Fallout from the toxic uranium spill near near the Pine Ridge Reservation continues to adversely affect the Native American population living nearby.
The spill was caused in February by a tractor-trailer delivering hydrochloric acid to the Crow Butte uranium mining site. The vehicle went off the road and spilt the acid. As hydrochloric acid can turn into a hazardous acidic mist when spilled or mixed with water, the spill presented a major threat to the health of nearby residents. The mine was evacuated, roads were closed, and residents were warned to follow all safety directions given by the Dawes County Sheriff’s Office.
Nancy Kile, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a native of Crawford, NE told the Native Sun News that allowing uranium mine expansion would only cause more accidents such as the Crow Butte spill.
“This industry has groomed my hometown, encompassed it,” Kile told the Native-run publication. “When you continue to support in-situ leach mining without being fully aware of what it’s doing to the soils and to the water, then it just seems like a slow suicide to me.”
Unfortunately, since many mining sites are on Native American territories, many Natives are suffering health problems. As stated in the introduction to the Lakota People’s Law Project’s Strategic Objectives, “Drinking water [from South Dakota Indian reservations] is contaminated with uranium from government mines.” This is of course major a factor in the health issues the people of South Dakota suffer. TIME Magazine recently reported a list of the “deadliest counties” in the United States. Five of the top contenders are located in South Dakota, including Oglala Lakota County of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Other top scorers include McDowell, West Virginia and Sioux, North Dakota. Most of the list’s least healthy counties are located around Appalachia and the Great Plains.
Because uranium mining has caused so many health and contamination issues, many Native Americans are fighting back against the mining corporations. The Oglala Sioux Tribe is now protesting the application of Cameco, the largest uranium producer in America, for mine expansion at Crow Butte. A Benefit Concert for the Black Hills to celebrate World Water Day was also held on March 22 in Rapid City to discuss the process of in-situ leach mining and the dangers of contamination.
“It is critical that everyone who is against this mine gets involved in the decision-making process,” stated Dr. Lilias Jarding, an associate professor at Oglala Lakota College and founder of the Rapid City-based Clean Water Alliance. “Your voice matters… The water cannot speak for itself—we must speak for the water.”