Health of uranium miners at AREVA sites in Gabon and Niger
AREVA is a public limited company, 85% owned by the French state. It set up in Gabon and Niger, two uranium-rich countries, more than 40 years ago. It mined at the Mounana site in Gabon from 1958 until 1999 through its subsidiary COMUF, and since 1968 has mined the Arlit site in Niger through its subsidiaries SOMAÏR and COMINAK. Following the publication of two reports on the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining, Sherpa has been representing victims in talks with the organization.
In both Niger and Gabon, workers are overexposed to radiation in their worksites and from the materials used to construct hospitals, maternity hospitals, and schools, etc. Water resources are used for extraction purposes, and the surrounding area suffers as a result. Miners and their families are presenting a significant number of health problems.
Talks with AREVA began in 2009 with the signing of several agreements that included creating a health observatory. Sherpa maintained constant contact with the stakeholders for more than three years to ensure the observatory was established. Despite our following up, AREVA has shown itself reluctant to follow through on the agreement, being slow to implement the observatory and claims process. In consultation with its local and regional partners, Sherpa decided to pull out of the agreements signed with AREVA on December 18, 2012.
AREVA: de facto employer
Sherpa’s role is not entirely disconnected from the May 12, 2012, decision by the Melun tribunal aux affaires de la sécurité sociale [TASS, the social security court] about a related case. The court recognized AREVA’s responsibility as parent company for the claim made by Serge Venel, a French ex-employee of COMINAK who had developed a work-related illness during years of working outside France. The court ruled that the group had expressed interest in protecting the health of workers employed by its subsidiaries by entering into the agreements and that it had behaved as an employer on matters relating to health and safety.
Sherpa liaised with Nigerian and Gabonese civil-society groups and supported them throughout 2013 during mining contract negotiations.
Sherpa is currently working on other claims so that AREVA will have to acknowledge ownership of the situation.