Posts Tagged ‘Korallen’

Global: Klimawandel in der Südsee – schon heute eine Frage von Leben und Tod

Montag, Juli 19th, 2010


By Sonia Smallacombe

Kiribati (Photo taken by Roisterer/Wikipedia).

Indigenous peoples in the Pacific region are among the first to face the direct adverse consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon and close relationship with the environment and its resources. While they are amongst the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, they are also amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their small size, coastal populations, high dependence on natural resources and the low-lying nature of their lands. As a result, indigenous peoples in many Pacific Island countries feel particularly helpless. Further, they realize that there are climate change threats that cannot be reduced, mitigated or eliminated and they are therefore forced to accept that adaptation is the only responsive option available to them.

Impacts of climate change

On average, more than 90% of the population of the Pacific region are indigenous. This includes Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Rapa Nuie (Easter Island), Papua New Guinea etc. Most of the Pacific region comprises small island states and indigenous peoples are heavily impacted by climate-induced warming: their islands are inundated by rising sea levels, increasing erosion occurs from intense storms, and saltwater intrudes into freshwater supplies. These changes are affecting livelihood activities such as hunting and fishing, and impacting on island infrastructure, access to water resources, food and housing availability, and even the very health of indigenous peoples. There is also concern that climate change will result in revenue loss across important economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, tourism, energy and other industry-related sectors.

Rising sea levels

Many Pacific Islands have low land masses and, as a result of the rise in sea levels, are experiencing damage to buildings and infrastructure. Crops and causeways linking villages are being flooded, forcing cars, buses and trucks to drive through seawater. This has been particularly noticeable in Kiribati and a number of other small Pacific Island nations, which could completely disappear beneath the waves at some point this century. The small island of Tebua in Tarawa used to be a landmark for fishermen but today it is knee-deep under water. Kiribati suffers the effects of king tides that wash through the islands from one side to the other with great ease. It is now a common factor in Kiribati to have king tides with waves 2.8 metres in height.[1]
High tides and stormy seas have also recently caused problems in the Marshall Islands, Cook Island, Tuvalu and low-lying islands of Papua New Guinea. In Tuvalu, fresh groundwater mixes with salty seawater, forcing some farmers to grow their root crops in tin containers. These damaging effects of climate change are likely to intensify if sea levels rise as predicted.

Damage to Pacific ecosystems

In the Pacific region, environmental changes are prominent on islands where volcanoes build and erode; coral atolls submerge and reappear and the islands’ biodiversity is in flux. The region has suffered extensively from human-made disasters and hazards resulting from nuclear testing, pollution including shipping-related pollution, hazardous chemicals and hazardous wastes (Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs), and solid waste management and disposals. These issues, as well as the threats of climate change, have severely affected the ability of island ecosystems to maintain a healthy and pristine environment for the economic, social and cultural viability of indigenous communities.[2]
   Warmer temperatures have led to the bleaching of the Pacific Islands’ main source of survival – the coral reefs. Bleaching occurs when reef-building corals, reacting to stress such as warmer waters, loosen the algae that help feed them. Because the algae give them colour, the starved corals look pale, hence the term “bleaching”. Continued bleaching ultimately kills corals. Reef-building corals provide most of the primary productivity of coral reefs and are also an important shelter for a diversity of marine organisms. Reduced abundance and diversity of reef-building corals is thus very likely to have a major influence on the surrounding biodiversity. Coral reefs are home to much of the seafood that is enjoyed by indigenous peoples in the region.[3]

Food and water security

Agriculture in the Pacific region, especially in small island states, is becoming increasingly vulnerable due to heat stress on plants and salt water incursions. Crops with low tolerance to climate hazards such as bananas, one of the main staple crops, are severely threatened. Soil erosion from destructive wave activity, frequent storm surges and landslides causes land loss to many indigenous communities. Plantations and livestock are the major sources of subsistence farming, and are now faced with serious threats from new diseases and pests linked to flooding, drought and other climatic variations. Threats to food security are thus of great concern to the region.
   A significant impact of climate change and climate variability on indigenous peoples in the Pacific region is unreliable water availability. In many places, there is often a lack of water storage systems such as water tanks. If improvements were made to water supplies and accessibility systems, indigenous peoples would not have to rely on unpredictable and untreated river sources. Hence, sustainable water sources, maintaining and improving water quality and minimizing the spread of water-borne diseases is an important issue for indigenous peoples in the Pacific.


Some 2,000 miles to the west of the Pacific is Australia, which is experiencing the worst drought in 100 years, even with the flooding that occurred in late 2007 and early 2008. Scientists are not certain that climate change is to blame but it is the most popular theory. One concern is that when there is rain in the northeast coastal regions, soil washes into the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef. This process is damaging the coral, and warmer waters are also killing parts of the reef.

