RickstockCrowd Hey, what are all those people doing in Dr. Kevin Weiland's yard?

Take It Back Band Why, listening to Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Weiland and the Take It Back Band...

Rickstock2014 ...on a beautiful evening in the Black Hills.

Clean Water AllianceFolks at this show don't want any uranium mining...

Seamans Clanton...and these ranch men will have no truck with pipelines...

KurtzPipe ...but pipes are fine, especially with Kurtz classing up the smoking section.

BlogReadersatRickstockRick voters and blog readers are also cool with flower power and adult beverages in moderation.

WeilandatRickstockCandidate Weiland had a moment between sets to chat about the campaign. Before playing the big show Saturday at his brother Kevin's Piedmont place, Rick walked the Central States Fair parade through downtown Rapid City. Parade in the morning, working the stage and working the crowd all afternoon and evening (and before the sun dropped below the ponderosas, it was hot on that stage!)... you tell me who the hardest working man in the Senate campaign is!

Rick noted that the last time he marched in the Central States Fair parade (another campaign, another decade), he recalls folks actually booing at him. Saturday morning, he said parade-goers were cheering and stepping out to shake his hand. That's long-term momentum!

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Rickstock isn't the only political musical extravanganza taking place in the Black Hills this weekend. To warm up for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's hearing on Powertech/Azarga's application to start an in-situ leach uranium mine in the southern Black Hills, Dakota Rural Action is hosting a pre-hearing concert and rally at the Allen Ranch near Hot Springs on Sunday:

  • Where: Allen Ranch, 13065 Fall River Road, Hot Springs, SD
  • When: Sunday, August 17, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
  • Who: Music featuring Australian Wayne Brennan, Open Mike Band, plus other local artists.
  • Whee! Camping! Stay overnight and attend the NRC public comment sessions the next day…to reserve a camp site, RV site, or tipi call 605-745-1890.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will take public input on Powertech/Azarga's application on Monday, August 18, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Mueller Civic Center, 801 S. 6th Street, Hot Springs, SD. Citizens may speak for up to five minutes on water, land, and historical/cultural concerns.

The ASLB then decamps to Rapid City for three days to hold its evidentiary hearing August 19-21 at the Alex Johnson Hotel, 523 6th St., from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We don't get to comment, but we can watch our neighbors make their case for protecting the Black Hills from more uranium mining.

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With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission coming to the Black Hills next week to hear public comment and consider evidence in the challenge to Powertech/Azarga's application for in-situ leach uranium mining in Fall River and Custer counties, Powertech watchdog Jim Woodward comes up with a couple of curious new developments:

  1. Back in May, Powertech bought some Tennessee Valley Authority data on over 4,000 boreholes and three aquifer pump tests that the TVA conducted in the Dewey-Burdock mining area in the 1970s and 1980s. Boreholes—i.e., paths through which water and pollution from in-situ leach mining could leak.
  2. That data could have some bearing on the contention of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and other official intervenors in the mining permit process that the final environmental impact statement on Powertech's proposal (completed before Powertech got that TVA data) lacks sufficient hydrogeological data on the impact ISL mining could have on the area. The data may also offer more perspective on more serious natural leakage at the site.
  3. The NRC told Powertech to show the tribe that data; Powertech is resisting that order, saying the TVA data is (in Woodward's words) "irrelevant to the evidentiary hearing."
  4. Even if the data is irrelevant, by balking at releasing the data up to this point, Powertech makes it difficult for opponents to see for themselves and study the data in time to effectively comment on it at the August 18 NRC hearing.
  5. And in business new that John Tsitrian will find interesting, Azarga was supposed to complete its reverse-takeover of Powertech by July 31. Azarga and Powertech have not completed that maneuver; instead they have extended the acquisition deadline to September 15.

Powertech uranium mining proposal, as well as its business arrangements with Azarga, are complicated. The public deserves as much data as possible to understand the risks and benefits. Powertech, help us out: let us see the TVA data.

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My friends at PowertechExposed.com are going to have to change their name. Hong Kong-based but British Virgin Islands-incorporated Azarga Resources is finalizing its takeover of the Canadian Powertech, the company that wants conduct in-situ leach mining for uranium in the southern Black Hills. Powertech will take on the new name Azarga Uranium Corp.

Technically, Powertech is acquiring Azarga. However, as Mark Watson and Adam Hurlburt reported on July 3, the deal looks much more like Azarga taking over Powertech. The structure of the deal is the typical dizzying shuffle of shares, debt, and tricky tax games. Jim Woodward reports that on June 30, Powertech shareholders voted to dilute their own ownership by issuing a big gob of new stocks that will make Australian businessmen Alex Molyneux and Curtis Church, and Singaporean investment firms Blumont Group Ltd. and Pacific Advisers Pte Ltd. the controlling shareholders. Molyneux is a key advisor to Blumont, which owns another British Virgin Islands company called Powerlite Ventures Limited, which holds the note on a loan of up to $26 million to Azarga, which debt Powertech/AUC now takes over via share conversion, which could make Powerlite/Blumont the majority stakeholder...

