In a scenario similar to the one that has been playing out itself in South African courts, hundreds of frail former miners in the mineral rich country of Gabon are seeking compensation for the health ailments that they have developed, after decades of working in a uranium mine belonging to French company, Areva.
According to news agency, AFP, the miners, who used to worked for a mine belonging to the Compagnie des mines d’uranium de Franceville, better known by its abbreviation of Comuf, a subsidiary of French nuclear producer, Areva, claim that exposure to ionizing radiation have resulted in numerous chronic problems.
For 12 years, the surviving miners, many of them old and sick, have futilely fought for compensation, which Areva has vehemently denied liability.
Areva has claimed that there is no link between the former workers’ illnesses and high exposure to uranium.
However, a leaked internal email from Pierre Laroche, Areva’s health officer, which AFP claims to have had read its contents, illustrated that, some within the company acknowledged some link between exposure to uranium and serious ailments among former workers.
A sentence which makes the company liable in the email is “many serious diseases have been detected among former employees, for example contagious tuberculosis“. Matrac, a campaign group that purports to represent 1,618 former employees, is using this to prove Areva’s culpability.
Exposure to ionising radiation results in occupational diseases, most commonly lung cancer. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), though as source of nuclear power uranium is beneficial, it is toxic and potentially carcinogenic.
After suffering for years, by end of 2016, 367 former workers had died from “pulmonary respiratory infections” allegedly linked to working in Areva’s mine, according to
Located near Mounana, southeastern Gabon, the mine closed in 1999, after operating for over 38 years due to depletion of ore and after the global price of ore plummeted.