deliberate negligence by the US government, federal courts have denied claims by the uranium miners and those exposed to radioactive fallout from Nevada nuclear weapons testing on the grounds of sovereign immunity. “[A]ll the actions of various governmental agencies complained of by plaintiffs were the result of conscious policy decisions made at high government levels based on considerations of political and national security feasibility factors,” is how one federal judge put it.

After several decades of considerable effort by miners and their families, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in October 1990. The Act offered a formal apology for sending people into harm’s way and provided a one-time compensation to each victim in the amount of $150,000. But the financial compensation came too late for many who had died. And it would never be enough to compensate for illness and death that could have been prevented.

An estimated 30,000 Navajos are now living near abandoned uranium mines. The EPA has found that, because of their traditional lifestyle, Indian people are the group most vulnerable to environmental contaminants. The Navajo nation and the US Justice Department have reached settlement agreements in two uranium-related lawsuits since 2014; the settlements total about $1.5 billion, which would go toward remediating 144 of the most troublesome mines. But there’s a rub: The degree and extent of mine cleanup depends on tribal assistance funds and oversight by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The budget plan that the Trump administration recently released makes deep cuts in the EPA workforce, in EPA programs to ensure compliance with the cleanup agreements, and in funding for the Navajo nation to carry out its responsibilities to oversee the process. This makes it clear that addressing the sacrifices made by the Indian people for the nuclear arms race are being put at the bottom of the list of Trump administration priorities. http://thebulletin.org/native-american-uranium-miners-and-trump-budget10657?platform=hootsuite

March 31, 2017 Posted by | environment, indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change forcing indigenous peoples from their homelands

“You’re talking about communities that have been in place for generations, and live off the land and the waters, and they are seeing and experiencing the changes first and foremost,”

Climate Change Forces Northwest Natives From Their Ancestral Homes,Truth Out  March 24, 2017By Zoe Loftus-FarrenEarth Island Journal Fawn Sharp grew up in Taholah village, a small community on the Quinault Reservation nestled between the mouth of the Quinault River and the Pacific Ocean. She spent her childhood summers surrounded by water, splashing in Lake Quinault on the eastern edge of the reservation, and hiking along the local beaches near the village, scouring the rocks for starfish and other treasures. In the mornings, she was often up before the sun, out fishing with her grandparents on the river.

Decades after she left home for college, Sharp is back on the reservation, this time living near the lake, some 35 miles from her childhood home in Taholah. Now she goes by President Sharp, and leads both the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

Since returning, Sharp has faced the kinds of tough issues that might have seemed outlandish, or even inconceivable, during her childhood. She’s seen the tribe’s salmon runs in sharp decline. She’s observed the rapid retreat of nearby glaciers. And she’s watched her childhood home, Taholah, endure dangerous flooding during increasingly harsh storm surges. Continue reading

March 27, 2017 Posted by | climate change, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

USA govt and media ignore huge indigenous rally

Silence:Largest march for native rights in DC ignored by the White House and mainstream media http://americanindiansandfriends.com/main-feed-news/silence [Excellent photos]  – See more at: http://americanindiansandfriends.com/main-feed-news/silence#sthash.inDWHgGX.dpuf The White House didn’t comment nor answer to the tribe’s request. There were a few mainstream Media sources that relayed the event, but the most important information was from social media sites, Twitter and Facebook.

Native American tribes and their supporters headed to the US capital for four days of demonstrations against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and to raise awareness of other issues affecting Native Americans.

Activists from indigenous tribes from across America had set up a teepee encampment next to the Washington Monument, before marching on Trump Tower and the White House

The protests follow a year-long battle by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalists against the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline and the desecration of tribal lands.

The Washington DC protests, organised by Standing Rock along with the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Native Organisers Alliance, have asked the Government to require tribal consent when considering major infrastructure projects crossing through their lands.

But there was silence

-Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network,said: “Our plan here is to really be a central hub for a lot of information of ongoing issues going on across quote-on-quote Indian country.
– See more at: http://americanindiansandfriends.com/main-feed-news/silence#sthash.inDWHgGX.dpuf
”This is also a space for a lot of tribal representatives, frontline grassroots leaders to do some workshops, presentations about issues that are affecting their land, their homelands, their peoples and just to be a hub to really organise and celebrate.”