Carbon emissions trading

In the Pacific, like in most other regions, indigenous peoples are not only affected by climate change but also by the initiatives developed to address it. Carbon emissions trading is an area of concern for many indigenous peoples. At the same time, however, some indigenous peoples see the potential economic benefits of taking part in carbon trading projects, especially when indigenous communities have already developed, over thousands of years, sustainable, neutral and carbon negative livelihoods. A unique agreement, which claims to be the first of its kind in the world, was recently negotiated in Australia. In June 2007,
when a giant new natural gas refinery was constructed in Darwin, ConocoPhillips agreed to pay the Aboriginal people of the Western Arnhem Land region of Australia AUD 1 million (USD 850,000) per year, for 17 years, to offset 100,000 tons of the refinery’s own greenhouse emissions (The Western Arnhem Fire Management Agreement). The Aboriginal people concerned will use traditional fire management practices, which have been scientifically shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as compared to naturally occurring wildfires.[4]
   Carbon trading continues to be a hugely contentious issue, however, mainly due to its inherent problems. The main concern is that, while companies do not have to actually reduce their emissions, they can pay other companies and groups, mostly from nonindustrialized countries, to reduce emissions or to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and thus account for these as their own reductions. The big benefit to companies is that, when paying others, they pay only a fraction of what they would need to invest at home to achieve the same goal.[5]

Adapting to climate change through migration

As people begin to feel the heavy impact of climate change on the quality of life in the Pacific, migration will become a major issue, particularly as a result of flooding from the rising sea level. Forced adaptation is already underway, with some communities being displaced from their traditional lands and territories due to coastal and land erosion caused by large stormdriven waves. Dislocation is already a reality in Samoa and Vanuatu, where flooding from extreme weather and rising sea levels have become the norm and thus have serious implications for people residing in the region. People living in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville atoll island of Cartaret have asked to be moved to higher ground on the mainland. The people of Sikaiana Atoll in the Solomon Islands have also been migrating away from their atoll, primarily to Honiara, the capital. Similarly, there has been internal migration from the outer islands of Tuvalu to the capital, Funafuti. In the case of Tuvalu, this migration has brought almost half of the national population to Funafuti atoll, with the inherent negative environmental consequences, including an intensified demand for local resources.[6] New Zealand has agreed to take 75 Tuvaluans per year, in a slow evacuation process of the island.
   Migration as a solution is, however, highly problematic. It is a violation of the right of countries to exist as peoples, a threat to cultures and tradition, causes loss of lives, loss of biodiversity, loss of spiritual connectivity and loss of settlement.[7] It is therefore crucial that the issue of “environmental refugees” is seriously discussed and that indigenous peoples become genuinely involved in designing and implementing responses to climate change.

Adapting by applying traditional knowledge

Traditional knowledge and practices are important to sustaining and managing the environment. In a coastal village on Vanua Levu, Fiji, the philosophy of vanua (which refers to the connection of people with the land through their ancestors and guardian spirits) has served as a guiding principle for the management and sustainable use of the rainforest, mangrove forest, coral reefs and village gardens.
   In other parts of the Pacific, indigenous peoples have supported mangrove conservation along the coastline to protect against natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis. It is seen as a cheaper undertaking than seawalls, which are funded from external sources. Mangrove conservation involves the community in the management process as well as the inclusion of women in the replanting activities. Other activities include the provision of a water drainage system as well as banning tree clearing. However, it is recognized in the Pacific that enhancing adaptive capacity involves more than local options, which will only be successful if they are integrated with other strategies such as disaster preparation, land-use planning, environmental conservation and national plans for sustainable development.[8]
   Grants from United Nations agencies, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), promote the development and dissemination of appropriate crops and technologies in the Pacific region. The merging of indigenous and atoll technologies through action research and documentation is designed to support agriculture and fisheries. A similar activity, managed by the Solomon Island Development Trust, is due to take place through a small grant from IFAD’s Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility (IPAF). Indigenous populations will be assisted to improve post-crisis resilience by merging traditional with scientific knowledge.
   Institutional barriers that prevent adaptation exist in the Pacific region. For example, adaptive capacity and resilience in the Pacific is hampered by limited resources and lack of access to technology. On the other hand, the application of traditional knowledge and past experiences has been strengthened in various ways, such as the implementation of traditional marine social institutions, as exemplified in the Ra’ui in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. This is an effective conservation management tool aimed at improving coral reef health. Indigenous peoples’ ecological knowledge and customary sea tenure is also integrated with marine and social science to conserve some of the wildlife, such as the bumphead parrotfish in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Changes in sea tenure, back to more traditional roles, have also taken place in Kiribati.[9]

What needs to be done

While there is scientific consensus, notably through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with regard to the threats that climate change poses, governments have been slow to respond. The vulnerability of the whole Pacific region to disasters poses a real threat to achieving economic stability, social development, environment conservation and cultural diversity. In September 2007, Mr. Elisara-La’ulu, Director of Ole Siosimaga Society (OLSSI) in Samoa, said that bystanders who knew that the world was in crisis but did nothing were just as bad as the architects of the crisis. He urged government leaders to ask indigenous peoples about the effects of climate change before taking any decisions, and that indigenous peoples should not act when under pressure from global processes driven by big governments.[10] During a meeting in April 2008, Mr. Elisara noted that:

