Uranium Mining at the UN Committee on Sustainable Development (CSD), New York, 6 May 2010
(Among companies mining uranium in Africa are Rio Tinto at the Rossing mine in Namibia)

In the area of mining, the mining of uranium is a special issue. Uranium is heavy metal which is radioactive, toxic (chemically poisonous) and repro-toxic (toxic / dangerous for the reproduction). Its only uses are for nuclear weapons, including Depleted Uranium weapons, and for the generation of electricity through nuclear power plants.
Nuclear weapons are not desirable; many statements of politicians state that nuclear weapons should be abolished altogether. Nuclear energy is the other use of uranium; although it is often said – and advertised by the nuclear industry – to be a “saviour” from global warming, nuclear energy CANNOT contribute anything substantial to the problem of global warming; this has been shown and proven by different scientific studies.
Approximately  70% of the world’s uranium deposits are located on / under the lands of indigenous peoples. Thus, the rights of indigenous peoples, their land rights, their human rights in terms of health, securing their livelihoods and their means of subsistence, their way of life / their culture are often at stake when dealing with uranium mining.
Uranium mines leave behind huge amounts of “tailings”, radioactive waste due to the fact that uranium is contained in the ore only at 0.1 to 1 or 2 percent.  The quantity of the tailings alone is a serious problem. The tailings, which include solid tailings as well as liquid / slurry, contain approximately 80% of the original radioactivity of the ore – a cocktail of a dozen of radioactive decay products of uranium, with half lives up to 240,000 years – dangerous forever, in human terms. These tailings are in most cases left in the open, exposed to wind and rain, and radioactive and poisonous materials are contaminating the surface water, groundwater aquifers, the soil, the air, plants and produce, livestock and wild animals, the air to breathe, and will continue to do so for thousands of years into the future.
Uranium mining companies have NOT found any means to solve these problems and to dispose of their wastes in any responsible way, and they are NOT living up to their corporate social responsibility to clean up.  (In fact, companies rather ‘invest’ in PR and other activities to promote themselves as “good corporate citizens” through sponsorships, donations etc. rather than to deal with reality.)
On the contrary, many uranium mining companies have gone bankrupt after the uranium deposits were depleted – leaving their aftermath to the states / Governments to clean up; in most cases – from the US through Canada to Niger, Namibia, South Africa and to Asian states such as Kazakhstan, the companies have NOT cleaned up or provided for ANY secure methods to deal with the wastes they created.
In addition, attempts to contain the tailings have proven to be ineffective and have been shattered by all kinds of influences, from engineering faults to unforeseen events. This shows that humankind has NOT found a safe way to deal with the wastes from uranium mining, and that it is virtually impossible to deal with them in way that will assure “safety” for thousands of years.
Based on the track record of companies, as well as on the factual difficulties / impossibility to ‘contain’ uranium mining wastes safely for thousands if years, uranium mining is not – and will never be – a ‘sustainable development’.
The health effects from uranium mining to miners, people living in the vicinity of the mines, are also detrimental, as reports form mines in Namibia and Niger are showing, and reports from former uranium mines confirm the deadly impact (7,000 cases of lung cancer in Germany due to former uranium mines).
The low-level radiation material spilled / emitted  by uranium mines will affect many generations to come through damage to the DNA which is passed on from generation to generation. Thus, uranium mining is not – and will never be – a ‘sustainable development’.
At present, uranium mining is pushing ahead with  companies targeting countries in Africa – explicitly and for the simple reason that laws and regulations in countries like Australia are considered to be “too sophisticated” for them to operate. Thus, countries on the African continent are “preferred” targets – some do not have any radiation protection laws at all (e.g. Namibia) or they do not have the capacity to monitor (e.g Malawi, Niger) the mines and enforce their laws and regulations.
Uranium mining is by no means a “sustainable development”, but rather subject to  “hit and run” policies which has been controlled  by uranium mining companies all over the world for many years (as is shown by the many abandoned and un-reclaimed tailings dams evident in all  parts of the world).
Finally, in places such as Tanzania, Mali, mining activities are literally destroying existing sustainable economies:
In the Bahi region of Tanzania, referred to as “Bahi swamp”, in reality a rice-growing area, local farmers are effectively growing rice; their fields could potentially be taken over  by uranium mining companies and turned into open-pit mines for uranium – thus, destroying the livelihood of people in a country which is  struggling for food security. A few more examples of the impact of uranium mining especially on indigenous peoples:
In Namibia, the Topnaar-Nama people living in / near the Namib-Naukluft desert see their livelihood threatened by uranium mining which uses huge amounts of water pumped from the underground aquifers, bringing down the water level so that grass does not grow anymore, trees die, and their livelihood / means of subsistence is being destroyed. In Tanzania, The Wasandawi people, living as hunters and gatherers,  in the central part of the country; open-cast uranium mining will destroy their traditionally used lands, uproot their society and destroy their way of life. In Niger, uranium mining has already contaminated the groundwater (the  level of uranium in the drinking water 10 – 110 times higher than WHO standard), fossil water aquifers, non-renewable resources, have been depleted and will NEVER BE REPLENISHED.  AREVA  a French mining company, announced officially that their planned new mine (Imouraren) will have depleted the local fossil water aquifer about the same time that the uranium deposit will be exhausted – leaving local Touareg people with nothing to survive on. In Malawi, the newly opened Kayelekera Uranium Mine (Paladin Resources, Australia) has claimed the lives of  two workers even before the mine opened; the mine and its tailings pose a serious threat to Lake Malawi which is  a critical huge freshwater resource in South-East Africa, on which some 3 million people depend; the state / Government of Malawi pointed out that they do NOT have the capacity to monitor the mine, its effluents etc. independently and “trusts” the company to basically monitor itself.  The list of the short AND long-term negative impacts of uranium mining could be continued ad infinitum.
The negative and long-term impacts with NO way to resolve them at present, clearly demonstrates that uranium mining is by NO MEANS a sustainable activity. It needs to stop.
As far as South Africa is concerned, we have experienced Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and the failure to find a solution to acidic and radiotoxic uranium mine tailings impacts that demonstrate that uranium mining can never be sustainable.
More importantly, we find the end-use of uranium — namely, nuclear weapons and depleted uranium ordnance — morally reprehensible and cannot support an industry where the long-term destruction of human life is its overriding purpose. The subsequent cover-up of an overly expensive and dirty civilian nuclear power industry is an equally unacceptable by-product of the weapons industry, when so many healthier and cheaper alternatives to electricity conservation and generation exist.
We conclude that only a global ban on uranium mining, with the uranium and nuclear industry obligated to clean up affected sites, pay compensation to the victims of their activities, and the constant monitoring of the sites in question, help improve, diminish and eliminate the current crises suffered by people and the environment.
c/o Citizens For Justice-(CFJ) Friends of the Earth, Malawi,
Off Lilongwe-Blantyre Highway, Falls Estate, Plot # 57431, Post Dot Net, Box X100, Crossroads, Lilongwe, Malawi.  Phone: +2651727822 and +2651727828, Fax: +2651727826 Email: reinm@cfjmalawi.org