A Scottsdale Community College sociology and American Indian Studies professor spent 10 days in Sweden last spring sharing his expertise on uranium mining, especially health issues and environmental contamination.
Manuel Pino addressed the Swedish parliament and the nation’s minister of environment in May as Sweden considers using alternative forms of energy.
“Sweden is one of Western Europe’s leading users of nuclear power, and they are trying to wean themselves off it,” Pino said. “There is social pressure there to consider alternative forms of energy due to impacts on human health and the environment. They are facing some of the same problems with the nuclear fuel chain as we are in the United States.”
Those concerns include radioactivity released into air, water and soil from the daily operation of Swedish nuclear power plants.
A member of the Acoma tribe who grew up east of Grants, N.M., in Acoma Pueblo, Pino lived near the Grants mineral belt, which was the largest uranium ore producing area in the United States until the 1980s. The area covers more than 400,000 acres and is home to more than 8,000 people.
Members of the Swedish Green Party heard a presentation by Pino at last year’s Indigenous World Uranium Summit about uranium mining’s impact on health and the economy of the Laguna and Acoma tribes.
Pino discussed his doctoral dissertation from the University of New Mexico on the Impact of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle on Indigenous People in the United States.
Besides his research addressing mining, Pino documents environmental contamination and works with native populations on health issues related to uranium mining and milling.
His presentation interested Swedish officials, who sponsored his trip.
“They wanted to know not just about the miners who became sick, but the increased number of members of the population who were victims because they lived in areas in close proximity to the mines,” Pino said.
Pino said his Indian community is an example of the consequences of unsustainable uranium mining.
He said he has emphasized that the mining industry and federal government haven’t taken action to address problems such as reclaiming and decommissioning mining and milling sites.
“The nuclear industry claims there is very little danger to the environment with newer methods they are using,” said Pino, who has been invited to make his presentation in November in Finland. “I told the Swedes that mining companies have been very lax in their responsibility for cleaning up the mines. No matter what they do, the Swedes have to worry about contamination of the miners and those who live in the area.”