The White House did not comment.
– See more at: http://americanindiansandfriends.com/main-feed-news/silence#sthash.inDWHgGX.dpuf

March 15, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, media, USA | Leave a comment

Thorough research to be done on uranium health effects on Navajo Nation

Mothers, Babies on Navajo Nation Exposed to High Levels of Uranium https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/health-wellness/mothers-babies-navajo-nation-exposed-high-levels-uranium/ Navajo Birth Cohort Study figuring out how exposure affects health  • December 20, 2016

Researchers with the Navajo Birth Cohort Study aren’t looking for simple answers about how uranium exposure affects health. We already know—and have known for decades—that contact with uranium can cause kidney disease and lung cancer.

This study is the first to look at what chronic, long-term exposure from all possible sources of uranium contamination—air, water, plants, wildlife, livestock and land—does down through the generations in a Native American community.

Since the study began in 2012, over 750 families have enrolled and 600 babies have been born to those families, said Dr. Johnnye Lewis, director of the Community Environmental Health Program & Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and NBCS principal investigator.

We’re collecting a huge amount of data,” Lewis said. “At this point … all of our results are preliminary, [but] what we do know is that if we look at uranium in urine in the Navajo participants we see higher concentrations than we would expect based on the U.S. population as a whole… [In babies,] we are seeing a trend that uranium levels in urine increase over the first year.”

The Navajo Nation overlies some of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. Between 1944 and 1986, miners extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium from Navajo Nation lands. Navajo miners did not have protective suits or masks; they took their work clothes home for laundering; they and other community members used rocks from the mines to build their homes.

When the Cold War ended, most of the uranium mines on Navajo were abandoned—not covered, or sealed, or remediated, just left as they were with waste piles exposed to wind and rain and accessible to anyone, including children.

Today, more than 500 open abandoned uranium mines are spread across the Navajo Nation and uranium dust, particles and radiation continue to be released into the environment.

The questions the NBCS seeks to answer are complex. Uranium does not exist in isolation at the mine sites, so the study is looking at 36 different metals associated with uranium. “We do that because when you look at uranium waste, it’s not just uranium that’s in the waste,” said Lewis. “None of the variables that we look at, none of the causes or the outcomes that we look at are on-off binary sort of things. What we look at is as concentrations of uranium or other metals changes, can we see changes in responses?”

Researchers have also been alarmed by the findings that levels of iodine and zinc are lower than they should be in the study group. Iodine levels are about 40 percent below the World Health Organization sufficiency level, and 61 percent of the mothers in the study have zinc levels below the WHO sufficiency level. “Iodine deficiencies [are] very, very important because iodine is really critical for normal organ development and neurodevelopment,” said Lewis. “And we worry about zinc because we have some evidence that it may be involved in the repair process when you have exposure to some of the metals that we look at. [A lack of zinc] actually inhibits the body’s ability to fix damage to DNA.”

Documenting these deficiencies would make the NBCS worthwhile “even if we learn there are absolutely no [long-term health] effects from uranium,” Lewis said. “Whatever we find out is going to be important.”

Two other endeavors resulting from the study are already in the works, and both will be hugely important to the well-being of Navajo families in the future.

The project has just won Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program funding from the National Institutes of Health. The project is looking at kids all across the U.S. to try to understand how their environment influences their health. It will eventually include 50,000 children and at least two cohorts will be from Native American communities, Lewis said. “We’re just really pleased that they’re including Native Americans.”

The Centers for Disease Control funding for the NBCS only allows families to be followed for up to one year. This new funding, which extends over 5 years after a 2-year initial period, will allow the researchers to go back and look again at each child on an annual basis and do much more detailed developmental assessments. In the process, they will be able to develop an assessment that takes into account Navajo parenting styles and create an instrument that is valid specifically for Navajo children, unlike standardized developmental assessments that are devised based primarily on the dominant culture’s parenting practices.

To accomplish that, “we put together a clinical team that is going to be training our Navajo staff to deliver these developmental assessments. It will be a long process of working together. They’ll be trained and then they will shadow the clinical team so that they get a lot more experience off Navajo before ever coming back here and then when they come back they’ll each be partnered with either a neurodevelopmental expert or psychometrician … who will be hired through the program. They will initially shadow them and then be shadowed by them to ensure that we have consistency.