For us Pacific peoples, the discussion on climate change is not just a theoretical issue that we talk about when we come to these global meetings! It is there and we see the effects in our daily lives. For us it is a matter of life and death! In many cases we have to decide whether to stay on our islands or leave our homes. As sovereign countries, our rights as countries are protected under the Charter of the United Nations. We plead accountability against those causing these violations of our rights to exist as peoples, as countries, and as sovereign nations. Someone must bear responsibility for our demise when we lose our cultures, when our traditional ways of lives are trashed, and we are denied our freedom to exist as peoples. This is an issue of climate justice that we are calling for here and will continue to do so in every opportunity that comes our way![11]

There are two important issues that some of the small island states, such as Samoa, are highlighting. The first issue is the importance of allowing communities themselves to prioritize and pursue their adaptation needs. Community representatives need to work with policymakers to identify solutions that take account of cultural values in order to protect the livelihood and well-being of indigenous peoples. The second issue is the urgent need to put early warning systems in place to ensure that indigenous communities have the information they need to respond to each hazard and potential threat. This in turn will go some considerable way towards implementing sustainable community activities to adapt to, and minimize, the adverse impacts of climate change.
   At the Pacific Regional Civil Society Organization Forum held in Tonga in October 2007, the following recommendations were made:

• That regional contingency plans be developed to accommodate environmental refugees in a manner that maintains their national identity and indigenous cultural integrity;
• Engage indigenous peoples’ organizations in the development of programmes that involve measures to deal with the effects of climate change;
• Promote forest conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy; and
• Involve indigenous peoples in programs that support community-level mitigation and aptation measures and, at the same time, recognize the value of the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, which has enabled them to maintain and interact with their environment in a sustainable way.[12]



[1] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[2] Ema G. Tagicakibau. Pollution in Paradise: The Impact of Nuclear Testing and Radio-Active Pollution on Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific and Strategies for Resolution. Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, August 2007.
[3] Robert W. Buddemeier, Joan A. Kleypas, Richard B. Aronson. Coral Reefs and Global Climate Change: Potential Contributions of Climate Change to Stresses on Coral Reef Ecosystems. Pew Centre, January 2004, page 25.
[4] Victo Mugarura. Aborigines burn the way to climate control. BBC, September 18, 2007
[5] D. Wysham. A Carbon Rush at the World Bank. Foreign Policy in Focus, February 2005. See
[6] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group 2: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2007, page 708.
[7] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[8] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group 2: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2007, page 709.
[9] Ibid, page 708.
[10] Meetings Coverage, DPI/NGO Annual Conference, NGO/626, PI/1794, Department of Public Information, UN, New York, 6 September 2007.
[11] Fiu Mataese Elisara. Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples. A Pacific presentation during the International Expert Group Meeting on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change, Darwin, Australia April 2-4, 2008.
[12] Communiqué of the Pacific Regional Civil Society Organization Forum held in Tonga in October 2007, pages 4-5.


Sonia Smallacombe is a member of the Maramanindji people in the Daly River region of the Northern Territory in Australia. She is currently working in the United Nations Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and is the focal person on climate change.
   The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations or the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.”


(Quelle: Indigenious Affairs.)



Eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Artikels finden Sie in der Zeitschrift “Bumerang” – und diese wiederum in unserer Bücherei.

Indigene Völker protestieren gegen Uran-Abbau

Donnerstag, Juni 3rd, 2010

“Two statements to UN CSD on Indigenous Peoples & uranium

Published Date: 29-05-2010
Source: Statement
Source Date: 06-05-2010

The following are two civil society statements to the May 2010 UN Commission on Sustainable Development. One of the themes of the meeting was on mining, and its contribution to sustainable development [sic]. There were a number of presentations from multiple stakeholder groups, and two of them (one presented on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples group and another submitted on uranium) are published below.

Next year’s meeting in May 2011 will come up with policy recommendations on the subject. You can find out more, including access to other papers, at

Presentation from Indigenous Peoples Group to UN CSD on thematic session on mining

CSD18 Review Session, Interactive Panel: Thematic Session on Mining 6 May 2010 UN Headquarters, New York Mining and Sustainable Development

Victoria Tauli Corpuz Member, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Executive Director, Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education)


The topic of this thematic section is on the potential contribution of mining to sustainable development. I would like to address this issue from the perspective of indigenous peoples and also from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

I am an Igorot from the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. My region is where large scale gold, silver and copper mining has been taking place since the 1900s, during the American colonial period, and continues up to the present under the postcolonial governments. Until the early 1980s, almost 75 % of the exports of gold, silver and copper came from my region. The Igorot in Benguet Province are still suffering from the legacy of mining adverse environmental and social impacts. Since mining remains as one of the pillars of economic growth of the Philippine government, mining operations expanded to many parts of the country and in most cases, Indigenous Peoples are the ones most affected as it is in their territories where these minerals are found.

I was also the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 20052009 and I am on my last term as a member this year. We just finished our two-week session last Friday, April 30. As it has been since the Forum started, issues related to mining were raised many times over during this session. Last year the Forum held an International Expert Group Meeting on Extractive Industries and the report of this can be found in E/C.19/2009/CRP. 8 dated 4 May 2009.

