Health Observatories: as Niger gets underway, significant progress recorded in Gabon

Press release

Niamey (Niger), AREVA announced on December 6th, the creation of OSRA (Health Observatory for the region of Agadez). One year after setting up the Health Observatory of Mounana, Gabon, the new Agadez structure marks a forward stride in the process initiated in 2007 by AREVA and its partners.

Just like the Mounana observatory for the mines operated in Gabon, OSRA is to monitor the health of former workers exposed to uranium at the AREVA mines in Niger, as well as monitoring the health of the local population. The new structure will be devoted to delivering transparent information to the Niger authorities, former employees and surrounding communities, with the results of health monitoring carried out around the mining sites operated by AREVA.

In Gabon, where more than 40 consultation sessions have been held since the Observatory started its work in October 2010, nearly 400 former workers of AREVA subsidiary COMUF have had a physical examination, a blood test and chest X-ray. The process continues with the examination of all workers identified and will be renewed every two years. The process will be exactly the same in Niger and for subsequent observatories set to be deployed around the other mining sites of the group. If cases of illness attributable to occupational factors are identified, the cost of the corresponding healthcare would be borne by AREVA in the same way as for French medical coverage.

Moreover, in addition to the health monitoring to be organized around the mining sites, OSRA will conduct a Health Impact Study around the future Imouraren site. An initial health survey will be drawn up prior to operations, to serve as a reference for future investigations into the health impact of the mining activities.

Both in Gabon in 2010 and in Niger in 2011, and as will also be the case at other sites from next year, the deployment of observatories is conducted in close collaboration with the national authorities, whose representatives sit on the corresponding boards, and with the associations. SHERPA, whose legal expertise and critical eye have been invaluable since the 2007 launch of this initiative, unprecedented in the mining sector, have supported and encouraged the involvement of civil society in Gabon and Niger. 

Queried following the Constitutive General Assembly of OSRA, Alain Acker, AREVA chief medical officer, commented: "Health Observatories are the result of an exemplary and unprecedented dialogue between national authorities, NGOs and a responsible industrial partner. They have now become a reality in two African countries and the group wants to extend health monitoring to all the mines it operates all around the world, including Canada and Kazakhstan."

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