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Impacts
In-Situ Leaching (ISL) Impacts Print

Spills, Leaks, and Excursions are Common Hazards of In-Situ Uranium Mining

Cameco Corporation owns the Highland Smith In-Situ Leaching plant located in the Powder River Basin near Douglas and Glenrock, Wyoming.  It is the largest uranium production facility in the United States, employing about 140 people. Cameco's website proclaims mining at Smith Ranch-Highland “uses environment-friendly in-situ recovery (ISR) mining technique to extract uranium” and the Smith Ranch facility "employs state-of-the-art technology." (http://www.cameco.com/operations/uranium/highland_smith/) (Editor's Note: In-Situ Leaching and In-Situ Recovery refer to the same process.)

Despite using “state-of-the-art technology,” the environment-friendly Smith Ranch received 42 license violations involving surface spills and leaks from December 31, 1999 through May 21, 2007 (WISE - World Information Service on Energy - Uranium Project). On March 10, 2008 Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality/Land Quality Division (LQD) issued a Notice of Violation to Power Resources, Inc. (PRI) a wholly owned subsidiary of Cameco Corp for numerous deficiencies at their Smith Ranch-Highland Uranium Project. The seriousness of these deficiencies is apparent by LQD’s section on Reclamation Cost/Bonding: “Considering that reclamation will take several times longer, require at least twice the staff with higher wages and require much greater investments in infrastructure than PRI has estimated, a realistic reclamation cost estimate for this site would likely be on the order of $150 million, as compared to PRI's current calculation of $38,772,800. PRI is presently bonded for a total of only $38,416,500. No bond adjustments have been made since 2002. Clearly the public is not protected.” (For more information, see Wyoming In Situ Leach Uranium Mines Violated State Law).

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Selenium Contamination Print

Selenium (Se) is a naturally occurring element that is found in shales underlying the central and western USA, as well as other areas throughout the world.  It is found in the environment where there are outcrops of this shale, or where the Se containing sediments are disturbed. The Se present in the shale can be moved by plants, by leaching in agricultural runoff, by mining certain materials such as uranium and from other natural and industrial sources (Hossner et al. 1992, Lemly 1999, Sors et al. 2005a, b).

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Radiation Risks Print

New IAEA Radiation Warning Symbol
New IAEA Radiation Warning Symbol

Scientist Dr. Gordon Edwards recently wrote, “Uranium ore bodies are among the deadliest mineral deposits on earth. They harbor large quantities of dangerous radioactive materials” (pacificfreepress.com). Radium, a decay product of uranium commonly found in uranium mine tailings piles, has been labeled by the British Columbia Medical Association as a superb carcinogen because microscopic quantities can cause bone and head cancers, anemia, and leukemia. Polonium-210, which is as radioactive as uranium and a billion times more toxic than cyanide, is a by-product of uranium mining and found in mine tailings. A uranium mine releases radon, which blankets the ground hundreds of miles downwind from a uranium mine as solid radioactive fallout.

 

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Groundwater Quality Restoration Print

The following article was originally published in the Corpus-Christi Caller-Times on November 5, 2006 and is reprinted here by permission from the author Dan Kelley.

As uranium mines closed, state altered cleanup goals

Initial targets were unrealistic and unnecessary, companies say

Abandoned Uranium Mine in Texas
Abandoned Uranium Mine in Texas
As uranium mines in Texas closed one-by-one during the past two decades, the mining companies had one thing in common: They asked the state to relax he groundwater restoration standard listed in their mining permits.

State regulators had one response: "OK."

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Heavy Metals and Radionuclides Impacts Print

In his December 2007 article Nuking Ontario: Standoff at Sharbot Lake, Dr. Gordon Edwards declared uranium ore bodies to be among the deadliest mineral deposits on earth. “They harbour large quantities of dangerous radioactive materials. Exploration and mining activities liberate these poisons into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.”

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