The final report of this 8th Session contained several recommendations which I will talk about later. So much of what I will be talking about comes from my own experiences in my own country and other countries which I visited and the discussions which happened at the Forum in its 9 years of existence and also from the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations which existed for more than 20 years under the Commission on Human Rights.

The need to differentiate mining activities

I have listened with interest to the opening comments of Member States yesterday. There is a widespread agreement that mining is an essential element of a modern economy. It seems, that we cannot live without it’s products or at least some of them. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone who thinks the human need for gold jewellery outweighs the human need of poor indigenous farmers or hunters and fisher folk to the means to provide food for their families.

Yet when we talk of mining we are carelessly doing it in a generalised way as if all mining had similar benefits and similar impacts. It most clearly does not. Iron ore and copper mining and some others do indeed provide key core raw materials for contemporary production and satisfaction of basic needs. Not that this would make any more acceptable the rights violations that are sometimes associated with these mines. However, by contrast gold mining produces a metal with very limited productive uses and with a vast existing reserve in some central banks. Its extraction and processing is associated with some of the most problematic environmental dangers. Yet over the last 20 years exploration and mining for gold has, with some variations, attracted a disproportionately large amount of total mineral exploration expenditure globally. This currently can be seen as a response to the uncertainty of economic crisis and more generally because gold mining tends to show quicker returns on capital invested and lesser average levels of investment than for the base metals sector.

Uranium, as another example. Uranium mining is not in any sensible discourse — a credible contributor to sustainable development. Its two major uses are first in the production of nuclear weapons (clearly global destruction is not part of any sustainable development strategy. ) |Its other use is in generating nuclear power. Here, from being a discredited and largely abandoned option, following the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, it has seen a recent resurgence as companies and govts are emboldened by the climate crisis to promote the nuclear option. However there are serious fundamental problems associated with uranium.

First, an estimated 70% of the world’s uranium deposits are located on the lands of indigenous peoples. Uranium mines leave behind huge amounts of “tailings” as radioactive waste. The tailings, contain approximately 80% of the original radioactivity of the ore, with half lives up to 240,000 years. Surely this is the ultimate in unsustainability! Everlasting potentially deadly pollution. There is no means of safe disposal of the tailings, which in many cases are left in the open.

Exposed to wind and rain, and radioactive and poisonous materials are contaminating the surface water, groundwater aquifers, the soil, the air, plants and produce, livestock and wild animals, the air to breathe, and will continue to do so for thousands of years into the future.

The health impacts are serious; leading to elevated rates of cancers. These heightened incidences are not just confined to workers but also affects communities nearby.

In Niger, according to reports from indigenous peoples, uranium mining has already contaminated the groundwater (the level of uranium in the drinking water are 10 110 times as high as the WHO standards), depleted fossil water aquifers which will never be replenished, and the mining company announced officially that their planned new mine will have depleted the local fossil water aquifer about the same time that the uranium deposit will be exhausted. This leaves the Touareg people from those communities with nothing to survive on. We have had several Touareg representatives coming to the Permanent Forum presenting the problems they face with uranium mining. Uranium mining companies have not found any means to solve these problems and to store their wastes in any adequately responsible way. Many uranium and other mining companies have followed a common strategy and gone bankrupt after the deposits were depleted leaving their aftermath to the States to clean up.

In my view the only way forward is a global ban on uranium mining and ensure that the uranium and nuclear industry, monitored by the international community, clean up their aftermath, pay compensation to the victims of their activities and allow for a continued monitoring of the sites in question. And similar efforts are probably the essential minimum if mining is to regain its social licence to operate.

The case of the nuclear industry raises other issues. As I hope we all know in the past and up to the present, indigenous people’s lands and waters have been extensively used as nuclear test sites without regard or in some cases even warning to the traditional owners. These have led to catastrophic consequences such as cancers, blindness, stillbirths and what is now known as jellyfish babies, among others. Within the US, indigenous lands are sometimes chosen as sites for the most dangerous and toxic of industries including nuclear weapon manufacture within the US.

Now some Indigenous Peoples living in remote areas are obliged, even when they have recognition of their rights, to “welcome” such dangerous and polluting industries and dumps because of their absolute poverty and lack of other cash earning opportunities. So some consent to host such facilities and some may even allow mines. If and where this is done consciously clearly it is an exercising of their right to control developments within their own territories. However I think we should all be deeply disturbed by the implications of the toxic materials and poisonous wastes generated by rich industrial societies being dumped upon the poor and marginal whether these be indigenous or not or whether they “consent” to such discriminatory actions. Because such “consent” is clearly in large part an acknowledgement that their acceptance of the toxic waste is based on the desperation of their poverty.

So when we speak of mining then we need to be more differentiating in our assessment. Are we speaking of open pit copper mining, underground mining, mining for iron or for gold or diamonds.

