African civil society hits back at uranium mining

From the inbox:

by Brigitte Weidlich
The Namibian
October 28, 2008
African communities are gathering to take up the fight against
international companies which are mining uranium on their land
and their own governments, as they are driven off their land,
suffer exposure to radiation and toxic waste at mining sites, a
seminar on uranium mining was informed.

“We have formed a civil society organisation and took the
Australian mining company Paladin to court,” Reinford Mwangobe
of Citizens for Justice (CFJ) told the seminar, organised by
Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research
Institute (LaRRi).

“The matter was then settled out of court and Paladin, which also
has a uranium mine in Namibia, made some concessions like
agreeing to pay US $10 million for social development projects
and clean water provision to the rural communities in the mining
area.”

Mwangobe said 12 Australian companies would start mining
uranium in Malawi soon, with Paladin starting in January 2009.

Malawi had no laws in place for handling and transporting
radioactive materials, Mwangobe added.

“Rural people who had lived for decades on their ancestral land
were kicked off and only paid US $70 as compensation.

The locals have no benefits from mining, only some government
officials and Paladin,” he stated.

“The best way to act against such companies was to take the
case to their own countries and alert shareholders who did not
want bad publicity and their share prices drop.”

A representative from Tanzania, Anthony Lyamunda, said 20
international companies were lined up for uranium mining in his
country.

His people recently started the civil society Foundation for
Environmental Management and Campaign Against Poverty
(Femapo) to help 450 000 rural people living in 786 villages in
the areas were uranium mining was taking place or planned.

“These activities are threatening our natural resources, which we
need to survive and we plan a uranium conference in the affected
regions of our country and a national one early 2009,” Lyamunda
told the 50 participants.

A member of the Topnaar community in the Namib-Naukluft Park,
where about 20 uranium-mining companies are prospecting for
uranium, attended the seminar with a member of the Nama
community from Warmbad in southern Namibia, where “heavy
drilling, prospecting and destruction” of their land took place, as
Gerald Ruiters put it.

“What will Earthlife Namibia do as civil society organisation? Will
you be able to drag these companies to court? We are living there
since the 16th century and nobody has consulted us, people just
arrive and carry out these activities,” Ruiters criticised.

Bertchen Kohrs of Earthlife said the NGO had commissioned
several studies on the environmental risks of uranium mining and
the public seminar, co-organised with LaRRi, was one of several
activities.

“We are at the start of a big uranium rush in Namibia and
campaigning activities will unfold accordingly,” Kohrs said.

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