“So at the end of seven years what we’re going to have is a really great team of professional evaluators who will be staying on Navajo and who will provide that new service” to Navajo families, Lewis said.

The NBCS is a collaborative effort of the University of New Mexico’s DiNEH Project, Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR), Navajo Area Indian Health Service, and the Navajo Nation Division of Health, and the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Women between the ages of 14 and 45 who have lived on the Navajo Nation for five years, are pregnant and will deliver their babies at hospitals in Chinle, Gallup, Shiprock, Ft. Defiance and Tuba City are eligible to participate in the study. Call 1-877-545-6775 for information.

 

March 13, 2017 Posted by | health, indigenous issues, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Indigenous people must have final say about their land – Pope Francis

Pope says indigenous people must have final say about their land  Francis echoes growing body of international law and standards on the right to ‘prior and informed consent’, Guardian, , 21 Feb 17, In the 15th century papal bulls promoted and provided legal justification for the conquest and theft of indigenous peoples’ lands and resources worldwide – the consequences of which are still being felt today. The right to conquest in one such bull, the Romanus Pontifex, issued in the 1450s when Nicholas V was the Pope, was granted in perpetuity.

How times have changed. Last week, over 560 years later, Francis, the first Pope from Latin America, struck a rather different note – for indigenous peoples around the world, for land rights, for better environmental stewardship. He said publicly that indigenous peoples have the right to “prior and informed consent.” In other words, nothing should happen on – or impact – their land, territories and resources unless they agree to it.

“I believe that the central issue is how to reconcile the right to development, both social and cultural, with the protection of the particular characteristics of indigenous peoples and their territories,” said Francis, according to an English version of his speech released by the Vatican’s press office.

“This is especially clear when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the earth,” Francis went on. “In this regard, the right to prior and informed consent should always prevail, as foreseen in Article 32 of the [UN] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Only then is it possible to guarantee peaceful cooperation between governing authorities and indigenous peoples, overcoming confrontation and conflict.”

Francis was speaking to numerous indigenous representatives in Rome at the conclusion of the third Indigenous Peoples’ Forum held by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development…….. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2017/feb/20/pope-indigenous-people-final-say-land

February 22, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, indigenous issues, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Thirty years later, Blackfoot tribes see environmental win on sacred grounds

U.S. officials on Tuesday announced the cancellation of the final two oil and gas leases in a wilderness area bordering Glacier National Park that’s sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of Montana and Canada. Christian Science Monitor, Matthew Brown Associated Press JANUARY 10, 2017 U.S. officials on Tuesday announced the cancellation of the final two oil and gas leases in a wilderness area bordering Glacier National Park that’s sacred to the Blackfoot tribes of Montana and Canada, more than three decades after the tribes said the leases were illegally sold…….http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2017/0110/Thirty-years-later-Blackfoot-tribes-see-environmental-win-on-sacred-grounds

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Indigenous leaders excluded from Canada’s climate talks

Indigenous leaders shocked, again, by repeated exclusion from Trudeau’s climate talks, National Observer  December 16th 2016 After excluding them from a critical discussion on indigenous people and climate change earlier this year, both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) hoped it was a mistake Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not repeat.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

A high school protest led to stopping Quebec’s uranium industry

How a high school student helped block Quebec’s uranium industry Financial Post, Damon van der Linde, Dec. 15, 2016, MISTISSINI, Que. — Hunting grouse on a snowy road that cuts through the forest north of his home in the Cree community of Mistissini, Justice Debassige reflects on why, as a 17-year-old high school student in 2012, he started a petition against a uranium exploration project 215 kilometres away.

“I read research on how it damages the land and the water, so that was what drew me in,” he said, while searching for birds down the road towards the now-shuttered site owned by Boucherville, Que.-based Strateco Resources Inc. “It’s something to really think about when we’re out here.”

Debassige said he couldn’t have imagined at the time that his petition would be the catalyst for a complete moratorium against exploration of the radioactive mineral across Quebec, result in a $200-million lawsuit by Strateco Resources against the government and pit the federal nuclear safety agency against a provincial environmental commission.