Environmental and Social Impacts

Yesterday I also heard Member States expressing their grave concern that the environmental and social impacts are regrettable and disturbing. But my question to us all is what are we going to do about the clear documented and continuing evidence of the association of some mining activities with grave human rights violations including, the disregard for already adopted international minimum standards for the dignity and welfare of indigenous peoples, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention No. 169?

As I mentioned earlier, in my capacity as Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 20052008 and as a member this year, I have heard numerous and most serious presentations on the impacts of mining on Indigenous Peoples. Some involving violent dispersal, killings, destruction of homes, desecration of sacred sites, the destruction of subsistence economies constituting a threat to life and culture and many more. Without naming names these complaints identify companies small and large, including members of the ICMM which is an alliance, as we heard yesterday, of industry leaders promoting best practice.

The mining industry has an appalling record for environmental and social impacts going back over a long period. Deeply negative impacts from mining have been felt on every continent (so far with the exception of Antarctica). Both past and present mining has generated environmental impacts that include the devastation of river systems and valley peoples like the Ok Tedi and Fly rivers in Papua New Guinea. The impacts of pumping mine waste into these rivers started by BHP (currently the world’s largest mining company) are predicted by scientists to generate pollution of the river system and the poisoning of adjacent forests that are not only killing fish and other life forms in the river but causing die back in surrounding forests that is predicted to grow worse and continue to spread for hundreds of years into the future. Even ancient mining activities can generate lasting negative environmental impacts that persist long after the demise of the people and corporations that caused them.

Aluminium, copper and steel production alone account for more than 7% of global energy consumption. Bauxite is often mined over extensive areas resulting again in the stripping of surface vegetation disruption and pollution of water courses and the common range of both environmental and social impacts. However in addition bauxite processing on average requires 15 kilowatt hours of electricity for each kilo of aluminium produced. Recycling of aluminium however on average requires only approx 5% the energy input of primary production. Recycling of aluminium currently accounts for approximately 1/3 of production. Yet large amounts of recyclable aluminium and other minerals are still lost in landfill. Other recycling efforts also remain underdeveloped.

Additionally according to Citigroup “At higher latitudes, high rainfall may require some operational adjustments, with the integrity of tailings dams being an issue for consideration, and the potential for consequential environmental damage.” The analysts also asserted that “Critical infrastructure such as ports may be at risk from small sea level rises particularly if combined with storm events.”

Other forms of tailings containment may also require a rethink or a ban. Unpredictable weather shifts may also require additional safety measures and expenses in arid and semi arid regions. In high mountain areas there have been some recent attempts to store mine wastes including potentially toxic materials in glaciers. However in the Andes and Central Asia global warming has exposed the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of such claims. Melting glaciers are already posing problems of containment of potential serious pollution.

Despite increased reference to industry best practice, clearly unacceptable and widely banned practices including Riverine and Marine dumping are still continuing. Such practices have resulted in the choking of rivers and inshore waters including corals. Marine dumping has been a source of great controversy and is banned in many states. Companies nonetheless advocate the increased use of marine dumping of mine waste. This despite the fact that we remain unclear about the full role of the sea in maintaining a balance in global climate. Research, however, points to a vital role for small marine organisms as potential absorbers of carbon. Yet large scale pollution of waterways and direct marine dumping are adding to marine pollution and putting marine ecosystems under increased pressure. Marine mining and further dumping is now also developing.

Clean water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource yet it is used in vast quantities in mining even in semi arid and arid regions. Mining in these regions and seasonally dry areas has always posed severe problems. Mining is a massive user of water. The Citigroup analysis of climate change risks to mining suggest “availability of fresh water is critical to most mining and processing operations.” In the USA between 1964 and 2005 Peabody coal has drawn millions of gallons from aquifers under the deserts of the South West that are a main source of drinking water for Navaho people and their stock.

This vital life-giving water was used by Peabody Energy to pump coal in a mixture of gasoline and water in a slurry pipeline operation to transport extracted coal to the Mohave electricity Generating Station in Laughlin Nevada.

The report of the DESA for this Session which is entitled ” Trends in Sustainable Development: Chemicals, Transport, Mining and Waste Management” states that “approximately 10 per cent of active mines and 20 per cent of exploratory sites are located in areas of high conservation value, while nearly 30 per cent of active mines are located in water stressed areas.

The increasing consumption of resources (mostly energy and water) needed to extract metals as well as the pollution generated by the extraction process are main constraints to sustainability of mining”.

Pollution problems due to mining are exacerbating in most mining areas. Direct dumping into rivers is still practised by major companies. The Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia for example produces up to 300,000 tons of waste per day. Which dwarfs the problem of a city even like New York that produces up to 15,000 tonnes per day. Dumping into the ocean has been and is practised despite our lack of knowledge of its full consequences on marine organisms.

Depositing on the land is also practised mostly in arid and semi arid zones. But in this time of climate change and unpredictability this may prove problematic also. Tailings dams are common and numerous but are subject to collapse and breaches. Over past 25 years Philippine mines alone have experienced on average more than 1 serious incident every 2 years. These have included several incidents resulting in deaths from the slides and lasting environmental and economic consequences inundating fields, poisoning rivers etc This is not including the many small spills.

