(March 28, 1993) The Inter-Church Uranium Committee has just completed a tour to broaden the discussions in Saskatchewan about whether to expand the uranium industry here.
November 13, 1992
The tour consisted of two guests: Lance Hughes, Acting Director of a native controlled organization in Oklahoma, USA called Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE), and Dirk Jan Dullemond who took part in the European Peace Pilgrimage 1992 (EPP92) by walking 2600 miles across America to the Nevada Nuclear Weapons test site.
The purpose of the tour was simply to begin dialogue with Saskatchewan residents about these broader issues. The experience of people all along the nuclear pathway must be understood by Saskatchewan people so an informed decision regarding uranium expansion can be made.
As is often the case around the world, Indigenous people are at many stages along the nuclear pathway, and we are extremely concerned about what may await people in northern Saskatchewan when the mining has stopped, and all that is left are the radioactive tailings. We are positive the uranium companies will be gone and Saskatchewan taxpayers will be left to deal with the legacy of illness and environmental contamination.
The relationship between Saskatchewan and Oklahoma is not one we are proud of. Lance lives near a uranium conversion facility called Sequoyah Fuels, owned and operated by General Atomics. The plant makes uranium hexaflouride, which is then shipped off to other nuclear facilities for use in both civilian and military programs. Sequoyah Fuels receives 50% of its uranium from the mines of Northern Saskatchewan through the CAMECO Corporation. Because of the many years of sloppy operations at this facility, there are 21,000 pounds of uranium in the ground water surrounding the plant. The facility has operated without proper licenses for the past several years, and NACE is now involved in legal proceedings in an attempt to make the facility operate by the laws of the land. The Cherokee Nation, the second largest tribe in the US, has joined NACE in its battle to close the facility. Cherokee chiefs have sent letters asking Saskatchewan to stop sending uranium there.
Dirk Jan Dullemond spoke about the nuclear weapons testing carried out on the land of the Western Shoshone Nation for over 30 years. There have been over 900 tests conducted above and below ground by the US and Great Britain. The people there continue to experience high cancer rates directly resulting from exposure to radiation from the testing. There has been no compensation and, although the Cold War is over, the military presence is still very strong in the area. Through facilities such as Sequoyah Fuels in Oklahoma, Saskatchewan uranium makes its way into nuclear weapons, some of which are tested in the Nevada desert. The discussion here is focused on the economic benefits for the province as defined by the nuclear establishment and the business elite. Lance points out that part of uranium "economics" for the Navajo is providing compensation for the miners and their families, as well as building schools and other facilities to care for the growing number of children born mentally and physically handicapped due to radiation exposure. As well, he tells of the health survey NACE conducted in its community showing 50% of the people living near this facility have some form of cancer.
Although the tour was short, we were able to meet with several northern Tribal Councils as well as health professionals, politicians and concerned citizens organizations. Generally the response was good and it is clear that we need to continue this work. Lance was able to provide much needed information to northerners about health problems being experienced by Native Americans, particularly the Navajo in the American southwest who are now in the post uranium mining era.
We were able to spend a good part of the week at the annual NDP [New Democratic Party] convention as well. Again, many people had not considered the implications of uranium mining on people outside Saskatchewan. Lance had the opportunity to speak several times to delegates and was well received.
ICUC has made some very important contacts with individuals and organizations in the international community who are affected by Saskatchewan uranium. We will continue to facilitate exchanges with people affected by our uranium. It is absolutely essential for Saskatchewan residents to inform themselves of these connections. It is crucial for people to make oral or written presentations to the two environmental assessment review panels currently examining 12 new mines proposed for the north.
Submitted by: Stephanie Sydiah
Coordinator, ICUC/NACE/EPP92 SASK. TOUR
Coordinator, Inter-Church Uranium Committee
Contact: Inter-Church Uranium Committee, Box 7724, Saskatoon Canada, S7K 4R4, Canada
tel: +1-306-934-3030; fax: 652-8377
CALL FOR HELP FROM SASKATCHEWAN
We (the Saskatchewan Anti-Uranium Coalition) request that groups and individuals make presentations, written or videotaped, to the Uranium Development Panel (see accompanying article). Video presentations must be within 15 - 30 minutes.
Specifically, we would like presentations which deal with the experience of the nuclear industry in your communities (and personally), why you are concerned about an expansion of the uranium industry in Saskatchewan (or anywhere else for that matter), and how the Saskatchewan uranium industry specifically affects you and your community/region (if at all). Weapons connections, waste issues, Aboriginal concerns, etc. are great things to focus on.
All these mines are in the poorest region in Canada. It is also the home to Dene, Cree, Inuit, and Metis. Uranium mining must stop. We make a plea for your help. If you have any questions, please contact us.
If you decide to make a presentation, please send it to us (by mid-April!), and we will pass it on to the panel for you. The reason for the video tape idea is this: our coalition would like to collate them, copy, and distribute them ourselves throughout the province as an educational tool beyond the hearings process. You decide if and how you want to proceed, we just ask you to take part.
Source and contact: Saskatchewan Anti-Uranium Coalition, Box 7724, Saskatoon, Sask., Canada S7K 4R4; tel: +1-306-934-3030; fax: 306-652-8377.