Uranium Mining

Uranium mining is necessary to provide the "fuel" for nuclear reactors (and also to make nuclear weapons). Historically, uranium mining has been carried out on land occupied by indigenous people - who have often also comprised the work force, and who have suffered the health and environmental consequences. High-grade uranium is a finite resource, therefore disqualifying nuclear power from consideration as renewable energy.



The uncalculated cost of "decommissioning" Canada's many uranium mines

Pat McNamara writes in Nuclear Genocide in Canada:

"Taxpayers will have to foot the bill to remediate the abandoned uranium mines in Canada whose owners simply walked away. Many other mines simply dumped their radioactive tailings in the closest lake. These radioactive tailings ponds are contaminating downstream environments. In most cases, the tailings ponds are contained with simple earthen dams. There have been more than 30 breaches of the earthen dams at Elliot Lake since they were first put in place." (excerpt from Part 4, "Nuclear Costs to Date")


"Nuclear genocide" at Serpent River First Nation, Elliot Lake, Ontario

Uranium tailings wall at Elliot Lake, leaking into Serpent River watershed. Photo by Robert Del Tredichi.In Part 1 of his book overviewing the Canadian nuclear establishment's history, Nuclear Genocide, Pat McNamara included an essay on the dozen uranium mines, and associated mills and refinery, located near Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada -- adjacent to the Serpent River First Nation. Much of the essay was taken from the book This Is My Homeland, edited by journalist, Serpent River First Nation Member, and Green Party of Canada indigenous peoples affairs spokesperson Lorraine Rekmans. As documented by Gordon Edwards and Robert Del Tredichi's Nuclear Map of Canada, 145.3 million tonnes of radioactive tailings, out of a national Canadian total of 193.2 million tonnes -- a whopping 75% -- are located at the long-shuttered Elliot Lake uranium mines, on the Serpent River watershed which flows into Lake Huron at Georgian Bay. To this day, the Elliot Lake uranium tailings are still the largest source of radium discharges into the Great Lakes, the drinking water supply for 40 million people in the U.S., Canada, and numerous Native American First Nations.


"We left them to die and hoped they would never ask any questions"

Having not been warned about known hazards, Dene men even slept on burlap bags containing uranium and radiumThese powerful words come from Andy Orkin, an Ontario lawyer who worked on behalf of the Deline First Nations people, among the very first indigenous victims of the Atomic Age. Deline, Northwest Territories, Canada is home to a traditional Dene tribe, the only indigenous people on the mighty Great Bear Lake near the Canadian Arctic. Orkin is quoted in Part 1 of Pat McNamara's Nuclear Genocide in Canada. 

The book opens by describing Port Radium, the first uranium mine in Canada, which commenced operations in 1933. Local indigenous men were hired to haul pitchblende, uranium ore containing then-coveted radium, in burlap sacks (see photos at left). Although the Canadian mines department had already alerted the federal government to the hazards, the men of Deline were not warned. They began dying of various cancers -- diseases unknown previously to the tribe -- at an alarming rate, in 1960.

Eventually, the Canadian government admitted the men's exposure to hazardous radioactive materials was to blame, but the "Village of Widows" had long since already figured that out themselves. As nuclear widow Cindy Kenny-Gilday of Deline said:

"This village of young men are the first generation of men in the history of Dene on this lake
to grow up without guidance from their grandfathers, fathers and uncles. This cultural, economic,
spiritual, emotional deprivation impact on the community is a threat to the survival of the one and only
tribe on Great Bear Lake. Itʹs the most vicious example of cultural genocide I have ever seen and it's in my own home."

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility has posted a 1998 "Call for a Federal Response to Uranium Deaths in Deline" by the Dene First Nation People of Great Bear Lake.


Sustainable Loudon fall forum on uranium mining Nov. 11

Sustainable Loudon, in conjunction with the Piedmont Environmental Council, is hosting an informational summit on the prospects of uranium mining in Virginia. The summit takes place on Friday, November 11 at the George Washington University campus in Ashburn, VA at 7pm (doors open at 6pm). Linda Pentz Gunter, international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, is one of the featured speakers. See the flier for more details.

Virginia Uranium, a company with roots in Canada, is lobbying hard to over-turn the current moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. However, uranium mining around the world has led to contamination of land, air and water and high increases in cancers and respitory illnesses. Even supposedly closed mines are not free from danger, leaving behind tailings which also enter the environment, or, in some cases, are used in everyday household items, buildings and parking lots. The forum will examine what it might mean for Loudon County if the uranium mining moratorium is lifted.


Virginia lawmakers flying to France as part of lobbying push for uranium mining

"More than a dozen Virginia legislators are flying to France this month on all-expenses paid trips as part of an aggressive lobbying effort by a company pushing lawmakers to lift a ban on uranium mining in the state.

Virginia Uranium invited nearly all 140 state lawmakers to France as it looks to mine what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States, in south central Virginia, despite concerns about unearthed radioactive material that could contaminate the area’s land, air and drinking water." Washington Post

We have a one word comment on this: junket.

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