U: Mining whistleblower surfaces in Yorktown

Greg Harman

[email protected]

Roland Burrows worked for Uranium Resources, Inc., as a wellfield operator at the Kingsville Dome in-situ uranium mine in Ricardo, Texas, back in 1996.

He says the company at the time was regularly flushing high volumes of water into the mine field that would have expanded groundwater pollution beyond its permitted area, posing a potential future risk to the residents of Kingsville.

He says he repeatedly tried to correct operating practices that appeared to be geared toward increasing uranium production at the expense of containing toxic pollution within the portion of the aquifer being mined. He claims also to have witnessed the falsification of monitoring-well data, which must be regularly submitted to the state to show the contaminated water is contained at the mine site.

One morning he was out shutting down some of the wells about 45 minutes before sunrise when a crop duster spraying an adjacent field dropped a load of malathion on him. He quickly showered, changed his clothes, and returned to work, where he promptly passed out.

While he was eventually able to return to work at light duty, he was fired for his repeated efforts to change the way the mine was operating.

Burrows says he tried at the time to get the TNRCC (now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and the FBI involved, to no avail. After being fired, he filed a racial discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.

While the company's then engineering manager, Harry Anthony, has failed to return several phone calls from the Current to date, Anthony responded to the discrimination complaint in writing on December 19, 1996.

He wrote:

If Mr. Burrows was treated any differently than other employees it was in the area of medical disability treatment and extensive medical examinations that he received from the company after an alleged agricultural spraying incident caused by outside neighboring farm activities.

Soon after this, Burrows moved to Yorktown to help take care of wife's grandmother. Then he found out Anthony had started working with an outfit called the Uranium Energy Corp and was trying to open a mine in neighboring Goliad County. `See “Undermining South Texas,” October 3, 2007, etc.`

Burrows is now preparing revive his past thorn-in-the-side status by fighting the company's permit application, which is already on the way to a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings early in 2010.

In Kingsville, URI's operation is now running on a skeleton crew, thanks to the economic downturn. Of it, Burrows says: “I know there's 10 million gallons that won't ever get cleaned up that's headed for the Kingsville water supply.”

And Goliad?

“Mining cannot be done there safely in my opinion,” he says.

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