February 28, 2009

Activists Urge US Legislators To End Uranium Mining

Activists, including a French scientist, a US actor, indigenous people from Africa, Australia and the US have gathered to issue a warning to US lawmakers against uranium mining.

"We want US lawmakers to understand that uranium mining is highly pollutant and that there is currently no scientific answer to the question of radioactive waste containment," Bruno Chareyron of France's CRIIRAD laboratory, which measures radioactivity in the environment, told AFP Friday.

"We want them to know that the information they are given by the mining companies is not wholly reliable," he said.

Representatives from the Tuareg nomads of Niger, Native Americans and Australian Aborigines warned the US that uranium mining could have detrimental affects to their communities.

Last month, French company Areva applied for US government approval to build a $3.08 billion uranium enrichment plant in the northwestern state of Idaho.

Areva has been mining uranium for more than 40 years with "no regard for the environment, people's health, animals," said Sidi-Amar Taoua, a Tuareg who now lives in the US.

"Uranium mining has impacted every area and sparked a war between the Tuareg who took up arms to defend their land, and the government, which is complicit with Areva," he said.

In 2005, uranium prices began to rise. In response, the Navajo passed a law banning the mining or processing of uranium on their lands.

Native American lands in the southwestern United States have been the site of more than 1,300 uranium mines. But Native American environmental activist Manny Pino said the mines have far-reaching impacts on the drinking water, leading to cancer and kidney disease among people in the region.

"In this process of nuclear renaissance, it's almost like the federal government is ignoring the historical legacy of uranium mining in the past and prioritizing the economic benefits of nuclear power in the future at the expense of our land, our water and our people," he told AFP.

In 2007, the price of uranium reached near $140 per pound, sparking the interest of mining companies once again.

Actor James Cromwell said 70 percent of uranium rich areas are located on land inhabited by low-income indigenous communities.


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