When the White Mesa Mill was built in the late 1970s, its purpose was to break down rocks and process natural uranium ore. Seeking a new source of revenue in the 1990s, mill owners quietly arranged to process “alternate feeds” and discard the radioactive wastes from Superfund sites in the US, foreign sites from as far away as China, even remnants from the Manhattan Project. For polluters it is more cost-effective to send their waste to White Mesa than to a licensed low-level radioactive waste dump. By 2021, the mill’s owners had banked millions for processing and discarding these alternate feeds.
Today, more than 700 million pounds of toxic wastes simmer in the site’s massive waste pits, next door to Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah, a few miles from the White Mesa community of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Imagine if you can, the wind blowing from the mill and groundwater flowing from beneath the mill carrying toxic waste towards this Tribal community.
The push for electric vehicle production has increased the demand for critical elements like nickel, cobalt, and lithium. With the mill’s history of adapting the site’s original purpose to fit the owner’s financial goals, the White Mesa community, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and others, are concerned that the toxic waste stream created by mining toxic critical elements for EV batteries, will be dumped at White Mesa Mill, too. Nearby communities are asking, will White Mesa become the world’s waste dump?
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, White Mesa Community, IEN, and other concerned community members are asking for your support and participation in the 2023 Spiritual Protest Walk to protect Bears Ears and the sovereign Indigenous Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, on Saturday, at 11 a.m. MDT. For more information call White Mesa Concerned Community (435) 459-2461.