But it did, and The Matoush Project — named after the Cree family that traditionally use the land for hunting, fishing and trapping — in northern Quebec’s Otish Mountains has lost its glow…….

Debassige and two other classmates collected about 200 signatures from students and staff in opposition to the project, which caught the attention of Shawn Iserhoff, Mistissini’s youth chief at the time. He raised the concerns with the Mistissini Band Council and in the spring of 2012, Strateco arranged two days of hearings in the community………

“The traditional Cree way of life is based on the land,” said Thomas Coon, former president of the Cree Trapper’s Association, in an office that has a map showing how the entire vast territory is covered by family trap lines that are passed down through generations.

“As much as possible we try to avoid any dangerous, damaging project. With uranium, it’s damage that can never be repaired.”…….

As Strateco’s stock plummeted, anti-uranium activism grew in both the Cree and environment organizations. A group of Cree youth garnered media attention in late 2014 by walking 850 kilometres from Mistissini to Montreal and the movement also drew support from the global anti-nuclear activists. ……. the MiningWatch Canada advocacy group argues uranium’s current lack of social acceptability is based on the long-term risks of storing millions of tonnes of the radioactive mining waste.

“If the industry can show that they can handle the waste with a risk factor that is acceptable, maybe the social acceptability will change in the future, but at the moment it’s not there,” said Ugo Lapointe, spokesperson for MiningWatch in Quebec………

Debassige, now 22, won a Nuclear-Free Future Award in 2015 on behalf of the Mistissini youth for his efforts against uranium development on Cree land. Today, bringing home two birds he shot for his family’s dinner, he still doesn’t think the potential economic benefits of uranium mining are worth risking what he and his community already have.

“There’s vast open space where I can possibly one day teach my children what my father taught me: how to survive out on the land,” he said. “We’re connected to the land spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.”

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Leadership of the climate movement – it’s indigenous

Anti-racist solidarities are changing before our eyes at the #NODAPL Standing Rock protest camp. Race formations are morphing into global Indigenous resistance networks.

the resistance by those first and worst impacted – Indigenous peoples – has placed them on the front line, from where we must credit them as leading this struggle on behalf of the living.

We owe them, yet again.

indigenous

The Climate Movement Is Indigenous-led https://newmatilda.com/2016/12/02/the-climate-movement-is-indigenous-led/By  on December 2, 2016  Dr Liz Conor pays tribute to the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Indigenous people the world over who are leading the fight for climate action.

In 1923, Iroquois chief Deskaheh travelled to Geneva to present the grievances of his Six Nations people. Although he was officially ignored, he brought about two seismic shifts on the world stage: He appealed to them as the representative of a sovereign domestic state, and in doing so he forged a shared global identification for all native peoples – Indigenous.

In the decades that followed, growing recognition of shared regimes of oppression in located struggles under the same structure of settler-colonialism (rather than unrelated events) deepened the transnational ties around Indigenous and First Nation as global identifications.

It galvanised around ‘loss of land and subsistence, abrogation of treaties, and the imposition of psychologically and socially destructive assimilation policies’. These classical presentations of what Patrick Wolfe famously called settler colonialism’s ‘logic of elimination’ are presently being enfolded into the resource conflicts that beset the extraction of fossil fuels.

In far-flung but linked sites, Indigenous peoples are fighting, yet again, for their very lives and the land that sustains them. Demands for collective rights to self-determination in international law are being led by increasingly forceful appeals to international bodies to act urgently on their particular exposure – climate change, from rising seas in the Pacific to coastal erosion and flooding in Alaskan villages.

In Australia we’ve seen antagonism between Indigenous ‘stakeholders’ and environmental campaigners, most bitterly over the Queensland Wild River legislation (2005, since repealed). Yet barnstorming alliances have also been formed through the perhaps indelicately named ‘Lock the Gate’ campaign opposing fracking in Gippsland and NSW, between farmers, environmentalists and Indigenous custodians. Lock the Gate is presently advising an Indigenous coalition in the NT on CSG campaigning.

Anti-racist solidarities are increasingly expressed around resource protection and climate change. Very different sovereignties – some summarily seized, others defended, both over centuries – are trying to find common ground under entirely new configurations of anti-racist solidarity.