All such waste disposal systems are also confronted by new threats from climate change. Again in the Philippines our best tailings pond (lake better describes it) were built to withstand a 1500 year event. However in the last 10 years the Philippines has recorded an increase in the number and the intensity of typhoons last year two major typhoons hit the northern Philippines within 10 days causing tremendous devastation. Dams were protected by releasing as much material as possible before and during the typhoon.We are increasingly concerned that climate change will make the impacts of mining more severe and the lives of those downstream less secure. Acid mine drainage and other damages to rivers resulting in their death, skin lesions and other health problems for people, fish, livestock caused by downstream pollution of mines, air pollution by dust from the mining operations and many others.

In the 21st century I say frankly that in a time of review and policy recommendations for a sustainable future we have to be more forthright in terms of identifying what the real problems are and make recommendations on how these can be addressed. Majority of the UN member states have obligations under International Human Rights Law and under Multilateral Environmental Agreements which they should meet and compliance with these obligations is one of the steps in addressing issues of human rights violations and adverse environmental and social impacts of mining. Within the framework of CSD, we cannot turn a blind eye to these bad consequences because we are hooked on mining providing a cheap, too cheap perhaps, supply of raw materials.

At the last year’s 8th Session of the Permanent Forum we came up with a recommendation which supported the framework which John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, developed on Human Rights and Business. This recommendation states;

12. The Permanent Forum supports the conceptual and policy framework proposed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. This framework rests on three pillars: first, the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including transnational corporations and other business enterprises, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication; second, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means acting with due diligence on all matters to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and third, greater access for victims to effective remedies, both judicial and non-judicial. (E/2009/43 E/C.19/2009/14)

I hope the CSD 18th Session and the member states will reiterate this framework and further elaborate on it as it applies to the mining industry. There are other Special Rapporteurs who also made comments on mining and how this affects the right to food and subsistence, housing, freedom of religion, among others. The past and present Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, (Rodolfo Stavenhagen and James Anaya), also made several references on their annual reports on mining and indigenous peoples.

There are clear signs that the mining industry is moving on in important areas. We would acknowledge that some companies have made welcome advances, for instance in Australia with the employment of Aborigines. These have been conscious policies resulting in significant improvements and benefits for local people. Companies like Rio Tinto and others conduct some trainings on human rights for their staff. This is most welcome as a start and if it could be rolled out elsewhere I think it would be widely welcomed and would contribute positively.

However in the area of respect for basic human rights, the recognition of basic rights like the need to secure the Free Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples before operating on their lands, despite discussions and explanations this is not, as I understand FPIC is not yet endorsed to by the ICMM. And the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining and Sustainable Development has had no interaction with the UNPFII nor with UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights. Even if this is an intergovernmental forum it should not remain as an exclusive intergovernmental body. The CSD is an example of inclusiveness and this practice should be followed by the IGF.

Some companies have taken the welcome step of announcing their individual commitment to human rights standards and I can quote from the Rio Tinto Annual report for 2009 as one example. It says “Rio Tinto operates in a manner consistent with the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and sovereign obligations. We respect the land connection of indigenous communities and work with them on their land in a spirit of reciprocity, transparency and recognition of their culture…..”

Now there are indigenous brothers and sisters of mine who would dispute if in fact Rio Tinto does fully operate in such a manner. There is a problem we face generally of the absence of credible independent monitoring of corporate behaviour, which means such claims remain unconfirmed. However, I am sure that such commitments are a welcome development in so far as they go and can be, if supported by actions and independent verification the foundation for reductions in conflict and greater mutual respect.

The Rio Summit nearly 20 years ago and Agenda 21 which will soon to be remembered and built on, popularised and inspired millions with its call for sustainable development. The situation was so serious then that there was a willingness to contemplate new and different approaches. For indigenous peoples we were hailed for our sustainable living our walking gently on the earth which is both the philosophy and practice of indigenous societies throughout the world. We were hailed and acknowledged in those documents as a model for the future no longer consigned as so often before into being remnants from the past.

However there is often a gap, a time lag, between words and actions. At the time Indigenous Peoples had been suffering great hardship as the result of the insatiable and unsustainable demands of the global economy. Through logging, mining, industrial fishing and other assaults our praised models of sustainable living were and remain under a severe attack. Indigenous Peoples, who have contributed the least to the generation of these current global economic and ecological crises, are however the first to suffer its impacts and most of the times, left with no recourse or redress. This is because most of us live closely with and depend on nature. Our regard of earth as our mother, which always was the source of our security, now becomes the source of our greater vulnerability as the earth strikes back.

I would like to conclude by reiterating some of the recommendations presented by the indigenous peoples’ major group statement yesterday.

1. The respect for human rights and aspiration for social justice is an essential pillar of our shared striving and vision for sustainable development. It is for Indigenous Peoples, and us all, the foundation of engagement with this multi-stakeholder process.

2. I call on mining corporations both transnational and national, as well as investors for mining (whether institutional or individual) to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I recommend that mining Corporations and their associations such as the ICMM and the IGF work with indigenous peoples to elaborate operational guidelines on how to use the UNDRIP in their day to day operations and how to monitor and promote its implementation.

