What's happening..?

* Some months ago when the Mescalero nuclear waste deal hit cyberspace a comment by G. Pollard, one who had spent a good deal of time with the Apache, commented-paraphrasing I am-that "Besides, there were no jobs on the reservation for the college educated and this storage site would provide them with jobs."

Now, this wasn't "exactly" what was said but the jist is the same. At the time I thought that this might be an unduly high risk scenario just to gain a "job" and that the embracing of Wasichu's nuclear waste ran counter to the expected approach of the Mescalero, not to mention all Native Americans. But, my attention drifted away. A return to books such as "The State of Native America-Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance" and "Blood Of The Land," archived mainstream news articles on generally related topics, and the continuing Peabody Coal Company rip-off of Hopi/Dine land and resources caused me to drift back to the subject. Everything started to come into focus...a difficult condition to attain, sometimes, for me.

What follows below is an article which appeared in the May 30, 1994 issue of Newsweek describing the approach of private Wasichu enterprise to the mining of minerals. Additional annotations with references have been supplied by me. Please excuse any typos as this wasn't scanned. I have provided a number of annotations.

"Ah, America, land of opportunity. Where one enterprising company bought 17,000 acres in Colorado from the U.S. Government for $42,500, then immediately resold it to oil companies for $37 million. Where the subsidiary of a South African firm is on the verge of buying 1,016 acres in Nevada from the Feds for $5,090 and then mining the $1.1 billion in gold buried below it. Where another firm is getting set to mine $200 million worth of gold on federal land next to Yellowstone National Park without paying the U.S. Treasury a dime in royalties.

"If this sounds like the sort of robber-baron capitalism that ran rampant through the 19th century, there's a good reason: these land grabs are happening under a law signed by Ulysses S. Grant. The Mining Act of 1872, intended to lure Americans west, allows any "hard-rock" miners (including prospectors for gold, silver, copper and platinum) to mine federally owned land for pennies. By contrast, oil, gas and coal companies pay royalties of as much as 12.5 percent of their gross revenues for the privilege of tapping federal land.


From 1849 through 1859, 986 tons of gold was extracted from federal land. From 1982 through 1992, 2,094 tons of gold was extracted from federal land.
"The act even allows mining companies to gain title to the publicly owned land, more important, everything underneath it, for no more than $5 an acre. Companies have bought 3.2 million acres of federal lands since 1872; every year they mine $1.2 billion worth of hard-rock minerals from government parcels, according to Congress's General Accounting Office. Last week [May 1994] Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt signed over America's richest gold deposit of all: for $9,765, the Toronto based American Barrick Resources took title to 1,949 acres around Elko, Nev., that sit atop what could be $10 billion worth of gold. The transfer, said Babbitt, is the "biggest gold heist since the days of Butch Cassidy."

To be fair, the difference between what Barrick paid the Feds for the land and the $10 billion worth of gold beneath it will not be pure profit. The company estimates it has spent $1 billion on equipment and new technology to extract the gold. (while $400-an-ounce gold has helped trigger the new gold rush in the American West, so have new chemical techniques, which make it profitable to mine rock containing just .017 ounce of gold per ton.) The White House and a growing number of reform-minded congressmen, however, say the public is still being fleeced. For years critics of the mining industry focused on its environmental sins-toxic tailings, open pits scarring the earth. But the White House has been burned by defeat in Congress on other Western issues such as grazing rights. So for this battle, Interior is trying to keep the spotlight on the bottom line. 'People who have been getting something for free are finally being asked to pay for it,' says Babbitt. 'It's time to stop the gold heist.'

"Congress is trying. Under a bill passed by the House of Representatives last November, mining companies would pay royalties of 8 percent on gross revenues for all hard-rock ores and could never buy the land outright. A Senate version, passed last May, would collect 2 percent of net profits and allow purchase of federal land at "fair market value" for six months after the bill becomes law-with that value assessed on the land's surface and not what lies beneath. Based on current revenues, miners would pay the Treasury annual royalties of 96 million if the House prevails.

