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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Uranium Special Edition

(362-3.introduction) WISE Amsterdam

(December 6, 1991) - This double issue of the News Communiquedeals with uranium mining. No attempt has been made at being comprehensive. Information is included on Australia, Eastern and Western Europe, India, Japan, Canada, the U.S., and the U.S.S.R. It is with great regret that more regions are not included, particularly South America and China, and more aspects of the problem are not examined. The health effects on miners, for example, is a topic left out.

Uranium mines, both operating and closed, are wrecking havoc in many parts of the world. Resistance against uranium mining can be found locally almost everywhere mining is taking place. Of the many current protest campaigns against existing uranium mines, detailed profiles of only two are given. They have been chosen not only because of their importance but also because of their very different natures. The Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) divestiture/annual general meeting campaign can be described as a longterm, small scale project. The World Uranium Hearing (WUH) is more of a short-term, large scale project. The RTZ campaign does not give a high profile to mass media celebrities, whereas the WUH does. These different styles each have their place and need not compete with each other. In fact, there is great potential for cooperation. Every bit of resistance helps.

Resource and contact lists are also included here. Neither is comprehensive nor even extensive. Rather, resources and contacts relevant to the regional reports have been included, as well as recently produced written and audiovisual materials.

A global overview of the production status of mines is not included. For information on the current status of uranium mines, including those open, closed, and under construction, see "Uranium Demand, Supply And Prices: 1991-2000" by Greenpeace International and "World Nuclear Industry Handbook 1991" by Nuclear Engineering International (NEI) (both listed in the "Resources" section). NEI also lists most company addresses.

The waste management practices and health regulations at uranium mines in western countries could be a lot better, to put it mildly. The situation, however, in Eastern Europe, the third world, and the U.S.S.R. is shockingly worse. In Colorado, U.S.A., uranium mine tailings have been removed from urban sites to try and limit contamination. At Pribram, Czecho-Slovakia people live beside uranium mine tailings and no remedial action is being taken. In the Jaduguda uranium mining region of India, tailings are dumped into waterways bordering farms. In many Third World countries, not even the token settling pond systems used in the west are in place. In Canada, uranium mine workers have at least been paid and had the opportunity to organize in unions. In Poland, up until the late 1970's, military conscripts worked in uranium mines with minimal protective clothing and got token salaries.

Mining advocates often use the argument that old practices of dealing with uranium mine and mill waste were poor, but no longer used. The main difference is usually instead of directly dumping wastes into lakes and streams, part of the waste water is recycled and the rest, along with all the solid waste, is dumped into temporary holding ponds. The distance the wastes spread may be limited, but the wastes are produced nonetheless and some contamination occurs.