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Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canadian Mine threatens traditional reindeer herders

Saami Council
Sep 11, 2009 02:55 ET
VANCOUVER -- (Marketwire - Sept. 11, 2009) - The Saami people say a mining project in Northeastern Sweden, proposed by a Canadian company, threatens their traditional way of life and violates their basic human rights, as recognized by the United Nations.

On 31 August 2009, Blackstone Ventures Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company, announced plans to begin test-drilling for minerals on pasture lands considered invaluable to the Saami people. In a press release, circulated in Canada the same date, Blackstone further announced its plans to mine in the disputed area. The Sammi communities have not agreed to such test-drillings. Furthermore, Saami community memebers do not recognize the company's right to drill, noting that the company does not hold the relevant permits to drill and lacks a work-plan, approved by the reindeer herders.

"This is the heart of our land," says Marja Skum, a spokesperson for the communities. "This is where the reindeer come to calf, and where they find the richest pasture. Our forefathers have lived with the reindeers on these mountains since time immemorial. We are determined to pass the legacy on to the next generations. Therefore, we have no choice but to do everything we can to stop this mine. If a mine is established in the planned area, we will no longer be traditional reindeer herders. We will lose the most vital part of our identity."

Saami organizations are making it a priority to a ssist the impacted communities and representative say they will fight the project. Anders Blom is the Director of the Swedish Saami Association (SSR), an umbrella organization with Saami reindeer herding communities and Saami associations in Sweden as members.

"As a nomadic people, reindeer herders roam their reindeer over vast areas," says Blom. Some of these areas are interchangeable. But Blackstone has picked the absolute worst place to prospect. The planned mine is in an area that the communities can simply not replace. That is why we will assist the communities to the best of our ability to stop this project."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly affirmed that reindeer husbandry constitutes a fundament in the Saami people's culture, and is integral to Saami individuals' cultural identity. Hence, no industrial activities are allowed in Saami areas where such activities render it impossible, or significantly more difficult, for Saami communities to pursue reindeer husbandry.
Mattias Åhrén is the President of the Saami Council, an organization representing the Saami in e.g. international affairs.

"Blackstone's planned mine would essentially prevent the impacted communities from pursuing traditional Saami reindeer herding, says Åhrén=2 0. "Thus, it would be detrimental to the reindeer herders' cultural identity. As a consequence, the mine is illegal as it would violate the reindeer herders' right to culture. We are positive that international bodies will halt the project. We will use all legal means available to stop the plans for a mine in the area"

The Saami people are indigenous to northern Europe, as the Canadian tribes are indigenous peoples in Canada. The Saami have pursued nomadic reindeer husbandry in its traditional areas since time immemorial. They have inhabited their traditional land since well before other populations colonized their territories. Gran, Ran and Ubmeje are three Saami reindeer herding communities whose traditional pasture lands cover parts of Northern Sweden.
For further information:
Marja Skum, +47 47 25 11 68 +47 47 25 11 68 , Mattias Åhrén, +47 47 37 91 61 +47 47 37 91 61 or Anders Blom, +46 70 51 44 480/
For more information, please contact
Marja Skum, Spokesperson, Saami

Primary Phone: 474-725-1168
© 2009 Marketwire, Incorporated. All rights reserved.

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