Please Help Stop Uranium Mining on Sacred Mt. Taylor
This is Navajo Mythological Cosmology: Chanting the landscape:
Third-worlders see it first:
The dynamite, the dozers, the cancer and the acid rain
The corporate caterpillars come into our backyards
And turn the world to pocket change
Reservations are the nuclear frontline;
Uranium poisoning kills
We’re starving in a handful of gluttons
We’re drowning in their gravy spills…
~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
To the Navajo (Diné), Mt. Taylor in northern New Mexico is the southernmost of the four mountains that describe the cardinal points of their ancestral sacred lands, Dinétah, the others being the San Francisco Peaks, Blanca Peak, and Mt. Hesperus, the highest peak we see out our bedroom door as we greet the new day. To the Navajo, the volcanic mountain is known as Tsoodzil, or Turquoise Mountain, and in their cosmology, is home to holy people Black God, Turquoise Boy, and Turquoise Girl.
To many Southwest tribes, but especially the Zuni, Hopi, Acoma and Laguna, Mt. Taylor is also sacred, and used for ceremonial purposes, including gathering medicinal plants, planting payos, or prayer sticks…and more.
In 2009, the mountain was given awarded Permanent Traditional Cultural Property Designation by the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee.
This week, the Cibola National Forest Service (CNFS) issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for a uranium mine that violates its own Forest Management Plan and current standards of historic and cultural preservation. The Cibola Forest Circus folks are calling their crushing, ruinous deviation a “Project-Specific Forest Plan Amendment.” Yes, quite specific. Here’s the deal:
Roca Honda Resources, a partnership with Strathmore Minerals in Canada, and Sumitomo of Japan, is intending to mine 2.6 million pounds of uranium ore per year at an average depth of around 2500 feet.
The Forest Circus’s own document, according to Klee Benally at Indigenousaction.org says:
Page 354 of the DEIS reveals that, “…the operation of the mine and the dewatering associated with it would result in depletion of the aquifers, transfer of water from one basin to another, and contamination of water. These changes are seen to result in impacts to the water supply that the tribes depend on for religious and subsistence uses.”
The DEIS further states (my emphasis):
“During construction of the Roca Honda Mine, the shafts would pass through two aquifers that contain sufficient groundwater to require some degree of dewatering: the Gallup and Dakota sandstones. During operations, dewatering would be done in the unit being mined, the Westwater Canyon Member of the Morrison Formation. Over the life of the mine, an estimated 1,192 acre-feet [AF] of groundwater would be pumped from the Gallup aquifer, 232 AF from the Dakota aquifer, and 79,037 AF from the Westwater aquifer.” Page 353
“Traditional cultural practices would be affected due to physical disturbance of the cultural and natural resources in the project area during construction, operation, and reclamation. Impacts to practices would also occur from extraction of ore, dewatering, and the surface activities being conducted. These overall impacts would be significant, and either action alternative would result in an adverse effect to historic properties.” Ya think?
So let’s look at Roca Honda’s proposal:
- RHR proposes a mine permit area of 1,968 acres including 48 acres of haul roads, utility corridor and mine dewater discharge pipeline corridor.
- An estimated width of 20 feet was assumed to be disturbed during the placement of the pipeline over a distance of 28,919 feet (5.48 linear miles),
- RHR proposes to mine ore that is located at approximately 1,650 to 2,650 feet below the ground surface.
- RHR proposes to conduct mining operations for a period of approximately 18–19 years.
The Forest Service is offering three proposed alternatives in the DEIS for public comment. “Alternative One” is the “No Action Alternative” which means no new uranium mine, “Alternative Two” is the full proposal for RHR development, and “Alternative Three” being a scaled down version of the planned mine. Now to the Project-Specific Forest Plan Amendment, from IndigenousAction.org, they suggest a ‘Programmatic Agreement’ that suggests a few examples of ‘mitigation to cultural resources that are almost hilariously puny given the devastation that the mine would cause to the mountain itself, the air quality and land in the surrounding area, and the catastrophic decrease in the precious and life-giving aquifer from the planned pumping millions of gallons out of it each day (one acre foot of water equals 325,851 gallons).
The resultant contamination of the land and water forever weren’t even considered in the ‘mitigation’ section. Opponents also fear that RHR would want to build a processing mill nearby.
If you’d be willing to take a couple minutes to register your objections to the plan, this page has talking points, but in addition, they’re asking allies for three things:
1.) Urge the Forest Service to deny Roca Honda’s Plan of Operations
2.) Urge the Forest Service to choose the “No Action” Alternative for the DEIS
3.) Urge the Forest Service to reissue a new DEIS because the current one is inadequate
They’ve chosen to go with bureaucrat-speak rather than the ‘WTH are you talking about, ya great idjits? No Nukes, No Way!…that I might actually prefer. But feel free to comment as you will…
My guess is that Forest Circus will end up okaying the ‘scaled down version of the plan’ based on my many encounters with similar ‘choices’. The compromise one is the one they probably know they’ll approve, but the ‘scaled down version’ wouldn’t look much different than the radical approval one. If you choose to register your objections to the plan, thank you in advance.
COMMENT DEADLINE: May 14, 2013
Email your comment today: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters can be mailed to:
TRAVIS G. MOSELEY
Acting Forest Supervisor,
Cibola National Forest and Grasslands,
2113 Osuna Rd. NE,
Albuquerque, NM 87113
or by fax to 505-346-3901
Oral Comments: 505-346-3900
This is a feel-good story of bravery and dedication that might brighten your day. From Intercontinentalcry.org comes this great event: ‘Maasai Women Taking Bold Stance to Protect Land Rights’. In part, but the photo itself is breath-takingly splendid, imo. Call me a female chauvinist, but I believe that third-world women will be the ones to lead us out of the hell that’s been created for us and the planet. The site is full of stories of the Indigenous fighting back; keep them in your hearts when you can remember to; each one would deserve a post of its own.
ARUSHA – More than 2,000 Maasai women are taking a bold political stand in a move aimed at protecting community land rights.
From the 27th of March until the 7th of April,women gathered in Magaiduru village, one of the nine villages in Loliondo Division that has recently been declared by the government as a wildlife corridor, essentially prohibiting any future use of the lands by the local communities. The women – some of whom walked more than a day and half to reach Magaiduru – gathered to protest this decision and to collectively demand that the land in Loliondo be returned to the communities.
This young woman’s Navajo Blessingway (the ceremony given to them by Changing Woman) video contains wonderful cinematography of Dinétah, even though the fonts can be a bit distracting.