For those of you who haven’t facebook-checked into the Standing Rock protest camp (with the million who did), the Dakota Access Pipeline is at the moment the foremost instance of alliances against incursion and misappropriation or destruction of Indigenous resources. Over 300 Native American Nations have now converged at the site near Sioux lands at Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The camp is arguably distinct from the blockades of the environment movement, such as the Franklin River blockade in 1982 and the more recent sustained blockades at the Leard State Forest against the Maules Ck Coal mine. Standing Rock doesn’t identify as part of Naomi Klein’s climate Blockadia, nor do the activists wish to be identified as climate activists first and foremost. Rather their struggle is for water.

The Oceti Sakowin leading the obstruction of boring under the Missouri River and on their sacred land identify as Water Protectors moreso than climate protestors, but the links are drawn in Indigenous media bannered ‘CO2LONIALISM’. In their calls to action against this $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline which will transfer oil across several states and under America’s largest (Ogallala) Aquifier, they have asked global grassroots climate organizations to respect the protest at Standing Rock as Indigenous-led, and to take directives from them.

The resistance by the Oceti Sakowin and other Native American nations is primarily about heritage, water and sovereignty. So far this is largely respected by organisations as diverse as 350.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth.

The erasure of Indigenous presence and agency in environmental struggles has been significantly challenged over  the last decade. In amongst today’s coverage, historical continuities are being drawn, the genealogy of treaty perfidies are increasingly written in. The struggle is presented as a continuum of settler-colonial misappropriation and befouling of resources at Standing Rock. It tells us that settler-colonialism is ‘relentlessly active in the present’ and its tenets of expropriation violently enforced by increasingly militarized policing.

Water Protectors have been attacked by the National Guard with rubber bullets, tear gas, mace canisters and water cannons in freezing temperatures leading to dozens of cases of hypothermia. At time of writing, it isn’t clear whether Sophia Wilansky will lose her arm after police threw a concussion grenade directly at her during the face-off on the bridge on Sunday night. Razor wire has been laid on the banks of Cantapeta Creek. The camp is slated to be ‘cleared’ on December 5th.

Expressions of Indigenous pact with the Oceti Sakowin are pouring in from around the world. Australian Aboriginal climate organisations, such as the highly effective SEED (Indigenous youth climate network) and also Palestine artists have pledged support testifying to the global network of dispossessed linking from located sites of resistance.

Israa Suliman, a student and writer in Gaza, penned an open letter that accompanied a video featuring a number of Palestinian artists. She writes, “My ancestors were the indigenous people, just like you. And they suffered the same fate as your people. America’s policy of occupation and displacement through forced marches like the Trail of Tears, and the gradual transfer of so many of your people to massive, impoverished reservations, hurts me deeply because it is so similar to the ethnic cleansing of my ancestors by the Israeli military occupation in what we call al-Nakba (the catastrophe).”

Suliman notes that a large security corporation hired by the pipeline company profits from Israeli prisons. “Like you, we don’t control our natural resources,” Suliman writes. “Just as you were not consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline that will traverse your land and contaminate your water supply if installed, we are not consulted by Israel, which wants to mine the gas supply in our harbor for its own use and monopolizes the water supply in the West Bank for the green lawns of its own residents – leaving Palestinians parched and dry.” Nor does she fail to draw a parallel to Palestinian expulsion, displacement and occupation, pointing to the five million Palestinian refugees in the global diaspora.

This resource deprivation is perpetrated by multinational fossil fuel conglomerates against Indigenous peoples who are simultaneously defending their homelands while carrying the can for the rest of us on the front line of the climate movement. We settlers owe them under new-yet-old sets of circumstances.

Anti-racist solidarities are changing before our eyes at the #NODAPL Standing Rock protest camp. Race formations are morphing into global Indigenous resistance networks. As Wolfe wrote in his essential read Traces of History, “To be effective, anti-racist solidarities should conjoin as wide a range of historical relationships as colonialism itself has created.”

As the well-worn tenets of settler-colonialism’s land and resource expropriation are rewritten because of its assault on the norms of climate our lives depend on, the resistance by those first and worst impacted – Indigenous peoples – has placed them on the front line, from where we must credit them as leading this struggle on behalf of the living.

