Haul No! Tour Report Back Part 1
Building Momentum in Resistance to Grand Canyon Uranium Mining & Transport
Originally posted at www.haulno.org
Photos by Dustin Wero | Instagram: darth_wero
In late 2016 Indigenous anti-nuke & sacred sites organizers decided something had to be done to confront the threat of radioactive uranium ore transport from the Grand Canyon to the White Mesa Mill. In December of 2016, volunteer-based Haul No! was formed to raise awareness, organize, and take action to protect sacred lands, water, and our health from this toxic threat. Haul No! got to work right away researching, creating outreach materials, exploring and advocating policy changes, and planning for direct action to stop the transport.
In March 2017, Energy Fuels Inc. (EFI), the owner of Canyon Mine and White Mesa Mill (the only commercially operating uranium processing plant in the US), announced that it could be ready to start mining uranium as early as June 2017. Haul No! kicked into gear and started organizing an awareness and action tour along the 300-mile planned haul route, coordinating with community hosts along the way.
BLUFF, UT – SHUT DOWN WHITE MESA MILL
Haul No! initiated the tour on June 13, 2017 in Bluff, Utah. Although we started the event a bit later than intended (our crew was converging from a range of different points in the Southwest), the Bluff Community Center had an energetic crowd of 35 people. Our tour presentation consisted of two parts: the first, on facts relating to Canyon Mine, the haul route, and White Mesa Mill; the second was Indigenous-rooted direct action training.
The White Mesa Mill is currently undergoing renewal of its Byproduct Radioactive Material License (RML UT1900479) and the Groundwater Quality Discharge Permit for the White Mesa Uranium Mill. Utah Department of Environmental Quality held 2 public meetings in June, in Salt Lake City and Blanding.
A dozen community members from the nearby Ute Mountain Ute community of White Mesa, Utah joined the Haul No! tour stop and shared their experiences. Ephraim
Bluff and White Mesa community members also expressed great concern that their drinking water will be contaminated by further milling operations. The Navajo Sandstone aquifer lies right beneath the mill site. Other comments included concerns about accidents, leaks, and the liners of the tailings impoundments (such as quality, maintenance, and replacement).
The following day, the Haul No! crew, comprising of Leona Morgan, Sarana Riggs, Klee Benally, Dustin Wero, and Bobby Mason, met up with Ute Mountain Ute organizers at the entrance to White Mesa Mill. Haul No! volunteer Leona Morgan, who also works with Diné No Nukes and Radiation Monitoring Project, donned her hazmat suit & mask to monitor radioactive pollution at the entrance of the mill. When mistaken for being simply a photo-op, Leona said, “I’m not just messing around guys…I’m really working here.”
In the past two years alone, two radioactive spills have occurred en route to the mill. Both involved haul trucks from the Cameco Resources uranium mine in Wyoming and spill in march that spread radioactive barium sulfate sludge along U.S. Highway 191.
After Dustin took some pictures with Haul No! crew & Ute Mountain Ute defenders, part of the crew went directly to the Mill site to bring the message that we want them to shut down. Yolanda Badback confronted EFI workers as law enforcement agents arrived. Apparently
We ate and slept well that night thanks to our gracious hosts in Bluff. We look forward to returning.
TAKE ACTION: Send your own comments regarding renewals of White Mesa Mill’s permits. Public comment period ends on July 31, 2017. Click here for more info & a form letter, you can also email your comments directly to: email@example.com
OLJATO, UT/MONUMENT VALLEY/KAYENTA, AZ – A LEGACY OF ABANDONED URANIUM MINES
Our next stop on the tour took us to Oljato, Utah, which is located within the iconic Monument Valley.
In Oljato/Monument Valley, we did more one-on-one outreach and education regarding the issue, to the Navajo Utah Commission, market vendors, and the Chapter Vice President.
Throughout the Navajo Nation, Diné families have been subject to decades of radioactive contamination ranging from unsafe working conditions at mines and mills, to living in houses built from materials taken from uranium mines. Well water is documented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as undrinkable in at least 22 communities such as Black Falls on the Dine’ Nation. According to EPA, there are more than 523 abandoned uranium mines located though the Navajo Nation. This prompted the Navajo Nation to take action and ban uranium mining and milling in 2005. The Nation banned transport of radioactive materials in 2012. Though this matter is one of conflict due to lack of jurisdiction over state-controlled highways such as the EFI’s Canyon Mine haul route. This point is a focus regarding policy work for Haul No!.
