INDIA: “Children are born with physical disabilities or people with cancer. But our sorrow doesn’t end there,” says Soren who had experienced three miscarriages before giving birth to a child born with physical deformities. The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) is the statutory body for uranium mining in India. The UCIL started mining for uranium in Jaduguda in 1967, making it India’s first Uranium mine.
Though UCIL claims that Jaduguda mine has created a large skill base for uranium mining and the mining industry, local communities point out that their lives and land have changed irreversibly.
India’s first Uranium Mine: A living havoc for people
The villagers complain that the hills around Jaduguda are dug up to create ‘tailing ponds’. A tailing pond is an area where leftover toxic material is stored after the excavated ore is treated to extract uranium. Communities living in Jaduguda argue that these ponds have led to groundwater and river contamination and have proven to be a severe health hazard.
“Before mining started, people never used to have diseases like these – children were not handicapped, women were not suffering from miscarriages, people didn’t have tuberculosis or cancer. People had ordinary illnesses, cold and cough, that got cured by traditional medicines. But today, even doctors are not able to diagnose diseases. It all emerged after uranium mining started”, says Ghanshyam Birulee, the co-founder of the Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR).
India’s first Uranium mine turned to be living havoc for the locals. Communities living in the region before the mining operations kicked in the point out the lack of safety and precautionary steps taken by the UCIL.
While replying to a question raised by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy in Lok Sabha about public health hazards due to India’s uranium mines, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, refuted any such impact. He said that during the recovery of uranium from the ore in a uranium mill, tailings containing low-level radioactivity get generated, which are transported to tailings pond in the form of a slurry.
With no coverage in the mainstream media of India and little to no discussions or conversations in the Parliament of the country, the uranium mines continue to impact the lives of those who lived there since years immemorial.