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Native Sun News: Rapid City backs tribes in uranium mine fight

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment | Environment | National
More on: black hills, cheyenne river sioux, film, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota, uranium
     

The following story was written and reported by Talli Naumann, Native Sun News Environment and Health Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


Actress Tantoo Cardinal and director Suree Towfighnia have a laugh after recording narration on Pine Ridge for Debra White Plume’s feature documentary about water and uranium mining, “Crying Earth Rise Up!” which was set to show at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City on Aug. 28. Photo courtesy/“Crying Earth Rise Up!”

White Plume to speak at double-feature addressing uranium mining on treaty land
By Talli Naumann
Native Sun News Environment and Health Editor

RAPID CITY – Folks who want to learn more about the Rapid City Council’s vote to oppose Powertech Uranium Corp.’s Black Hills uranium mining plans got an opportunity with the scheduling of a double feature film showing at the Dahl Arts Center on Aug. 28.

Voices of the Heartland Independent Film Society booked filmmakers to lead a discussion on the issue following the 6:30 p.m. screenings of “Crying Earth Rise Up!” by Oglala Lakota producer Debra White Plume and “Black Waters” by Black Hills native Talli Nauman.

The Council voted 9-1 against the Canadian company’s proposal for the mining 50 miles west of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, after hearing testimony about treaty rights and children’s health downstream on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.

“Due to the potential risk to the Madison Aquifer, the city opposes the proposed in-situ mining of uranium in the Black Hills by Powertech Uranium Corp.,” the Aug. 19 resolution states.

The resolution had been initiated by a unanimous vote of the full Council a week earlier and sent to an Aug. 14 Legal and Finance Committee hearing, where public comment influenced the committee to recommend an expanded version.

Powertech (USA), Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canadian penny-stock holding company Powertech Corp., has been seeking state and federal water and mining permits since 2009 for what could become South Dakota’s first-ever in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mining and yellow cake processing plants. The mining would take place on 10,000 acres in the Dewey-Burdock Project area of Custer and Fall River counties in southwestern South Dakota.

United Urban Warrior Society spokesman James Swan testified that a new chapter recently opened in Hot Springs due to uranium mining’s threat. “That area’s dead for a million years,” he said in reference to previous unreclaimed uranium mining in southwestern South Dakota. “So, if this passes, we’ll keep protesting and protesting until we finally run ‘em back across the border,” he said.

Powertech has applied to the state for water rights of 551 gallons per minute to be taken from the Madison Aquifer and for 8,500 gallons per minute from the Inyan Kara formation. That’s almost 13 million gallons per day, according to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Rapid City used 11.35 million gallons per day in 2012, the municipal Water Division statistics show.

“Crying Earth Rise Up!” by Debra White Plume, explores contaminated water and the impact of uranium mining on the people of the Great Plains. In the making for years, it is now 55 minutes long. Final release is due in 2014.

The documentary film is part of a community engagement project addressing the impact modern uranium extraction has on land, water and social life.

It focusses on current ISL extraction near Crawford, Nebraska, by the Canadian Cameco Corp., one of the world’s largest multinational uranium interests. Located close to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the Ogallala Aquifer, Cameco’s Crow Butte Mine and proposed expansion is a lesson for forthcoming ventures.

The film addresses questions that have arisen over contaminated water. It shows that mine operators maintain the practice is safe and the proponents assure that energy from uranium is clean, while some residents and geologists claim that the process has fouled groundwater with radon and toxic heavy metals.

In “Crying Earth Rise Up!” with the mine owners seeking permission to expand operations, community members begin to consider mining’s impact on their water supply and the fate of their small town. The film intimately chronicles the parallel stories of ranchers, families, and concerned citizens as they debate the future of uranium mining.

“Black Waters” is a 28-minute historical documentary produced in 1981 about the first time cowboys and Indians of the area joined for a cause, blocking proposed uranium mining in the Black Hills. It is returning to the Dahl Art Center 32 years after it premiered there at the Back Room.

Following the screenings, a panel discussion will feature Debra White Plume, Talli Nauman, and members of their film cast and crew. The chapter sent a letter to media outlets to thank the Rapid City Council members for the resolution.

“Dakota Rural Action is very grateful to the mayor and City Council for listening to constituents and taking a strong position to protect the future of Rapid City,” said Clay Uptain, Chair of Dakota Rural Action’s Black Hills Chapter in the news release. “We are also very grateful to the citizens who attended the Council meeting and exercised their right to be heard on this issue.”

Carrie Ragelin, Rapid City resident and Dakota Rural Action member, said the Council meeting renewed her “trust and faith in the democratic process. The people were heard and concerns respected,” she said.” It was clear the Council and mayor are competent and capable to make the right decision.”

Lilias Jarding, a spokeswoman for the Rapid City-based Clean Water Alliance, said the resolution made her “proud to be a citizen of Rapid City. The City Council was clearly educated on this issue and considered the issue carefully,” she added.

Due to numerous interventions from the public, the Council meeting lasted past 10:30 p.m.

"Thank you for your participation,” responded Council President Jerry Wright. “We ought to thank people like you who get involved on these issues, because that's what makes this country run."

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission by Native Sun News


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