We owe them, yet again.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

Indigenous forum addresses horrors of nuclear legacy in USA

waste on indigenousNuclear Standoff, CounterPunch,  OCTOBER 14, 2016 “…….This week, as if in sync with the Marshall Islanders, a group called the Native Community Action Council convened the Native American Forum on Nuclear Issues, addressing half a century of lingering horror at another nuclear testing site, in Nevada. The forum addressed such issues as abandoned uranium mines and the proposed high-level nuclear waste disposal site under Yucca Mountain, “in the heart of the Western Shoshone Nation (and) a sacred site for Shoshone and Paiute peoples,” according to the organization’s press release.

“Because of U.S. nuclear testing in Nevada, the Western Shoshone Nation is already the most bombed nation on earth’” the release continues. “They suffer from widespread cancer, leukemia, and other diseases as a result of fallout from more than 1,000 atomic explosions on their territory.”

This is the reality we ignore. We’ve been ignoring it for the last 70 years and, indeed, much longer. We’ve reached the end of our ability to treat the planet, and much of its people, as disposable. Much of humanity knows this, but its leaders are refusing to listen. The human conscience is dismissed on a technicality. http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/14/nuclear-standoff/

October 15, 2016 Posted by | indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Lord Stern – Indigenous land rights fundamental to climate safety

Indigenous land rights fundamental to climate safety – Lord Stern Climate Home 10/10/2016, 

Forests and grasslands would store more carbon if communities’ rights were protected, according to research from the leading climate economist By Karl Mathiesen

Honouring the land rights of indigenous peoples would lead to a safer climate for everybody, according to leading economist Lord Nicholas Stern.

The world must become “zero net carbon” by 2070-80 if it wants to stay within the 2C limit set by the Paris climate agreement, said Stern, or “much earlier for 1.5C”. But some industries – including aviation – are expected to continue emitting carbon late into the century.

“If there are going to be some that are [carbon] positive,” Stern told an audience at a World Resources Institute (WRI) event in Washington, DC, “there have got to be some that are negative and it’s the forests and the grasslands that are the big potential source there.”

Stern was speaking on Friday at the launch of a WRI study that found that securing indigenous land tenure in Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia could avoid the release of an estimated 42.8–59.7 Mt CO2 per year through avoided deforestation. This is equivalent to taking between 9 and 12.6m cars off the road……….   The argument went beyond the economy and the environment, Stern added. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon and across the world are being dispossessed by development. In some cases, their rights are being considered. A massive dam project in the Brazilian Amazon was suspended in April over concerns about the impact on local tribes.

“We are talking about justice here, we ought to be very clear about that… If you haven’t got those rights, you’re much more vulnerable to outsiders… If you’re vulnerable to outsiders it’s theft. Its solid rights that protect you against that.”http://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/10/10/indigenous-land-rights-fundamental-to-climate-safety-lord-stern/

October 12, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, indigenous issues | Leave a comment

The Ugly Australian Uranium Companies in Africa

uranium-oreflag-AustraliaAfrica Down Under: Tales Of Australian Woe On The ‘Dark Continent’, New Matilda, By  on September 7, 2016 A mining conference underway in Perth states its aim is to help boost the fortunes of one of the poorest regions on earth. But boost the fortunes for whom, asks Dave Sweeney from ACF.

Stories of corruption, dirty dealing and corner cutting are not uncommon in the world of mining and resource extraction, especially in the developing or majority world. It is a tough trade where the high-visibility clothing is often in stark contrast to the lack of transparency surrounding payments and practises.

But as a major industry gathering takes place this week in Perth it is time for a genuine look at whether Australian resource companies are supporting the growth of fledgling democracies or literally undermining them.

No doubt the tall tales will flow along with the cocktails at the Africa Down Under mining conference, an annual event that sees Australian politicians join their African counterparts alongside a melange of miners, merchants and media.

According to the organisers “the ancient land mass of Africa is without question the world’s greatest treasure trove. A new era of joint ventures with juniors and grub-staking is taking place. The action across the continent is taking place hard and fast there could not be a better time to explore the options and hear the stories from the people who are unlocking the wealth of the formerly ‘Dark Continent’.”

