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Native Sun News: Rosebud Sioux Tribe not told about mining bid

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman. All content © Native Sun News.

ROSEBUD, SOUTH DAKOTA –– A Canadian company failed to notify the Rosebud Sioux tribal government of a meeting July 25 to inform community members about mining proposed near the Native American sacred site of Mato Tipila, or Devil’s Tower, according to the tribal historic preservation officer.

“They didn’t tell us about it,” Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Russell Eagle Bear said on July 29. “If it’s on federal land, they should contact us. They need to have a consultation with the tribes,” he told the Native Sun News.

The Vancouver-based Rare Element Resources Ltd. scheduled the informational meeting in Sundance Wyoming to explain its plans for mining gold and lesser-known metals called rare earth elements (REE) at Bull Hill, located in the federally administered Black Hills National Forest on a site 15 miles southeast of the landmark.

The tribe had warned in February that federal and state authorities will be taken to task if the laws protecting American Indian religious, cultural and historic rights are not followed in the mining development process there.

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is adamantly opposed to any exploration, drilling, fracking, or extraction of uranium, rare earth and other resources from within the ancestral homelands of the Lakota Nation where the current project is located,” Eagle Bear said.

On July 27, the company announced the opening of a new “head office” in Lakewood, Colorado, to support the operation. It noted that the Denver suburb “is a short distance from the project site in Wyoming. The greater Denver area is home to many mining experts and laboratories, and the highly regarded Colorado School of Mines.”

Rare Element Resources Ltd. President and CEO Donald E. Ranta said that “today’s rapid pace of new applications for technology and clean energy minerals mean that rare earth elements impact virtually everyone.”

Rare earth is a group of 17 obscure metals crucial for making components of high-technology and green energy inventions, including many of modern society’s favorite things, such as cell phones, lap top computers, wind turbines, lasers, electric cars, stadium lights, and missile guidance systems.

On the other hand, the environs of Mato Tipila, as Devil’s Tower is called in Lakota, have documented historical value for more than 20 Northern Plains tribes, according to the U.S. National Park Service , which has been in charge of protecting the site since President Theodore Roosevelt declared the 1,267-foot volcanic monolith the country’s first national monument in 1906.

“The U.S. Forest Service and the Wyoming State Historical Preservation Office have noted that the Sundance project area contains a limited number of cultural resources that are either ‘eligible or potentially eligible’ for the National Register of Historic Places,” a November scoping study by the Denver-based technical consultant John T. Boyd Co. states.

Parts of the project area have not been surveyed yet for cultural resources, the consultant adds, promising, “As exploration activities proceed, site reviews would be completed on the planned surface disturbance to ensure that any eligible or unevaluated cultural resources are avoided.”

The U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2011 (H.R. 2011) on July 20, which would accelerate and streamline the permitting process for REE. The company said it hopes for “quick approval” in the full House and Senate in order to remove “impediments and restrictions on the production of these minerals that are critical to our society.”

However, Eagle Bear noted, “Lack of cultural sensitivity and surveying of those areas for cultural resources that may be present and impacted by this type of activity is unwarranted and demonstrates negligence on behalf of the Forest Service and the State of Wyoming.”

The Rapid City, South Dakota-based non-profit Defenders of the Black Hills is urging constituents to contact Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead to advise him about health hazards given that “this kind of mining will leave behind many radioactive materials, including uranium and the uranium decay products.”

The proposed open-pit strip mining would be centered in the Bear Lodge Mountains 12 miles northwest of Sundance. The company’s 2011 Corporate Presentation explains to investors the economic prospects for the gold deposit at its Sundance Project, as well as the “significant” high-grade REE at its Bear Lodge Project, both at the Bull Hill site.

Defenders of the Black Hills Coordinator Charmaine White Face warned, “Sundance is very near Mato Tipila, and many archaeological, burial sites and sacred places are there. The desecration of sacred places doesn’t stop. They need to listen as there are consequences,” she added.

Together with their common commercial uses, the 17 rare earth elements are: scandium for stadium lights; yttrium for lasers; lanthanum for electric car batteries, cerium for lens polishes, praseodymium for searchlights and aircraft parts, promethium for portable x-ray units, samarium for synthetic glass, europium for compact fluorescent bulbs, gadolinium for neutron radiography, holmium for glass tint, erbium for metal alloys, thulium for lasers, ytterbium for stainless steel; dysprosium, neodymium, and terbium for high-strength magnets, and lutetium (no commercial use).

(Talli Nauman is the Health and Environmental Editor for Native Sun News. Contact her at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

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