...which is all more than you may need to know if all you're worried about is stopping Powertech, Azarga, or anyone else from wrecking the Black Hills water supply, but which Powertech's shareholders and Canadian securities regulators might have wanted to know sooner:

When added to the 41 million Powertech/AUC shares already owned by Powerlite following the closing, Powerlite/Blumont could end up with a controlling stake of 51.7%. This possibility was not fully disclosed by Powertech in its May 13 meeting notice and information circular filed with Canadian securities regulators. This document is the primary source of information on the proposed transaction, and it is not clear why this potential change of control was not adequately disclosed [Jim Woodward, "Powertech Shareholders Approve Reverse Takeover by Australian and Singaporean Investors," PowertechExposed.com, 2014.07.20].

Powertech left out other information:

The Powertech information circular also does not discuss a current wide-ranging and unprecedented investigation of Blumont by Singapore’s white-collar police unit and central bank following a 95% drop in Blumont’s stock price in October 2013. Singapore police have requested three and a half years’ of corporate electronic data from the firm, as well as data storage devices belonging to Executive Director James Hong and Executive Chairman Neo Kim Hock in their probe of possible breaches of the Singapore Securities and Futures Act.

Also missing from the Powertech filing is any mention of Alex Molyneux’s role as a consultant and key advisor to Blumont’s board of directors, or his 2013 agreement, rescinded in April, to purchase 135 million shares of Blumont and become its Chairman [Woodward, 2014.07.20].

Rapid City businessman John Tsitrian has raised questions about Powertech/Azarga's exaggerations and omissions in statements to investors and securities regulators. This month's high-financial action makes Tsitrian all the more suspicious of this shaky deal and the shady characters casting their beady eyes on the Black Hills.

Perhaps the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which takes public comment on the Powertech mining permit request August 18 in Hot Springs and holds an evidentiary hearing August 19–21 in Rapid City, should also be suspicious. Neither Powertech nor Azarga has ever received a permit to mine uranium. Molyneux is promoting a different mining technology called ablation. Adam Hurlburt raised the question last November of whether this change in ownership warrants a restart of the entire regulatory process:

It seems there’s a very real possibility the entity that drafted and submitted lengthy environmental reports, technical reports, economic impact reports, permit applications and more to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the same entity that signed agreements with numerous private South Dakota landowners; the same entity that conducted several years of extensive research into the economic viability and safety of a proposed 17,800 acre in situ recovery mine set to pull roughly 8.4 million pounds of uranium out of the southern Black Hills over a nine year period; the same entity that’s assured the state of South Dakota and its citizens that it can do this successfully without adverse affects on the environment and its inhabitants may not be the same entity that actually does the mining, should all these permits be granted [Adam Hurlburt, "Who Are We Permitting?" Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.11.05].

Powertech assures us that the new owners will be bound by the same conditions set for Powertech by any previous permits. Woodward reports that a source says NRC staff aren't going to fret over the change in Powertech/Azarga control, even though no one at Azarga has experience with in-situ leach uranium mining.

Azarga appears not to know the specific mining activity for which it's seeking a permit, and its new property Powertech isn't doing a good job of informing investors and regulators of what's coming down the corporate pike. Those are two good reasons to be suspicious of the uranium mining these schemers are trying to bring to the Black Hills.

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Darned wasicu and their in-situ uranium mining....

The Clean Water Alliance is placing the following public service announcement on KOTA and KEVN television. But since TV is as bad for your brain as Powertech/Azarga's uranium mining will be for the Black Hills, why not watch it here on the Internet instead?

Chinese-Canadian Powertech/Azarga, whose big-money officers mostly live elsewhere and won't have to deal with the pollution they will leave in the Black Hills, face a public comment hearing hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Hot Springs on Monday, August 18, followed by the NRC evidentiary hearing August 19–21 in Rapid City.

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Rep. Kristi Noem, Senator John Thune, and celebrate the passage of the Black Hills Cemetery Act, which transfers ownership of nine Black Hills cemeteries to local communities:

I am thrilled to see the U.S. Senate take up this important legislation and finally put it on the President’s desk for his signature.... These cemeteries tell the stories of the people and communities that built their lives in rural South Dakota over the last two centuries. I’m proud the federal government will now turn ownership of these sacred grounds to their rightful owners: the communities that have maintained them for generations [Rep. Kristi Noem, press release, 2014.07.09].

