Greenpeace alerts WHO over Areva Niger mines

6th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Greenpeace on Thursday reported French nuclear group Areva to the World Health Organisation, accusing it of endangering the local population with radioactive waste from its uranium mines in Niger.

The environmental pressure group sounded the alarm last month over Areva's two mine sites at Arlit and Akokan in northwestern Niger, saying waste was contaminating the soil, air and water in the region.

The WHO is "competent on health issues and we want it to look into the problem," a spokesman for Greenpeace Switzerland told a news conference in Geneva Thursday.

"We hope they will make their own independent investigation and call on Areva to take action," added Rianne Teule a nuclear expert at Greenpeace which is calling for a thorough inquiry into safety standards at the Niger sites.

Half of Areva's uranium comes from Niger, one of Africa's poorest countries despite being the world's third uranium producer, where the company has been mining since the late 1960s.

The world leader in nuclear energy, and Niger's top employer, Areva has struck a deal to start tapping a third mine in the desert nation from 2013 or 2014.

Greenpeace carried out on-site tests in Arlit and Akokan last November, in partnership with the France-based Research and Independent Information on Radioactivity Commission (CRIIRAD) and Niger's Network of Organisations for Transparency and Budgetary Analysis (ROTAB).

It says its research showed abnormal concentrations of uranium in the soil, as well as of radon, a radioactive natural gas in air, while radioactive scrap metal from the mines was available for sale at local markets.

The tests were carried out around the mines as well as in mining villages, located several kilometres (miles) away and home to 80,000 people.

Areva said in January it would before the end of the year carry out a general inspection of its Niger sites to ensure the population was not exposed to radioactivity.

© 2010 AFP

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