Appalachian Residents Tour Uranium Mining Sites
Friday, May 30th, 2014Appalachian residents joined activists and community members from across the US and Canada for the Third Extreme Energy Summit in May 2014. Learn more about some of the voices of this summit here.
As part of the trip, Appalachian residents facing the impacts of mountaintop removal toured sites impacted by uranium mining near Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The tour was hosted by the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE). MASE is a coalition of groups rooted in uranium-impacted communities across the southwest working to remediate environmental devastation and stop future harm. MASE arranged community tours of uranium impacted areas so that summit attendees from across North America could learn more about the disastrous impacts of uranium mining on the local community.
“It’s very important to continue to bring public awareness to the the local impacts from previous uranium mining. We need to educate the next generation and bring solutions to clean up these areas that will otherwise be ignored,” said Jonathan Perry with the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining a core group of MASE. “We want to connect with other people from across the country to address uranium mining issues as well as national issues to move forward as one people bringing solutions back to our communities.”
The sites toured included areas where faulty, irresponsible reclamation was exposing communities, livestock, farms and water to the toxic effects of uranium and radon gas emitted by the mining process. Residents shared powerful stories of the severe impacts they have faced, as well as the powerful community organizing that has enabled them to fight to protect their land and health. Faulty and dangerous reclamation sites included the site below, adjacent to a Diné (Navajo) Community where residents shared stories of dangerously high radiation levels at the bus stop where their kids wait to go to school.
The group also visited the former Jackpile Mine where Laguna Pueblo tribal leaders shared stories of the impacts they faced from the mines, as well as the struggle to reclaim the land and begin building back their community after the mine closed down, leaving high unemployment, destroyed homes and severe health issues. The struggles of these communities have many parallels to the issues faced by Appalachian communities in the wake of the destruction of mountaintop removal coal mining, and hearing the inspiring organizing and community wisdom that achieved real progress and some powerful healing for these communities – as well as some frustrating setbacks and many ongoing struggles – offered a powerful opportunity to learn from these strategic movements for environmental justice.
In addition to dealing with the ongoing effects of former uranium mining, tribes are working together to fight proposed uranium mines on their land, like the beautiful area below, which members of the tour visited, as well as a proposed mine on Mount Taylor, an area sacred to the Pueblo and Navajo peoples.
Appalachian members of the tour are grateful to our hosts for sharing their wisdom and were eager to share an invitation to everyone to tour Appalachia to continue to allow grassroots leaders in environmental justice to learn from the wisdom of other movements.