3. Whatever good or best practices there are, in the main, mining is such an unsustainable destructive activity which is why I strongly recommend that stronger regulations in different areas should be done. Voluntarism is not enough given the seriousness of the economic, environmental, social, cultural and spiritual impacts for indigenous peoples. Mining legislation which allows for the unfettered operations of mines should be repealed and revised.

4. One lesson from the financial crisis of great importance is not allowing speculative hot money to force an artificial acceleration of the exhaustion of our natural none renewable resources in mining. Derivatives trading and other speculation against metal ore stocks may damage both the environment and the mining industry.

5. Indigenous Peoples and others deeply affected by mining have raised their complaints in many arenas, whether in the judicial or non-judicial systems. Still there is a limited capacity to respond to such complaints. I strongly recommend that information on channels and mechanisms for complaint, justice and redress at all levels from the local to the global level, be disseminated widely to indigenous peoples and these should be made more accessible to them. Relevant capacity building activities should be done with the support from bilateral donors, intergovernmental bodies and the States.

6. The mining industry and governments have established an intergovernmental panel on mining and sustainable development. However, indigenous and other affected communities are excluded from this body and other bodies like the ICMM. The threats to and opportunities for sustainable development posed by the mining industry require a more balanced standing body representing all concerned sectors to work with independent monitoring structures to present and disseminate in a transparent manner more information on the serious issues concerning mining extraction.

7. The World Bank Group and other international financial institutions should continue to monitor and review their operational directives and safeguard policies pertaining to indigenous peoples in conjunction with existing international standards, especially the right to free, prior and informed consent as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Bank should also implement the recommendations of its own Extractive Industries Review. Likewise, other multilateral lending institutions should include the requirement to obtain free, prior and informed consent in their safeguard policies on indigenous peoples’ environments and other concerns.

8. With the changing patterns in sustainable production and consumption, and with consideration of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and the ecosystems based approach, all sectors, especially Governments, should actively promote more sustainable ways of life, including those practised by indigenous peoples for generations including small-scale mining. Respect for their traditional knowledge, practices and innovations, and their customary governance systems and laws on extraction of natural resources should be ensured. States, corporations and society at large should work to reduce and promote the reuse, recycling and substitution of metals and minerals help minimize mining and related processing activities which result into toxic wastes. I also recommend that the specific roles and contributions of indigenous women in developing more widespread sustainable production and consumption should be strongly supported.

9. The CSD, corporations and States should operationalize the framework on human rights and business developed by John Ruggie which rests on three pillars: first, the duty of the State to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including transnational corporations and other business enterprises, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication; second, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means acting with due diligence on all matters to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and third, greater access for victims to effective remedies, both judicial and non-judicial.

10. Finally, I reiterate the proposal of the UNPFII which calls on the ICMM to invite the members of the Forum, the affected communities and indigenous experts to visit 10 of their sites which they claim are doing best practice, so they can see and make their own evaluation of these. Then they can use the experience to craft more relevant recommendations for the Policy year in 2011. Thank you very much.
Victoria Tauli Corpuz email: website:

Uranium Mining at the UN Committee on Sustainable Development (CSD)

African Uranium Alliance Statement

6 May 2010

New York – In the area of mining, the mining of uranium is a special issue. Uranium is heavy metal which is radioactive, toxic (chemically poisonous) and repro-toxic (toxic / dangerous for the reproduction). Its only uses are for nuclear weapons, including Depleted Uranium weapons, and for the generation of electricity through nuclear power plants.

Nuclear weapons are not desirable; many statements of politicians state that nuclear weapons should be abolished altogether. Nuclear energy is the other use of uranium; although it is often said – and advertised by the nuclear industry – to be a “saviour” from global warming, nuclear energy CANNOT contribute anything substantial to the problem of global warming; this has been shown and proven by different scientific studies.

Approximately 70% of the world’s uranium deposits are located on / under the lands of indigenous peoples. Thus, the rights of indigenous peoples, their land rights, their human rights in terms of health, securing their livelihoods and their means of subsistence, their way of life / their culture are often at stake when dealing with uranium mining.

Uranium mines leave behind huge amounts of “tailings”, radioactive waste due to the fact that uranium is contained in the ore only at 0.1 to 1 or 2 percent. The quantity of the tailings alone is a serious problem.

The tailings, which include solid tailings as well as liquid / slurry, contain approximately 80% of the original radioactivity of the ore – a cocktail of a dozen of radioactive decay products of uranium, with half lives up to 240,000 years – dangerous forever, in human terms. These tailings are in most cases left in the open, exposed to wind and rain, and radioactive and poisonous materials are contaminating the surface water, groundwater aquifers, the soil, the air, plants and produce, livestock and wild animals, the air to breathe, and will continue to do so for thousands of years into the future.

Uranium mining companies have NOT found any means to solve these problems and to dispose of their wastes in any responsible way, and they are NOT living up to their corporate social responsibility to clean up. (In fact, companies rather ‘invest’ in PR and other activities to promote themselves as “good corporate citizens” through sponsorships, donations etc. rather than to deal with reality.)