Lost jobs: Industry naturally prefers the Senate bill. The "fair market value" approach is especially sweet; most of the land in question is otherwise worthless desert that would cost $50 to $100 an acre. In contrast, the House bill, charges Keith Knoblock of the American Mining Congress, it's "a no-mining bill." It's demand for 8 percent royalties on gross revenues-that is before deduction for expenses-would cost 47,000 jobs out of 140,000, according to an industry study. [Having the mining industry make such a study and accepting their results is akin to accepting a mouses word that it wouldn't steal all the cheese if it was agreed to eliminate the cat as Guardian of the Cheese]. Barrick alone provides 1,700 high-wage jobs at Elko, and has chipped in donations for sewer lines and schools in town. "Mr. Babbitt obviously fails to recognize the sizable investment made by mining companies before extracting a single ounce of gold or silver," says Jack Gerad of the Mineral Resources Alliance, "or the millions of tax dollars and thousands of jobs generated."

Job-loss estimates are made to be challenged. The U.S. Bureau of Mines projects a loss of 1,100 jobs from an 8-percent royalty. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that cleaning up abandoned mines, as the reform bills require, would create almost as many jobs as would vanish when small operators and marginal claims fold.

Now that America "has long passed the point where we have a great frontier out [West] that needs to be settled," as Jim Lyon of the reform-minded Mineral Policy Center puts it, exactly what does the government get out of the 1872 law? Billions of dollars in Superfund liabilities. Some companies that have mined all they profitably can from a site declare bankruptcy. The government has to clean up the poisonous tailings and other mess. By 1992, for instance, cyanide used to leach specks of gold ore at a Colorado mine was contaminating ground water; Summitville Consolidated Mining Co. filed for bankruptcy, and the government took over the $40,000-a-day cleanup. The West is littered with such ghost sites. Many do not pose an immediate threat to environmental or human health, but those that do are whoppers. The nation's biggest Superfund site is a Montana gold, silver, and copper mine abandoned in the 1950's; 55 others are also Superfund site. It will cost more than $32 billion to clean up the old mines.

Excerpt from "The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, edited by M. Annette Jaimes, ISBN 0- 89608-424-8, Chapter 8, pp.247-248, The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonialism: ...

"Spurred by the advice of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and corporate promises of jobs and royalties, the Navajo Tribal Council approved a mineral extraction agreement with the Kerr-McGee Corporation in 1952. In return for access to uranium deposits near the town of Shiprock on the reservation, and to fulfill risk-free [note the term 'risk-free'] contracts with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Kerr-McGee employed 100 Dine men in underground mining operations.

"However, by 1979 Kerr-McGee had exhausted the easily recoverable uranium deposits at Shiprock, both in geological and financial terms. Uranium extraction technology at the time was such that further profitable recovery-under any conditions-was rendered unlikely. Further, the Atomic Energy Commission was in the process of phasing out its ore-buying program, the factor that had made the entire mining venture feasible in the first place. The Shiprock facility was closed in early 1980.

"...the corporation simply abandoned some seventy-one acres of 'raw' uranium tailings at the mining site. These tailings constitute waste by-products of uranium ore refinement, but retain 85 percent of the original radioactivity of the ore. This huge tailing pile begins approximately sixty feet from the San Juan River, the only significant surface water source within the Shiprock area. The obvious result has been a considerable dispersal of radioactive contamination to a number of downstream communities that, of necessity, draw upon the river for potable water.

pp. 249 - "In July, 1979, the United Nuclear uranium mill, also located at Churchrock, was the site of an enormous accident. The adjacent mill tailings dam broke under pressure and released more than 100 million gallons of highly radioactive water into the Rio Puerco River. Kerr-McGee style safety standards...were the cause. Although United Nuclear had known of the cracks within the dam structure at least two months prior to the break, no repairs were made (or attempted). Seventeen hundred Dine people were immediately affected, their single water source hopelessly contaminated. More than 1,000 sheep and other livestock, which ingested the Rio Puerco water in the aftermath, died. [This spill has been termed the worst nuclear accident to occur in the United States.]

pp. 261 - Concerning the Department of Energy's nuclear facility at Hanford-"...in April 1991 [it] was spelled out that 444 billion gallons of water laced with plutonium, strontium, tritium, ruthenium, cesium, and assorted rare earth elements HAD BEEN POURED INTO A HOLE IN THE GROUND OVER THE YEARS. Officials admitted that these materials had long since seeped into local ground water sources, and estimated that the contamination will reach the Columbia River by the end of the decade...In sum, the residents of Yakima and the surrounding area have been exposed to greater concentrations of radiation-as a matter of course-than were those Soviet citizens living in or near Chernobyl during the near melt-down of the reactor there."

