Community Stories from the IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grant Program

Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Western Mining Action Network (WMAN)

Community Stories from the Mining Mini-Grant Program

Community Stories is a rotating news feature that highlights how the IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grants have helped Indigenous communities and non-profit, grassroots community organizations that are threatened or adversely affected by mining. All Mining Mini-Grants are stories of success, even though challenges remain and the work continues.

If you would like your Mini-Grant project highlighted in a future news feature, please contact us:

Black Hills Clean Water Alliance, South Dakota, U.S.

In 2019, the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance received an IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grant to address our funding needs at a time when we were overwhelmed with EPA hearings, comment deadlines, and other activities around gold exploration and proposed uranium mining in the Black Hills. The grant helped us prepare for and participate in EPA hearings about the agency’s revised draft water permits for the Dewey-Burdock uranium project. To prepare, we printed materials, did newspaper and social media advertising, put out messages through our e-mail listserv and Facebook page, held several meetings, rented a hall, purchased food, and rented vans to bring people to the hearing. At the EPA hearing on October 5, 2019, at least 200 people attended and 78 people gave verbal comments over 7 hours. They ranged from about 11 years old to mid-80s, came from across the region, were Lakota and non-Indian, and were from all walks of life. All 78 speakers were against the proposed mining. At the 2017 hearings on these permits, 92% of the speakers were against the proposal, so we are making progress! The grant helped us make a clear statement that people oppose uranium mining and deep disposal wells in the Black Hills, as well as allowing us to further educate the public on the project. Stay updated on our work through our website Blog and Facebook.

Nez Perce Tribe, Idaho, U.S.

In 2020, the Nez Perce Tribe used the IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grant to continue gaining mining technical expertise through the hiring of a mining engineer. The Tribe needs mining technical knowledge in order to fully understand and evaluate the potential impact of Perpetua Resources proposed mining project – the Stibnite Gold Project (“Project”) – on the Tribe’s treaty-reserved resources on the Payette National Forest in the South Fork Salmon River (“SFSR”) watershed. The proposed large-scale, open-pit gold and antimony mine could have significant adverse effects to the fish, wildlife, the area’s hydrologic regime, air quality, road access, and cultural resources.

The SFSR watershed is within the Tribe’s aboriginal territory, where the Tribe holds treaty-reserved hunting, fishing, gathering, and pasturing rights. The Tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resources Management, Watershed Division has been implementing habitat restoration work in the SFSR watershed for the past 12 years, in an effort to increase the number of Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook salmon (Nacòx) and steelhead (Hey-ey).

The Tribe has worked hard to bring back Nacòx in harvestable numbers, in part due to the fact that historic mining pollution led to the extirpation of Nacòx directly downstream of the proposed Project site. The East Fork South Fork Salmon River continues to have elevated levels of heavy metals, notably arsenic and mercury from historic mining activities at the Project site. The metals concentrations in the river currently exceed the human-health-based water quality criterion (USGS 2015) at the proposed Project site.

The Tribe would like to sincerely thank both the Indigenous Environmental Network and Western Mining Action Network for providing it with the opportunity to contract with an experienced, professional mining engineer to help provide meaningful technical comments to the Payette Forest Service on this Project. Watch the video Dig for the Truth to learn more about Nez Perce Tribe’s work to protect this watershed.

Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, Canada and US

In 2018, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council received an IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grant that enabled us to partner with the Indigenous communities of Rampart, Tanana and Ruby to collect water and sediment samples at eight abandoned, one developing, and one active mine site.

Maryann Fidel near Rampart, Alaska in 2018 with Yvonne Woods, the Environmental Coordinator.

The area traveled has a long history of mining and includes portions of the Rampart, Hot Springs, Melozitna and Ruby Mining Districts. Staff traveled by canoe to these communities and held Taking Circles with community members about mining in their area and collected water and sediment samples for analysis. The ongoing work of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council and helpful resources for communities facing mining issues can be found on our website mining page.

Patagonia Area Resource Alliance, Arizona, U.S.

Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (PARA) is organized to stop environmental destruction in the Patagonia Mountains, Canelo Hills, and San Rafael Valley. The major threats to our environment are the proposed large industrial mining sites in the Patagonia Mountains, including a major project owned by South 32, a global mining company based in Australia. In 2020, PARA used the IEN-WMAN Mining Mini-Grant to launch an education campaign to educate the public about mining issues, including developing the “Mining Myths: Fact-checking the Extractive Industry” available on our website. This campaign was very successful in bringing public awareness to the issues of industrialized mining in our region.