Last update:
2022-01-15

White Mesa Uranium Mill, Utah, USA

The White Mesa Uranium Mill has been opposed from members of the nearby Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and local environmental organisations, because the mill contaminates local water supply among other concerns.


Description:

The White Mesa Uranium mill is the only remaining operating uranium mill in the USA, operated by Canadian-owned Energy Fuels Incorporated, with other mills in the U.S ceasing their operations in the last half-century [5]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:White Mesa Uranium Mill, Utah, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Utah
Location of conflict:Blanding
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral processing
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium
Industrial waste
Vanadium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to Energy Fuel's website, the White Mesa Mill is the only fully licensed and conventional uranium mill located in the United States [1]. The mill is licensed to hold a capacity of 8 million pounds of uranium per year, and the mill is responsible for removing and recovering uranium from earth ore and manage the radioactive byproducts from rare earth ore.

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Project area:110
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:400-553
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Energy Fuels (EF) from United States of America
Energy Fuels Resources from United States of America
Cameco Inc from Canada
Relevant government actors:Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition:
https://bearsearscoalition.org/

Canyon Country Rising Tide:
https://canyoncountryrisingtide.org/

Earthworks:
https://earthworks.org/

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice:
https://greenaction.org/

Grand Canyon Trust:
https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/

Great Old Broads for Wilderness:
https://www.greatoldbroads.org/

HEAL Utah:
https://www.healutah.org/

Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment:
https://swuraniumimpacts.org/contact/

SLC Air Protectors:
https://www.facebook.com/slcairprotectors/

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:
https://suwa.org/

Uranium Watch:
https://uraniumwatch.org/

Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club:
https://www.sierraclub.org/utah
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
White Mesa Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
The community are involved in an annual spiritual walk, which is organised by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and environmental groups
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsPotential cancer cases and birth defects due to the release of radon gas and other toxic gases from the mill.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:Based on the mobilisations from Indigenous communities and local environmental organisations, the only outcome or development that they are campaigning for is the closure of the mill, to stop the threats to the water supply, potential contamination and air pollution.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite protests, petitions and a lawsuit, the community of White Mesa have not had any positive outcome from their mobilisation efforts apart from a strengthening of participation between community member and local environmental groups. The mill is still operating as usual and accepting radioactive waste from the U.S, Canada and beyond.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Documentary: Half Life: America’s Last Uranium Mill, Grand Canyon Trust, 2016
[click to view]

[9] Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Environmental Programs Department, no author, 2022.
[click to view]

[10] The Durango Herald, Jim Mimiaga, 11 July 2017.
[click to view]

[1] White Mesa Mill, Energy Fuels, 2019.
[click to view]

[2] Protest march against uranium mill held in southeast Utah, The Journal, Jim Mimiaga, 9/10/2021.
[click to view]

[3] News Archive 2017, Uranium Watch, 6/2/2018.
[click to view]

[4] Issues at White Mesa uranium mill (Utah), WISE Uranium, 10/10/2021.
[click to view]

[5] The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste, High Country News, Jessica Douglas, 1/11/2021
[click to view]

[6] White Mesa Uranium Mill, Grand Canyon Trust, 2021.
[click to view]

[8] Lawsuit against White Mesa uranium mill is dismissed, The Journal, Jim Mimiaga, 7/11/2017.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

White Mesa Community protest flyer
[click to view]

Other comments:[11] On the uranium from Estonia: https://deepbaltic.com/2020/09/24/sillamae-inside-a-former-soviet-secret-city-in-estonia/. SILLAMÄE: INSIDE A FORMER SOVIET SECRET CITY IN ESTONIA. by Darmon Richter. 24 Sept. 2020.
Meta information
Contributor:Ciara Leonard, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Last update15/01/2022
Comments
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