Navajo Wind Project On Hold - Canada's Uranium Mines: Consequences For The Indigenous Tribes
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – After working with Cameron Chapter for three years and spending $2 million on exploratory surveys to develop a 500 megawatt wind farm on Gray Mountain, Sempra Generation is pulling back.
Bruce McAlvain of International Piping Products Inc. of Houston, which has been working with Sempra on the project, said Tuesday that the company has informed Navajo Nation officials of its decision.
“I did speak to Sempra last week and they said that they would be interested in re-engaging if, in fact, we could get a lease put through, and if, in fact, the Nation would be willing to engage the developer to help get the project done,” he said.
IPP will be meeting Wednesday in Phoenix with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and Edison Mission Energy. The company also is in discussion with Florida Power & Light Co.
“Sempra didn't make or break the deal. There were always opportunities for us to move forward with somebody else if we didn't come to an agreement with Sempra,” McAlvain said.
The Resources Committee approved a resolution in April sponsored by Western Agency Delegates Jack Colorado, Bobby Robbins and Raymond Maxx calling for approval of lease negotiations between the Navajo Nation and IPP/Sempra.
Maxx said that after three years, what they needed was a yes or no decision on the lease. “Are we going to do this renewable energy project or not? Because if we don't do it now, we're not going to get into the game.”
Resources Chairman George Arthur on Friday expressed surprise that Sempra decided to pull out after the committee accepted their lease proposal. Now, he said, “NTUA has kind of taken the lead on the project.”
Cameron's Delegate Colorado and Chapter President Ed Singer say the IPP/Sempra project has been delayed time and again by “politics.”
The Division of Economic Development first gave IPP a conditional use permit to conduct wind studies, but about a year ago, according to Colorado, a legal opinion from the Navajo Nation Attorney General stated that it was the Resources Committee that had authority over such projects.
“Ever since Economic Development turned it over to Resources Committee, there's been a lot of meetings took place and they never really supported it. They never made it their business to go and start working with the company,” Colorado said.
According to Maxx, IPP/Sempra would fund all development, at a cost of about $8 million, without the Nation putting up a dime, and then the Nation would have 10 years to buy 20 percent of the operation.
But Arthur wants to move beyond 80/20. The wind farm can happen, he said, “but it shouldn't be like any other deal the Nation has had for the past 50 years. Those kinds of deals are gone.”
IPP, a piping company which supplies steel components and flanges for towers and wind turbines, is primarily a privately owned trading company which started out in the United Kingdom in 1986 and moved its headquarters to Houston in the early 1990s.
When they first came to Cameron, McAlvain said, “We got along very well with the people there. We told them it was our first development. We wanted a very transparent project; they wanted a community-based initiative. It just kind of all fit together.” IPP received a conditional use permit, “and then it got very political,” he said.
In 2008, Cameron Chapter learned that Citizens Energy and Dine Power Authority had entered into an agreement in 2006 for wind development. The community let it be known in no uncertain terms that they were working with IPP/Sempra.
Colorado said President Joe Shirley Jr. signed an agreement with Citizens Energy in 2008, and it seemed that members of the Resources Committee could not support Cameron working with IPP/Sempra because of that.
“He wanted DPA to work with Citizens Energy, but the people here, they don't really want any company to just go to the central government and make an agreement over there and then go to the chapter and say they're given the approval to do development.”
IPP definitely wasn't the first company to come to Cameron and propose a wind farm project, McAlvain said, “but they chose us for some reason.”
Earlier this year the chapter was told that Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the Energy Task Force Team would be working with Cameron, according to Colorado.
“When they gave their presentation they said they were going to be going with 51-49 percent,” he said, meaning NTUA could purchase up to 51 percent ownership in the project. The same structure is proposed for the initial phase of the 85 megawatt, $187 million Big Boquillas wind farm in which NTUA is partnering with Edison Mission Group and Foresight Wind Energy.
Cameron residents compared the 80-20 and the 51-49 percent ownership proposals and “never really got the answer of how the Navajo Nation is going to put up at least $50 million to start doing the development,” Colorado said. “So they said they were going to go with the 80-20, working with Sempra and IPP, and they would ask the Resources Committee to support that.
“Everybody in the United States knows there's potential wind that can be used for a wind farm at Gray Mountain. Because of that, the people are not giving up,” he said.
McAlvain, whose father is Native American, is not opposed to the 51-49 percent structure. “I would like to see tribal nations reap the benefits of what they have,” he said. But when it gets down to the mechanics, “it is very difficult.”
As currently proposed, the Gray Mountain wind farm is a $1.5 billion project. “If the Nation is going to own 51 percent of that project, they're going to have to pony up $800 million. I think we all need to be very honest with each other with what we're being able to propose,” he said.
There are more than 143 competing projects in Arizona alone – well over 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy proposed by companies that already have applied for a position on transmission lines. “Major utility companies right now are looking for projects that can be in construction by 2012.” After that, McAlvain said, “That window of opportunity will close.”
Singer doesn't believe Sempra is totally out of the picture. “They said initially that they got a new president and they were going through some reorganization. They prioritized things and decided that trying to work with the Navajo Nation was such an uphill battle, they decided to not waste any more resources on it. But I believe they were not aware of the new legislation” passed by Resources and working its way to Council, he said.
As for the tribal utility, “NTUA is almost an unknown entity out here. The Cameron community has no confidence in them,” he said. “The Navajo Nation has no funds to put up as a partner. They're advocating a 51-49 percent ownership, but they cannot fund 51 percent of anything right now.”
The Gray Mountain wind farm needs to happen quickly, otherwise the Nation will lose out on the transmission interconnect, Singer said. “The country has been looking to us to build this for the last three years. Everywhere I go, I'm still asked, 'What happened to the wind project?' It's a win-win situation. But it's nothing if it doesn't get built.”
Uranium Mines In Canada And The Consequences For Indigenous Peoples
Dear people of Mistissini and Eeyou Itschee,
As the summer is coming in and that the next and final hearing for the Matoush project will be be at the end of September, it is important that as many people as possible in Mistissini and elsewhere on Eeyou Itschee are aware of this possible uranium mine and its consequences.
Maps of traplines are pretty revealing of potential future projects (right down to Mistissini lake) as well as along the southeastern border of the park (Otish, Albanel T魩scamie). Strateco, the promoter, claims that it has informed the population very well. How come so many people still not know about it? Who decides, in Eeyou Itschee, that such a project is acceptable?
So far in Quebec and Ontario, Algonquins from Sharbot lake and in people Western Quebec are opposing uranium exploration as well as communities in Sept-Ϭes and Mont-Laurier. Dozens of municipalities are asking for a ban on exploration and exploitation of uranium in Quebec. Are the people of the Cree Mineral exploration Board deciding? Are only the tallymen of Mistissini deciding? Are only the people having traplines over there (including our Grand Chief) deciding?
The company is promising 15 jobs to the Crees during exploration and 15% of a staggering 130 jobs on the exploitation phase. All this for an exploitation of 7 to 10 years that may be stopped if the price of uranium goes down, leaving tailings that will be radioactive for years, not counting the fact that the actual project is at a distance of 15 kilometers from the future parc Otish Albanel T魩scamie to be consecrated to the Cree culture and that will allow people owning traplines to bring paying guests into the park. While a few tallymen or traplines owners might be compensated, what about the neighboring lands. Although the nuclear safety commitee claims that the radon evaporates, independant scientists have found that a halo of 10 kilometers radius forms over the radioactive tailings by still wind.
The radon itself "decomposes" in radioactive sub-products named half-daughters. It produces lead and polonium which contaminates the foodchain. Polonium deriving from natural sources is already present, but a moose staying close to tailings will have a higher level of polonium in its flesh after 2 weeks of exposure. Even if consumption of that contaminated meat is not a cause for great alarm, is it such a great idea to add some to the environment and the foodchain.
In Saskatchewan, NO uranium mines has received, after 60 years, a certificate of closure,which means that none of the mines has been properly shut down to this day!
Remember that if this mine opens, it is a go for other ones and that it means that there could be mines right up to the lake and bordering the park. Most people in Quebec oppose such projects, but Mr Harper declared a few months ago that he would ease the way for uranium mines and?risk capital ventures in Canada. The Ministry of Mine (MMRNF) in Quebec seems very enthusiastic too. The uranium companies (Areva, Cameco) are supporting the junior exploration companies. Lots of money is invested in publicity and so called information sessions. Yet, these information sessions are held at hours where people are working and they present the project as totally safe.?
Although Strateco is an exploration company, it presents its project as including a yellowcake mill, which will entail driving truckloads for 70 kilometers through the park, on the future Otish road. The whole process involves chemical products and use of lots of water. Obviously, the government agencies repeat that they manage the risks, understating the fact that there is a risk to people (workers being first) and environment. The residues from the yellowcake factory, will be put in a large pool covered with water.
A uranium mining company has a limited reponsibility (about 10 years), once the mine will be closed. Drought can dry out the pool, exposing very radioactive residues from the factory, just like the mine tailings will be eroded by snow melting, rain and wind. How can we secure this area for thousands of years to come, as the tailings and mill residues will remain radioactive for as long??
There is a ban on uranium mining in Nova Scotia, Nunavut and British Columbia. Dozens of muncipalities in Quebec are asking for a ban. So are thousands of citizens and even the union of Quebec's governement workers are supporting such a ban!
How inviting will it be for the Crees and the tourists, to see this type of operation in pristine Cree territory, right in the middle of one of the 3 most important watersheds in Quebec. This one is called E'weewach (where the waters originate) and the waters go toward James bay and the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic.?
Lake Matoush is linked to a river that flows into the Temiscamie River which flows into Mistissini lake. Only half the watershed of the Temiscamie River has been protected in view of the future park. It is impossible to protect it all, because of claims that have been given to the exploration companies and the Quebec governement lack of will in buying these out.?
Every miner will tell you that accidents in mines are frequent.
Today, in Australia, there are 100,000 liters of contaminated water that flow daily into the underground waters in Kakadu park, where the authorities had thought it wise to have an uranium mine!
The new Quebec mining law that is proposed, does not get rid of the gr頠 gr黠agreement. This is heavily criticized by a majority of people working for the environment and individuals that have been opposing mine projects in their personal lives.?
When the James Bay project was build in the 70's, the Crees were not even consulted. Things have evolved and Quebec and Cree nations have reached an agreement with La Paix des Braves. In this agreement, the Crees agreed to mining development. It does NOT mean that every single project or type of mining must be done.?
The Mich Cini Coalition believes that uranium mining is not sustainable development. It means heavy industry and a huge problem of waste management, not just a few years, but for thousands of years to come. It also feeds the nuclear chain, which includes an even worst problem of very radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons such as the ones used in Irak, made of depleted uranium.
Radiation attacks the living cells and can break the DNA chain, resulting in sicknesses and deformation in babies. Even doctors are limiting as much as possible X-Rays exposure to patients. THERE IS NO proven SAFE LOW-LEVEL RADIATION DOSE.
Please circulate this information, sign our petition asking for a ban on uranium mining and exploration on Eeyou Itschee and go on Internet, to get information not just from the federal government or Strateco, but also from sources opposing uranium mining and exploration.
The Navajos are still exposed to contamination of their water and lands. Read about the Pinon Ridge mill. See the documentary Uranium on the national Film Board website (Elliott Lake, Serpent River).
Read Jim Harding's book on uranium mining in Canada. Read Carl Z Morgan papers. Read the Pembina Institute website or the Canadian Citizens for nuclear Responsibility website. Just don't accept the information presented to you by Strateco or the government as being true.
In October 2009, the Mich Cini Coalition presented a demand to have speakers discuss the dangers of uranium mining to the Mistissini Band. Our demand got "lost" at the band office.
Let's decide together what we want for us and our children! We can act wisely and safely, and in accordance to traditional Cree values while promoting truly sustainable jobs and a safe environment for the future.
spokeperson for the Mich Cini Coalition
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