While the agenda for conference participants seems clear, the benefits for communities in Africa are less so.

Recent years have seen a marked increase in Australian mining operations and ambitions in Africa with a major increase in the number of Australian mining companies and resource service companies active in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Over a 150 publicly listed companies are operating in more than 30 African nations.

There have been new allegations of Australian companies involved in irregular and illegal practices off-shore, including confirmation that the Australian Federal Police are actively investigating trouble prone Sundance Resources over bribery allegations linked to its Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore project in Congo.

But Sundance is not the only Australian miner generating headlines and heartache. Paladin Energy’scontaminating uranium operations, controversy over Anvil and state repression in Congo, MRC’s exit from its Xolobeni titanium project on South Africa’s Wild Coast following the murder of anti-mining advocateBazooka Rhadebe earlier this year.

The list goes ever on and the details – some of which are documented in a powerful report by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists – are deeply disturbing.

As this decade began, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre expressed the situation clearly stating: “Many Australian companies, particularly mining companies, can have a severe impact on human rights throughout the world, including the right to food, water, health and a clean environment. Despite this, successive governments lack a clear framework of human rights obligations for Australian corporations operating overseas. This is particularly problematic in countries with lax or limited regulations.”……..

Expanding the extractives industry in regions with major governance, capacity and transparency challenges is a concern for communities and civil society groups in both Australia and Africa. The absence of a robust regulatory regime in many African countries can see situations where Australian companies are engaged in activities that would not be acceptable practise at home………

Tracey Davies, a lawyer with the South African-based Centre for Environmental Rights told Fairfax medialast year that there is a widespread and “very strong perception that when Australian mining companies come here they take every advantage of regulatory and compliance monitoring weaknesses, and of the huge disparity in power between themselves and affected communities, and aim to get away with things they wouldn’t even think of trying in Australia”……https://newmatilda.com/2016/09/07/africa-down-under-tales-of-australia-woe-on-the-dark-continent/

September 9, 2016 Posted by | AFRICA, AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Uranium | Leave a comment

Indigenous people battle against uranium mining in Grand Canyon watershed

nuke-indigenousGrand Canyon tribe fears for its future amid battle against uranium mining  Conservationists and other campaigners are urging President Obama to designate 1.7 million acres of the Canyon watershed a national monument before he leaves office, Independent Tim Walker Arizona  @timwalker  30 August 2016  “…….First mined for copper at the turn of the 20th Century, the Orphan Mine became a source of uranium to supply the nuclear arms race in the 1950s. It was closed in 1969, but not before contaminating the water in nearby Horn Creek with enough uranium that passing hikers are warned not to drink it. The US National Park Service has already spent millions on a clean-up effort that is still in its early stages. “It proves not everything you dig up can be covered again,” says Kaska, a member of the Havasupai tribe.

The Havasupai, whose name means “people of the blue-green water”, have lived in the Canyon for at least 800 years. The tribe, who today number fewer than 700, rely for their income on the tourists – some 20,000 per year – who visit their reservation to see its strikingly beautiful blue-green waterfalls. But now they fear their lives and livelihoods could be endangered by another uranium mine being drilled nearby.

Canyon Mine sits far from the tourist attractions of the Grand Canyon, six miles to the south in a quiet, 15-acre patch of the Kaibab National Forest. But it is close to Red Butte, a Havasupai sacred site – and, more perilously, it threatens to affect the tribe’s water. The aquifer under the mine flows into Havasupai Springs, their sole water source…

Now, the Havasupai, the Navajo and the Grand Canyon Trust are all part of a coalition of tribes, conservationists and other campaigners hoping to persuade President Obama to create a national monument that would permanently protect the Grand Canyon watershed from any further uranium mining.

Since taking office, Obama has created or enlarged 26 national monuments, protecting almost 550 million acres of federal land and water – at least twice as much as any of his predecessors. Last week, under the US Antiquities Act, he created the largest protected area on Earth, expanding a national marine monument around Hawaii to 582,578 square miles……..http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/grand-canyon-tribe-uranium-mining-obama-national-monument-a7215776.html

September 5, 2016 Posted by | indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment