reprinted with permission from
Poison Fire, Sacred Earth,
TESTIMONIES, LECTURES, CONCLUSIONS,
THE WORLD URANIUM HEARING, SALZBURG 1992
Father John (Moderator)
Now we have a few minutes on slides, please.
We just like to give you a visual idea of how beautiful our land is, and despite the fact that we live within such close proximity to uranium mining, we still revere the land very much, and for our future generations hopefully it will continue to replenish and nourish us as human beings.
This is Mount Taylor, our sacred mountain, also sacred to the Navajo. -- This is another shot of Mount Taylor. If you look right in the middle of the photograph you'll see some of the largest unreclaimed mill tailings piles in the United States. This has been identified as a super fund-site for the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States Government that has been unreclaimed for over ten years now. This is one of the reasons we come to you, because our government continues to have no eyes and no ears when it looks at cleaning up the mess that they created for us.
This is a closer shot of those unreclaimed mill tailings. Cows in this area graze within a half mile radius. In the desert southwest, between the months of March and May, we have some of the most violent sandstorms in the country that can reach up to 60 mph. So you can get an idea how these tailings blow all over our Mother Earth, and we are downwind from these sites at Acoma and Laguna.
This is the abandoned mill of which the mill tailings were created. It still lays unreclaimed or decommissioned. -- The same shot of that mill tailings pile. This is all that keeps people away from these highly contaminated tailings: Just a chainline fence like this is going to stop the wind blowing contamination or seepage into the ground water.
This is the Gulf Mine, which was later bought out by Chevron Corporation that had the world's deepest uranium shaft in the world into our sacred mountain. Within 200 yards from that mill tailings pile is the Hispanic Chicano community of San Mateo. 200 yards from that mill tailings pile was a school and, even worse, was a vent coming out from the underground shaft that, when the wind blew in certain directions, would blow radon right into the playground of that school in San Mateo. This was going on for about ten years and nobody ever did anything to stop it.
This is the Quivara Mine, one of the first sites that has been attempted to be reclaimed in the Ambrosia Lake Area. They are sloping there a reclamation project and burying the mill tailings which to me just seems insufficient.
This is a sign indicating that the mill is closed and they don't allow people within close proximity to the area, but it's virtually unmonitored. When we took these photographs we could walk on the tailings piles and no one would have been there to see us.
Again, the world's deepest uranium mine shaft. The ARCO Bluewater Mill. Quivara Mine, which is currently being reclaimed. The city of Grants for over 30 years prided itself as "the uranium capital of the world". And they have built a museum in commemoration of that distinction. Although, to us Indian people that is a direct insult to us, to the way we feel about Mother Earth, especially as I keep reiterating time and time again the destruction to our sacred mountain.
This is the Mesita Dam which is downstream from the Paguate Mine. At the height of production at Jackpile, this holding reservoir which was used for irrigation of agriculture was found to have some of the highest levels of radon concentration in the water. It had to be drained and closed, and the irrigation system to the village of Mesita which is downstream from Paguate had to stop, and it virtually brought agriculture to a standstill.
The ongoing reclamation project at the Jackpile Mine, which is the first attempt of its kind in the world to reclaim an open pit uranium mine. The Environmental Impact Statement estimated that it would cost 400 million dollars to successfully reclaim the Jackpile Mine, and as my little sister Suwimi said here, we have only been given 43 million by ARCO to reclaim that land. So you know, big contradiction in that wide gap of dollars.
Again, the Jackpile Mine being reclaimed: They are doing this at three-to-one slopes. And the three-to-one slopes seem to be too steep, because after a very wet winter and a large amount of snow fall, that three-to-one sloping has dendridic pattern run-off that flows through the Rio San Jose, that flows through the Rio Paguate and Rio Moquino(?), which flows right through the middle of the Jackpile Mine during operations, that eventually feeds the Rio San Jose, that feeds the Mesita Dam, that eventually flows into the Rio Grande in New Mexico, which is the life blood of our state. And this three-to-one sloping now is eroding so bad because of the heavy snowfall that you can see beyond the 18 inches of top soil and the 12 inches of shale that have been used to cover it. They have had to terrace off those three-to-one slopes because they are too steep and it doesn't seem like this reclamation is stopping the so-called "low-level contaminants" to continue to get into the river and impact people downstream.
Suwimis' school bus going right through the middle of the Jackpile Mine. In fact, they found high levels of radon in the pavement on this road that goes right through the bottom of the mine, and they had to tear it up and repave it again. I wouldn't rely on the repaving job not having any radon in it.
Some of the structural damage to a traditional sandstone pueblo house in the village of Paguate as a result of blasting, which Greg addressed. This is our house that was repaired by the company, and although it looks uncracked, all they did was stucco over the cracks. This is another traditional pueblo dwelling. It was insulting to the intelligence of our people when they came in and would repair the houses, repair the cracks. One thing the company did was put panelling on the interior walls of the houses, so that the cracks wouldn't show -- like we didn't know there were cracks behind the panel! And there was a time there, in the 1970's, if you went into almost any house in Paguate you would see the wall panelled.
Again our mountain. -- Greg and Suwimi taking the reclamation tour. -- Victor Sarracino, a Laguna Pueblo man who is monitor technician with the reclamation project. And that concludes our video presentation.
Again, for the panel and myself, as indigenous people from the Southwest we are very honoured to have met all the other indigenous groups that have presented their testimony and their cases here at The World Uranium Hearing, and we would like to continue to develop this communication network and communicate with you, so that we continue the struggle as a unified one people or, as Floyd Westerman suggested, "United Indigenous Nations".
Father John (Moderator)
Those were the voices of fathers, the voice of a mother and the voice of a child. And everybody of us will understand. We have seen from the slides how beautiful that country is. But due to the craziness of man they have destroyed and are continuing to destroy this Mother Land.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is why we as priests come in when the environment, our Mother Land, is destroyed, because if we stay aloof we'll have nobody to preach to. Because they are all gone. That is why you see some of us here as priests. We are here because we are all involved in this Mother Land. God created everything and found it was good. So who are we, to say that it is not good?
Before we wind up, there are people from the same Colorado Plateau, from the Diné Nation. Please feel welcome.
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