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Indigenous Leaders Call for End to Discriminatory and Deadly Uranium Mining
Radioactively contaminated air, water and land has led to genocide
TAKOMA PARK, Md. - February 26 - A group of activist leaders from indigenous communities, including Native American, Australian Aboriginal and Touareg from Niger - spoke out in Washington, DC today against the disproportionate discrimination against Native peoples caused by uranium mining. The group also included a prominent French nuclear scientist and the actor, James Cromwell. They called for an end to uranium mining and the nuclear power programs uranium fuels.
Uranium mining, necessary to extract the metal ore needed to produce nuclear weapons and fuel for nuclear reactors, has, for decades, targeted both low-income and majority indigenous communities around the globe. The Navajo Nation in the American Southwest has been burdened with more than 1,300 uranium mines most of which, now closed, have never been adequately cleaned up and which have left drinking water contaminated and a legacy of fatal illnesses, particularly cancers.
In Niger, close to 140 prospective uranium mines approved by the government threaten to deplete the northern Sahara of its already scarce water supply, threatening an elimination of the traditional nomadic Touareg. The French nuclear company, Areva, has already mined uranium there for 40 years, creating widespread radioactive contamination of the air, sand and water and high incidences of cancers and pulmonary illnesses. The pattern is similar in Australia where the government is attempting to seize Aboriginal land to make way for new uranium mines.
"We have lived through the horrors of conventional mining and milling," said activist and Acoma Pueblo spokesman, Manuel Pino. "They put the Jackpile uranium mine 2,000 feet from the village where many people have died of cancer who never earned one cent from the uranium industry but were victims of where they live. Now we are told the State of New Mexico will allow a uranium mining permit on our sacred mountain, Mt. Taylor where 19 pueblos have voted to ban any form of development. We are not going to let that happen. We will fight that industry tooth and nail to the very end."
"With self-government ripped from us, we will have little choice - either mine or move into the cities," said Mitch, an aboriginal woman who has fought radioactive waste dumps and uranium mining expansion. "Short term monetary gain will leave us with long-term deadly waste for generations to come, severing cultural links to land and customary law for the sovereign owners and non-Aboriginal people alike."
Dr. Chareyron, who has studied radioactivity levels in France as well as traveling to Niger, added: "When my laboratory went to the mining towns in Niger we found radioactive scrap metal from the
uranium mill being sold on the city market; uranium contamination of drinking water that exceeded World Health Organization standards; and radioactive tailings from the uranium mill stored in the open air. The situation is equally bad in France where tailings have been paved into school playgrounds and parking lots. But the French nuclear corporation, Areva, denies in its own press release that there is any contamination from the Niger mines. This is simply not true."
"In Niger we have seen enormous profits from uranium mining go to Areva and the Niger government, while the landscape is devastated, the fauna and flora around the mines destroyed and the land, air and water contaminated with radioactive dust, gases and liquids," said Touareg activist,Sidi-Amar Taoua. "The depletion of already scarce water supplies threatens the very survival of the Touareg as well as the local communities around the mines who are already suffering the many illnesses caused by the uranium mines."
James Cromwell, who lived among the Touareg in the 1970s and is a committed campaigner for the rights of Native Americans, concluded: "Indigenous and under-privileged people around the world suffer similar fates when it comes to uranium mining. They have most often become the unwitting victims of pre-meditated atomic poisoning due to corporate greed and government complicity and have received little or no compensation or medical support."
Cromwell, Chareyron and the indigenous activists will visit elected officials on Capitol Hill on Friday, February 27 and present at a Hill briefing lunch that day from 1pm-2pm at Cannon Legislative Office Building Room 122. In the evening they will be at a screening and discussion of Poison Wind, a 37-minute documentary about Native American uranium miners showing at Busboys and Poets, 14th and V St, NW from 5:30pm-7:30pm. On Saturday, all will present at the PowerShift 2009 youth conference on climate change at the Washington DC Convention Center. The panel, at 9am, is entitled: Human Rights, Uranium Mining and an Unfolding Genocide. Press is welcome at all of these events.