Sunrise at Monument Valley is unparalleled. We broke camp and ventured to a visitors center, where we cleaned up, drank coffee, passed out literature, and worked out logistics. We held our Haul No! banner for the requisite Monument Valley photo and got the attention of a Gallup Independent journalist doing a story on the Bears Ears National Monument.
After that, our crew had to split to cover more ground. Two folks headed to Blanding, Utah to testify at the White Mesa Mill re-licensing hearing that was being held that night; while the rest of the crew headed to Kayenta where we would be holding down that evening’s tour stop. Our ranks were reinforced by Leilani Clark, a fierce Indigenous organizer from Tucson by way of Las Vegas.
The Kayenta event was held at the Township, which is less than a 1/4 mile from the transport route. We
We heard first-hand accounts of the nuclear industry’s toxic legacy and in our conversations realized that everyone on our tour had family directly impacted by uranium mining and milling.
We re-grouped with the crew that went to the White Mesa Mill hearing at Amigo Cafe (shout out to Billy!), and heard that the Mill workers were out in force. Sarana had testified in support of Ute Mountain Ute and spoke to the harmful legacy that the Navajo Nation still faces with the 5 uranium mill sites still plaguing our lands.
We decided to head directly to Tuba City that evening, so we could set up an outreach table at the Flea Market first thing in the morning.
TUBA CITY, AZ – RARE METALS’ DEADLY LEGACY
More than anything we heard constant accounts of cancer and passing of relatives due to work at Rare Metals Tuba City uranium Mill.
To this date, a layer of soil and rock is the only covering over 2.3 million tons of hazardous waste. A rock
All those at the presentation expressed strong opposition to further
As there were long-time anti-nuke organizers in attendance, the discussion was insightfully powerful.
FLAGSTAFF, AZ – A CRITICAL POINT OF INTERVENTION
At several of the other stops, many communities have asked what Flagstaff was doing to stop transport, as they see the community as sort of “gatekeeper” in the transport route. This is where some of the Haul No! policy strategy has been focused.
The next evening our crew with more Flagstaff Community members delivered a petition to Flagstaff City Council calling for a resolution and ordinance to oppose uranium transport. Flagstaff has jurisdiction over a small part of the transport route and organizers see this as a possible stopping-point to ensure other communities down the line are safeguarded as well.
CAMERON, AZ – A LEGACY OF ABANDONED URANIUM MINES (CONTINUED)
There are more than 100 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) in the Western region of the Navajo Nation with a majority of them located in the Cameron area. These AUMs are located along the Little Colorado River and Highway 89, and are in the Cameron,
Cameron officials have already expressed that they are willing to block uranium transport if it comes towards their community.
A big thank you again to everyone who contributed, supported, hosted, donated, organized, and attended along the way!
PART 2: RED BUTTE GATHERING
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Outcomes and Impacts:
Overall Haul No! accomplished the goals we set out for along the tour:
- to raise awareness and educate communities along the Canyon Mine haul route about the threat.
- build a base of support for action and policy work.
- organize an action response network.
- City of Flagstaff placed resolution/ordinance on agenda for July 5, 2017
- outreach at Flea Markets and other events extended our reach to more than 700 people
- social media presence increased and media coverage,
We also had a range of requests at each event that included:
- further community outreach including signs along the haul route
2. additional presentations in other venues or other communities
You know that Haul No! has been planning ahead for months right. ?
Some of our next steps include:
1. Further regionally focused awareness and education.
2. Support Ute Mountain Ute in getting the word out about White Mesa relicensing.
3. building and deploying signs along haul route.
4. Havasupai & Hopi follow-up presentations
5. Continued work on Chapter resolutions
6. Continued work on Navajo Nation Council action
7. get more pledge’s of resistance
8. Additional direct action trainings in Flagstaff
Haul No! Tour Volunteer Crew:
Tour miles: 300
Tour stops: 7
Total event participants: 160
July 7, 2017 at 1:19 PM
French translation / traduction française: