Uranium mining debate
As of 2009, in terms of uranium production, Kazakhstan was the largest supplier to export markets (27%), followed by Canada (20%) and Australia (16%). Australia has 23% of the world's uranium ore reserves and the world's largest single uranium deposit, located at the Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia.
The years 1976 and 1977 saw uranium mining become a major political issue in Australia, with the Ranger Inquiry (Fox) report opening up a public debate about uranium mining. The Movement Against Uranium Mining group was formed in 1976, and many protests and demonstrations against uranium mining were held. Concerns relate to the health risks and environmental damage from uranium mining.
In 1977, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) national conference passed a motion in favour of an indefinite moratorium on uranium mining, and the anti-nuclear movement in Australia acted to support the Labor Party and help it regain office. However, after the ALP won power in 1983, the 1984 ALP conference voted in favour of a "Three mine policy".
Australia has three operating uranium mines at Olympic Dam (Roxby) and Beverley - both in South Australia's north - and at Ranger in the Northern Territory. As of April 2009, construction has begun on South Australia's fourth uranium mine—the Honeymoon Uranium Mine.
Notable anti-uranium activists include Kevin Buzzacott (Australia), Jacqui Katona (Australia), Yvonne Margarula (Australia), Jillian Marsh (Australia), Manuel Pino (USA), JoAnn Tall (USA), and Sun Xiaodi (China).
Health risks of uranium mining
Because uranium ore emits radon gas, uranium mining can be more dangerous than other underground mining, unless adequate ventilation systems are installed. During the 1950s, many Navajos in the U.S. became uranium miners, as many uranium deposits were discovered on Navajo reservations. A statistically significant subset of these early miners later developed small cell carcinoma after exposure to uranium ore. Radon-222, a natural decay product of uranium, has been shown to be the cancer-causing agent. Some American survivors and their descendants received compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in 1990.
In January 2008 Areva was nominated for an Anti Oscar Award. The French state-owned company mines uranium in northern Niger where mine workers are not informed about health risks, and analysis shows radioactive contamination of air, water and soil. The local organization that represents the mine workers, spoke of "suspicious deaths among the workers, caused by radioactive dust and contaminated groundwater."
- Nuclear power debate
- Nuclear weapons debate
- The Return of Navajo Boy
- Church Rock uranium mill spill
- The Navajo People and Uranium Mining
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