Excerpt from The Circle, March 1994-Mescalero Sign Nuke Waste Deal:

"Mescalero officials estimate the tribe could earn at least $50 million a year in lease payments for storing radioactive waste from nuclear power plants...

"The agreement calls for the Mescalero to store nuclear waste for 40 years, or until the federal government's proposed permanent nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada is constructed.

"The highly controversial underground repository planned for Yucca Mountain was supposed to be built by 2010, but is more than a decade behind schedule and is costing taxpayers $1 million a day. "The Western Shoshone National Council continues to fight the Yucca Mountain Project because it will [may] be constructed on land that is theirs according to the still-binding 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley."

Excerpt from The Circle, August 1994 - The Mescalero Apache: Nuclear Waste and the Privatization of Genocide:

"A large earthquake [in the Yucca Mountain vicinity] posed safety and feasibility questions to all but the most devout proponents [of the proposed permanent underground storage facility].

"As Peso [Fred Peso, Mescalero Tribal Council Vice President] sees it, 'The safe storage of spent nuclear fuel should be a concern of every American, regardless of their opinion of the wisdom of nuclear power...The Mescaleros can bear this responsibility because of our strong traditional values that favor protection of the earth.'

Such expensive messes do not help industry's cause. As a result, this may be the year that mining reform finally passes. Thanks in part to the Barrick purchase, Sen. Bennett Johnston, chairman of the committee that voted out the industry-friendly bill, is retooling the legislation. It would require royalties on a sliding scale based on market price, not the mere 2 percent of net revenues in the original. Much of the money would go toward clean-up at old mines. The House and Senate disagree on whether Interior should have the power to declare some sites-such as a gold mine in protected grizzly-bear habitat near Yellowstone-off-limits to mining. The lawmakers had better act fast. More than 600 firms, alarmed at the prospect that the free ride is ending, are requesting title to their claims. In one, Chevron and the Manville Corp. want 2,532 acres in Montana containing $3 billion to $4 billion worth of palladium and platinum. Price for access: $12,660 - end of Newsweek article

Excerpt from Blood Of The Land: The Government and Corporate War Against First Nations, pp.251-253]

"The Black Hills is one of those areas of America that have been designated by the National Academy of Sciences as a National Sacrifice Area, and thus slated by the government and energy corporations for resource exploitation. There are over five thousand uranium leases held in the Black Hills region by such companies as Tennessee Valley Authority, Union Carbide, Chevron Resources, Anaconda (ARCO), the British-Canadian Rio Algom, Wyoming Mineral (Westinghouse), Kerr-McGee, and others. Union Carbide holds a lease in Craven Canyon, site of sacred Lakota rock writings. Only the companies know the extent and the value of the uranium holdings, but they are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, covering hundreds of thousands of acres of the Black Hills.

"Union carbide public relations officer for South Dakota, Dudley Blanca, said in a phone interview concerning his company's uranium holdings in the Black Hills: 'Our expectations are modest. We think we know pretty much how much there is, but that is classified information-I mean, that's competitive information. I can't tell you exactly how much the uranium is worth.' Bill Harris at the South Dakota State Surface Mining License Office stated: 'The companies don't even tell us how much uranium they think they have...Of course they won't tell us exactly what they've learned, but the first thing they do it take a water sample: if the water sample shows a relatively high level of radioactivity, then they know that the uranium is there somewhere, and they explore to find it. I know that the water samples from Pine Ridge showed a considerable amount of uranium, one of the highest. They know it's there. One of the prime spots.'

"Records at the Licensing Office indicate that twenty-one companies share the five thousand-plus active, pending, or inactive claim sites in the area. Each Productive site may yield from one million to a hundred millions pounds of 'yellowcake,' the 1 to 2 percent of the uranium ore that is extracted and sold. The current price of uranium is $30.00 [1992] per pound on the world market. The many variables and the information withheld by the companies makes an exact calculation impossible, but it is safe to say that several hundred billion dollars worth of uranium lie under Lakota treaty land. Lowest estimates are in the range of fifty to eighty billion dollars.