On the contrary, many uranium mining companies have gone bankrupt after the uranium deposits were depleted – leaving their aftermath to the states / Governments to clean up; in most cases – from the US through Canada to Niger, Namibia, South Africa and to Asian states such as Kazakhstan, the companies have NOT cleaned up or provided for ANY secure methods to deal with the wastes they created.

In addition, attempts to contain the tailings have proven to be ineffective and have been shattered by all kinds of influences, from engineering faults to unforeseen events.

This shows that humankind has NOT found a safe way to deal with the wastes from uranium mining, and that it is virtually impossible to deal with them in way that will assure “safety” for thousands of years.

Based on the track record of companies, as well as on the factual difficulties / impossibility to ‘contain’ uranium mining wastes safely for thousands if years, uranium mining is not – and will never be – a ‘sustainable development’.

The health effects from uranium mining to miners, people living in the vicinity of the mines, are also detrimental, as reports form mines in Namibia and Niger are showing, and reports from former uranium mines confirm the deadly impact (7,000 cases of lung cancer in Germany due to former uranium mines).

The low-level radiation material spilled / emitted by uranium mines will affect many generations to come through damage to the DNA which is passed on from generation to generation. Thus, uranium mining is not – and will never be – a ‘sustainable development’.

At present, uranium mining is pushing ahead with companies targeting countries in Africa – explicitly and for the simple reason that laws and regulations in countries like Australia are considered to be “too sophisticated” for them to operate. Thus, countries on the African continent are “preferred” targets – some do not have any radiation protection laws at all (e.g. Namibia) or they do not have the capacity to monitor (e.g Malawi, Niger) the mines and enforce their laws and regulations.

Uranium mining is by no means a “sustainable development”, but rather subject to “hit and run” policies which has been controlled by uranium mining companies all over the world for many years (as is shown by the many abandoned and un-reclaimed tailings dams evident in all parts of the world).

Finally, in places such as Tanzania and Mali, mining activities are literally destroying existing sustainable economies:

In the Bahi region of Tanzania, referred to as “Bahi swamp”, in reality a rice-growing area, local farmers are effectively growing rice; their fields could potentially be taken over by uranium mining companies and turned into open-pit mines for uranium – thus, destroying the livelihood of people in a country which is struggling for food security. A few more examples of the impact of uranium mining especially on indigenous peoples:

In Namibia, the Topnaar-Nama people living in / near the Namib-Naukluft desert see their livelihood threatened by uranium mining which uses huge amounts of water pumped from the underground aquifers, bringing down the water level so that grass does not grow anymore, trees die, and their livelihood / means of subsistence is being destroyed. In Tanzania, The Wasandawi people, living as hunters and gatherers, in the central part of the country; open-cast uranium mining will destroy their traditionally used lands, uproot their society and destroy their way of life. In Niger, uranium mining has already contaminated the groundwater (the level of uranium in the drinking water 10 – 110 times higher than WHO standard), fossil water aquifers, non-renewable resources, have been depleted and will NEVER BE REPLENISHED.

AREVA a French mining company, announced officially that their planned new mine (Imouraren) will have depleted the local fossil water aquifer about the same time that the uranium deposit will be exhausted – leaving local Touareg people with nothing to survive on. In Malawi, the newly opened Kayelekera Uranium Mine (Paladin Resources, Australia) has claimed the lives of two workers even before the mine opened; the mine and its tailings pose a serious threat to Lake Malawi which is a critical huge freshwater resource in South-East Africa, on which some 3 million people depend; the state / Government of Malawi pointed out that they do NOT have the capacity to monitor the mine, its effluents etc. independently and “trusts” the company to basically monitor itself. The list of the short AND long-term negative impacts of uranium mining could be continued ad infinitum.

The negative and long-term impacts with NO way to resolve them at present, clearly demonstrates that uranium mining is by NO MEANS a sustainable activity. It needs to stop.

As far as South Africa is concerned, we have experienced Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and the failure to find a solution to acidic and radiotoxic uranium mine tailings impacts that demonstrate that uranium mining can never be sustainable.

More importantly, we find the end-use of uranium — namely, nuclear weapons and depleted uranium ordnance — morally reprehensible and cannot support an industry where the long-term destruction of human life is its overriding purpose. The subsequent cover-up of an overly expensive and dirty civilian nuclear power industry is an equally unacceptable by-product of the weapons industry, when so many healthier and cheaper alternatives to electricity conservation and generation exist.

We conclude that only a global ban on uranium mining, with the uranium and nuclear industry obligated to clean up affected sites, pay compensation to the victims of their activities, and the constant monitoring of the sites in question, help improve, diminish and eliminate the current crises suffered by people and the environment.

c/o Citizens For Justice-(CFJ) Friends of the Earth, Malawi,
Off Lilongwe-Blantyre Highway, Falls Estate, Plot # 57431, Post Dot Net, Box X100, Crossroads, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Phone: +2651727822 and +2651727828, Fax: +2651727826 Email:

(Quelle: Mines and Communities.)