How nice to see Republicans support the restoration of sacred grounds to their rightful owners

—uh oh. The Black Hills are replete with American Indian burial sites, but the sacredness of the Paha Sapa goes beyond the known and unknown graves:

The entire Black Hills are sacred, not just one place, one burial site, one prayer site. There is a sacred energy field around the Black Hills. How far does it extend? One elder said that it continues about 50 miles around the Black Hills. How can people who believe that only man-made designations, such as a church or a cemetery are called sacred, understand a sacred space and landscape that extend for hundreds of miles? That is why Defenders of the Black Hills have as our motto: "Remember, the Black Hills are sacred." We ask only that respect be given for another peoples' understanding of spirituality. Maybe that respect will begin to generate more concrete actions that will contribute to the restoration of these sacred grounds [Charmaine White Face, "The Sacred Black Hills," Sacred-Sites.org, downloaded 2014.07.11].

Now you may think talk of sacred energy fields is hooey (if so, how do you feel about the Bakken?), but the Supreme Court made clear in the Hobby Lobby decision that the state is not to question religious claims.

So with Congresswoman Noem surrendering federal land to locals with beliefs in the sacred value of the land, her support for handing the Black Hills over to the Lakota people cannot be far behind.

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Via Northern Plains News, the Black Hills Knowledge Network reports Census data showing increased racial diversity in South Dakota's population. The Native American population is holding at 8.9% of the population, while Hispanics and blacks are increasing their population shares. The latter minorities are increasing notably in the Black Hills:

The black population in Meade County accounts for 2 percent of its population, one of the largest in the state. Nearly all of the counties in the Black Hills have a Hispanic population that exceeds 3 percent of the total population [Black Hills Knowledge Network, "Census: South Dakota's Racial Diversity on the Rise," Northern Plains News, 2014.07.02].

Local readers will appreciate the irony of more black folks around Sturgis: Meade County was once (?) a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity. Of course, 90 years ago, our Black Hills Klansmen were raising a ruckus about Catholics and prostitutes. Let's hope their descendants can reconcile with the growing numbers of non-whites on their block at least as well as they've learned to tolerate the folks following the Pope.

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Tasiyagnunpa Livermont reminds us that returning the Black Hills to the Great Sioux Nation as a gesture of religious justice and restoration of treaty is not as simple as the wasicu writing this blog may think it is:

The Black Hills isn’t just for the Oceti Sakowin Oyate (Great Sioux Nation). The Ft. Laramie Treaty named other plains tribes in it. This was always a war-free zone shared in good spirit with other tribes which we often were otherwise embattled with.

If the Black Hills were turned back over, it would need a new form of jurisdiction, because there is no singular Great Sioux Nation any longer. We are divided into 9 different reservations. Plus the other tribes.

The people working on treaty councils at the local level are hypocritical, conservative (Lakota version) and prattle about issues that sound more like Evangelical Christianity than anything that connects us to our stories and land [Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, "Hobby Lobby and Reclaiming the Black Hills?" Sustainable Dakota, 2014.07.02].

Indeed, if we ever decide to give the Black Hills back to the tribes, to whom specifically do we give the deed? The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 bears the signatures of 25 Brule, 38 Ogallalla, 16 Minneconjou, 50 Yanctonais, and 6 recalcitrant Oglala Lakota (including Red Cloud, who did not sign until he had effectively waged war to force the United States government to close the Bozeman Trail). The Supreme Court held in 1980 that the Black Hills were wrongfully taken from the Sioux Nation of Indians. Who now are the descendants who rightfully own that seized land?

A big part of the problem is that we cannot restore the Black Hills to the status quo ante. When the U.S. Cavalry and prospectors arrived, no one owned or governed the Black Hills in the Western sense of the words. Ezra Kind and Hugh Glass had about as much right to be out on the High Plains in the early 1800s as the men who signed the 1868 treaty; Kind and Glass just didn't have as many guys with them.

The Black Hills now exist within the matrix of Western land ownership and government. If the United States government rescinded its ownership of the Black Hills, and if South Dakota surrendered its sovereignty over all of West River, some legal order would have to fill the vacuum. We can't just relinquish the Black Hills to whichever tribe brings the most warriors...

...or can we? Would we satisfy the historical imperative of justice by following the letter of the treaty, pulling out our troops and settlers, closing the Bozeman Trail, and leaving interested tribes to sort things out for themselves? Would such a retreat bring more trouble to our Native American neighbors than they face now? Or would a white man's retreat of such magnitude galvanize Indian attitudes and political will to overcome the current divisions and corruption Livermont sees to organize their own effective government of the treaty lands?

Update 10:55 MDT: Friend of the blog and wasicu Black Hills land "owner" Stan Gibilisco offers his video take on who owns the Paha Sapa:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3J0SAjGdp4

I "own"—and I put that in quotes—I "own" a home here in the Black Hills. I question whetehr human beings can own any particular parcel of the earth. More like the earth owns us... [Stan Gibilisco, "Who Owns Paha Sapa?" YouTube, 2014.07.01].

I know Stan says the above comment is ancillary to his main point here... but his statement on ownership bears the whiff of wisdom.

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