"In addition to the uranium, there are rich deposit of coal, oil, and other minerals in the Black Hills. The Homestake Gold Mine in the Black Hills, in operation since the U.S. Army invaded the region and removed the Lakota people, has produced more than a thousand tons of pure gold, worth over $14 billion today. For all of this the U.S. Supreme Court has awarded the Lakota people $122.5 million; taking all the lowest estimates, this amounts to less than one-tenth of one percent of the value of the mineral resources in the Black Hills, not to mention the land itself, and not to mention the rest of the 150-million-acre treaty claim in addition to the Black Hills. To expect the Lakota people to willingly forfeit their land for that amount of money is absurd, particularly in view of the fact that they have stated for over a hundred years that are not willing to give up the land for any amount of money.

"'They think we're stupid,' Matthew King said, laughing. 'How would you feel if someone came and stole your house, and kicked you out, and then came back and said: "Oh, okay, I'm sorry, here, I'll give you $.50 cents for your house!'? Boy, they must think the Indian is pretty stupid.'

"...Through the Department of Energy National Uranium Resource Evaluation program the U.S. federal government pays Union Carbide and other companies millions of dollars in subsidies to scour the hills for uranium. Union Carbide's total Department of Energy subsidy is worth $2.3 billion per year, 25 percent of it's annual gross sales. Thus, billions of dollars flow into the coffers of multinational resource companies to fuel the search for ever more fuel, to fuel an ever-more-wasteful society, while an attempt at benign self-sufficiency is squashed at even further expense to the taxpayers.

"75 percent of the United States national uranium reserve is on Indian land under the control of the major oil companies. Twelve oil companies own 54 percent of the uranium mines; five oil companies own 62 percent of the uranium mills."

Coincident with compiling this data, National Public Radio's "Studs Terkel Hour"-for want of a better name-came on. Studs was interviewing Daniel Ellsberg (remember the Pentagon Papers?). Apparently Ellsberg's father was the chief structural engineer at the Hanford Nuclear Facility. Ellsberg remembered that his Dad noted that radioactive waste abuse had rendered that land polluted for at least 125,000 years!

As Kangi Wiyaka (Crow Feather) has said:

"My friends, for many years we have been in this country; we never go to the Great Father's country and bother him about anything. It is his people who come to our country and bother us, do many bad things and teach our people to be bad...Before you people ever crossed the ocean to come to this country, and from that time to this, you have never proposed to buy a country that was equal to this in riches. My friend, this country that you have come to buy is the best country that we have...this country is mine, I was raised in it; my forefathers lived and died in it; I wish to remain in it."
And Crazy Horse:
"One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk."
Speaking for myself here: I am of the opinion that there has to be a fundamental change in the Native American approach to Wasichu and his machinations. Continuing association must not be one of collusion nor acceptance of the status quo. Rather, it must be an approach based on the realization that "business as usual" in the United States of America-a republic founded on colonized, illegally appropriated Native land is not acceptable. As regards minerals rights why should not Wasichu pay the First Nations a "royalty" such as that mentioned earlier? Why should not there be reasonable compensation for what has been ripped away from its rightful caretakers?

Is not enough, enough?

To be honest, I hesitated to commit this thought to disk because I tend to discount my opinion in light of my fellows. But, this morning I read over the synopsis provided by Jim Shupe re the Univ. Of Okla. (Norman campus) teepee incident. Up to this point I had assumed that this university-more so than any other because of it's Indian Country location and active book publishing arm-would have taken a different approach to an assault on it's Native American students. Apparently this is not the case and the university approach only serves to underwrite that - IMHO - I am right.

While, over time, lines have been drawn, I suggest that it is time not only to draw another but to gouge that line deep enough so that it can never be filled in. Comments as to how this might be done would be greatly appreciated and I publically state that any resources available to me stand by for commitment in this regard. Responses will be welcomed.

Rogue Bureaucracy

First Nations/First Peoples Cumulative Index