STP demands proof of origin for uranium used in German power plants: Uranium mining contaminates areas where indigenous peoples live!

Anti-nuclear demonstration in Neckarwestheim (Mar. 12, 2011)

The day before an anti-nuclear human chain from Neckarwestheim to Stuttgart is formed, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) issues a reminder that people are faced with huge health risks even at the very beginning of the uranium cycle. "Most uranium mines are located in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, such as the Adivasi in India, the Tuareg in Niger, the Aborigines in Australia and the Lubicon Cree in Canada," reported the Göttingen-based international human rights organization on Friday. "For them, this highly sought-after resource has become a curse: their land is irradiated and their water is contaminated. The people sicken and die young. Many children are born with deformities." The STP is calling for proof of origin to be provided with all uranium delivered to German nuclear power plants and a system of regulations – one that meets German standards – for protection of the populations living in uranium mining areas.

"Now that they have extended the operating periods for nuclear power plants, the German government must finally take steps to ensure that Germany uses only uranium which has verifiably been mined under full observance of strict measures for the protection of people and the environment," says the Head of the Indigenous Peoples Section, Yvonne Bangert. To date, German energy providers do not disclose details indicating in which countries the uranium for their nuclear power plants is mined. Some of it apparently comes from Kazakhstan, while some is obtained through French energy companies – which in turn are involved in uranium mining in several countries, including Niger, Canada and the autonomous Inuit region Nunavut.

More than 70 percent of the world's uranium reserves are in regions in which indigenous peoples live. The Tuareg's land in Niger, for example, has been contaminated by radiation through uranium mining. In some of their settlements the radiation levels are hundreds of times over the acceptable limits. The ground water is contaminated as well. In Australia, the planned expansion of uranium mines threatens the Mirrar Aborigines. The incidence of cancer among Lakota Indians in the US is alarmingly high. In some parts of their traditional homelands, the groundwater has been poisoned by countless small uranium mines and bore holes that lie open and unsecured. Adivasi in India work as simple laborers without protective clothing, handling uranium drums and breaking down ore-containing rock in the mines. Highly toxic dust and mining residues contaminate the fields and rivers. Others as well, including Inuit in Canada, Sami in Sweden, Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians in China, Papua in West Papua/Indonesia and indigenous peoples in Vietnam, are endangered by the mining of uranium.

Indigenous peoples almost everywhere are exposed, without protection, to the devastating consequences of uranium mining. Most of them do not even know how dangerous it is to work in a mine or live near a mining dump. The mine operators often cut costs by failing to implement expensive safety measures, and profit from cheap labor while refusing to bear any responsibility for the lives and health of the workers. That is why the STP organized an initial meeting between an Adivasi spokesperson from India and the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection to gather information and discuss safety measures.