Livlihoods of indigenous Sami threatened by radioactive and chemical pollution from the lifting of the ban on uranium mining in Sweden.
The UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and Lakes against the Nuclear Dump have been joined by activists from twelve anti-nuclear campaign groups in a letter to organisations representing the Sami people of Sweden offering support in their fight against uranium mining.
A ban on uranium exploration, mining and processing in Sweden came into force on 1 August 2018 but, last month, Swedish Climate Minister Romina Pourmokhtari announced that the ban would be lifted and that ten new nuclear reactors would be built over the next twenty years. In the face of international and domestic criticism, the centre-right government has since reined in the commitment to new nuclear by talking instead of a vague commitment to developing ‘green power’, but there has been no roll-back on uranium mining.
Sweden accounts for 80% of the European Union’s uranium deposits and already extracts uranium as a waste product when mining for other metals. Foreign companies, including Aura Energy and District Metals, have already expressed an interest in exploiting reserves. Even if the new government’s nuclear hopes come to naught, there will still be a ready export market for any output. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has made the surety of uranium supply from Russia and its allies uncertain and the recent military takeover in uranium-producing Niger has shaken the market; consequently, pro-nuclear European nations will be looking for any stable source from a neighbour.
The correspondents fear that any resumption of uranium mining will come at a heavy price to the traditional lands and lifestyles of the Indigenous Sami People, with a degradation of their natural environment and their health. The Sami (or Saami) inhabit the region of Sápmi, which embodies the most Northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and North West Russia, and are best known for their reliance upon semi-nomadic reindeer herding.
Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, Chair of the NFLA’s Steering Committee, said: “Sadly the world over, uranium mining has been, and still is, often visited upon Indigenous People in their Traditional Lands by large, profit-hungry corporations. In addition, national governments have chosen their lands to carry out nuclear weapons testing and nuclear waste dumping. The impact has been enormous – the lands of Indigenous People have been poisoned, their health destroyed and their culture and traditional way of life decimated.
“Sweden has signed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People pledging to defend the lands and lifestyle of the Sami, but the decision to resume uranium mining could, if left unchallenged, lead to their destruction. In sending this collective letter, we, the British and Irish local authorities opposed to nuclear power, with British anti-nuclear groups and activists are pledging ourselves as allies in this fight”.
Co-sponsor, Marianne Birkby, founder of LAND, Lakes against the Nuclear Dump, added: “Here in Cumbria, we feel so much empathy for the Sami people who have had no say whatsoever in the opening-up of Sweden’s wild areas to the devastation of uranium mining.
“In the UK, we have no uranium mining, but plenty of nuclear plants. We are constantly told that nuclear power is ‘clean’ and ‘home-grown’. This blatant lie is the means by which Sami lands are put under pressure for new uranium mining exploitation in areas where it was previously, and quite rightly, banned as being too destructive to the health of people and planet”.
“This lie of ‘clean nuclear’ is the means by which Indigenous people, whether in Cumbria or in Sweden, whether at the waste end or the fuel end of the nuclear industry, are being exploited by the most toxic industry there is without even a ‘by your leave’. We stand in solidarity with the Sami in saying NO – NO MORE!”
For more information, please contact NFLA Secretary Richard Outram by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
The letter sent to Sami organisations dated 12 September reads:
Mr Aslat Holmberg, President of the Saami Council email@example.com
Ms Asa Larsson Blind, Vice-President of the Saami Council firstname.lastname@example.org
National Union of Swedish Sami People email@example.com
National Confederation of Swedish Sami Inbox.firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 12 September 2023
We are writing to you as representatives of UK/Ireland based non-government organisations opposed to nuclear power to express our solidarity with you following the recent announcement that the Swedish Government intends to lift the moratorium on uranium mining in Sweden.
We recognise that this is a decision which will, should mining resume, have an unwelcome and negative impact on the lives of the noble Indigenous Saami / Sami People and a retrograde impact upon the natural environment.
This unwarranted announcement goes against the commitments made by Sweden as a signatory to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People namely to honour:
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.
Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories, and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
Indigenous peoples have the right to conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories, and resource.
Sadly, the foolish and selfish pursuit of nuclear power as a source of energy, and, for some nations, nuclear weapons as a source of military power, has led all too often to the destruction of the lands and lives of Indigenous Peoples.
Throughout the world, in countries as far apart as Algeria, Australia, Kazakhstan, the United States and the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, we have seen and continue to see the tragic impact of these criminal enterprises, which involve uranium mining, nuclear waste dumping, and nuclear weapons testing.
These activities must not continue and must always be challenged.
We were proud to stand with the Barngarla Aboriginal People of South Australia in backing their campaign to oppose a monstrous plan to locate a nuclear waste dump in their Traditional Lands.
That campaign was successful – it represents an enormous victory for Indigenous People everywhere.
If, and when, uranium mining rears its ugly head in Sweden, we shall be proud to stand with the Saami / Sami People in opposing it, albeit with the modest resources in our possession but with a huge contribution of passion by way of compensation.
And together we shall be honoured to work with you to seek a second victory.
Please do let us know how we might support you in this fight. We stand ready.
Thank you for reading this letter. We would welcome your comments in response. Please reply by email to NFLA Secretary Richard Outram at email@example.com
Yours in Solidarity
Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, Chair, UK / Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Steering Committee
Marianne Birkby, Founder and Coordinator, Lakes against the Nuclear Dump (LAND)
Tor Justad, Chairperson, Highlands against Nuclear Power (HANP)
Katy Attwater, Member, Stop Hinkley
Dr Jill Sutcliffe, Chair, Low Level Radiation and Health Conference, set up by members of the public in 1985.
Richard Bramhall, Company Secretary, the Low-Level Radiation Campaign
Elfed Jones, Administrator, ICAN. We can. Cymru Can
Linda Clare Rogers, Bangor and Ynys Mon Peace and Justice Group
Gwyneth Clapham, B.A.(Wales), Member, PAWB (People against Wylfa B)
Deilwen Evans, Chair, CADNO (The Society for the Prevention of Everlasting Nuclear Destruction)
Dr Paul Dorfman, Chair, Nuclear Consulting Group
Rosemari Heaney, Member, PAWB
Prof. Andrew Blowers OBE, Chairman, Blackwater against New Nuclear Group (BANNG)
Varrie Blowers, Member, BANNG
Peter Banks, Member, BANNG
Shirley Swan, Member, BANNG
Together Against Sizewell C
Jill Evans, Chair, CND Cymru
Sue Aubrey, Chair, Stop Hinkley Campaign