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Uranium mining in Namibia 1Brazil - June 2012. Namibia 2 ● Sparsely populated (2,2 people/ km 2 ) ● Driest country in sub-Sahara Huge areas are desert.

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Presentation on theme: "Uranium mining in Namibia 1Brazil - June 2012. Namibia 2 ● Sparsely populated (2,2 people/ km 2 ) ● Driest country in sub-Sahara Huge areas are desert."— Presentation transcript:

1 Uranium mining in Namibia 1Brazil - June 2012

2 Namibia 2 ● Sparsely populated (2,2 people/ km 2 ) ● Driest country in sub-Sahara Huge areas are desert ● Poverty is widespread despite a wealth of minerals ● Unemployment rate about 51%

3 3 Why do foreign companies want Africa’s uranium? The MD of Australia’s mining company Paladin Energy brought it to the point: “The Canadians and the Australians have become over-sophisticated in their environmental and social concerns over uranium mining. The future of uranium is in Africa.“

4 Favourable conditions in Namibia ● Lack of proper legislative framework on the nuclear industry ● Lack of monitoring through government, mining companies are self regulating ● Uranium deposits generally located close to surface (open-pit mining) ● Uranium ore of low grade allows “safer” mining (Namibia ~ %, Canada between 0.7 &14.6%, Australia ~ 0.2%) ● High unemployment, cheap labour, uninformed workers ● Low taxes & royalties 4

5 U Deposits 5 Distribution of uranium occurrences in Namibia Source:

6 Uranium production in Namibia ● Presently Namibia has got two operating uranium mines, a third mine will start production in 2013 Companies are Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, Australian Paladin Energy and French Areva. More mining licences have been issued ● GRN has granted 65 exploration licenses to 21 foreign companies (most in protected nature parks) there is no local company mining uranium ● Uranium represents 16,5% of Namibia’s exports 6

7 Earthlife raises awareness Awareness creation Public events Uranium conference Uranium Film Festival EIA screened by independent experts 7

8 CRIIRAD in Namibia Earthlife is campaigning against uranium mining for many years, but we never had hard facts to prove that there is a danger to the environment and the people. Through the EJOLT project, we asked CRIIRAD to do some research for us. In September 2011, samples in the vicinity of the mines were taken In April 2012, the preliminary results were released and shared with governmental institutions, the mining management and the public at large. 8

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10 10 We found contamination near this waste rock dump. Due to low grade of ore, Roessing needs to move about tons of rock to produce 1ton of yellow cake. Billions of tons of waste rock are dumped a few 100 meters away from a river. The area is freely accessible for everyone. No warning signs are put up

11 11 Some rocks are highly radioactive. This one exceeded the capacity of the measuring device. Uranium is water soluble. Rainwater can wash uranium into the soil, river & groundwater

12 Tailings 12 Roessing’s tailings dam After 36 years of mining, Roessing’s tailings dam is huge. Plans are to mine for another 10 years using the existing tailings facility. The danger of seepage and breakage poses a great threat. CRIIRAD found that radioactive material contaminates sediments up to 2km away from the tailings. The ratio uranium238 : radium226 in different samples was between 2.3 & 5, which indicates contamination from the tailings.

13 13 The parking area in front of the mine showed high radioactivity. CRIIRAD’s results indicate that it was built with tailings

14 Results are belittled We have brought the preliminary results to the attention of the Government and many other institutions. It does not seem that it is taken seriously. Especially Mining Managements downplay the findings. The mine workers however are getting more worried and angry They are exposed to radiation The mining companies neglect radiological protection 14

15 Implications on Water ● The mines have a great demand of water, a very scarce commodity in our semi-arid country The greatest fear is contamination of groundwater resources The residents have to burden higher water tariffs and fear that in future water might not be available 15

16 Vegetable is grown near the Swakopriver, partly irrigated with borehole water and sold to the public Is it safe to eat? We don’t know 16

17 Implications Power ● To meet the power demand by the mines GRN decided on a coal-fired power station. To mine uranium fossil fuel is burned. ● GRN considers a nuclear power plant. Russia wants to sell a floating nuclear plant to Namibia. Namibia has about 350 days of sun per year and favourable wind conditions, and has best potential for renewable energy. 17

18 Transport of Yellow Cake ● Yellow Cake produced in Namibia gets transported by truck to the national port of Walvis Bay for export ● Yellow cake produced in Malawi by Paladin gets transported by truck through Zambia, Botswana and Namibia to the port of Walvis Bay Accidents, Spillage, Sabotage, Terrorism …. 18

19 We say NO to URANIUM Uranium makes many people suffer, while it gives huge profit to only a few. We appeal to our government and all governments worldwide: Leave the uranium in the ground We don’t need nuclear power 19

20 Implications The voices of uranium workers In 2008, LaRRI conducted a study on uranium mining in Namibia Emphasis was put on the health of the mine workers. Major findings were: ● The workers were not adequately informed about the dangers associated with uranium mining ● Many workers were exposed to dust and inhaled radon gas on a daily basis ● Some workers have contracted respiratory diseases such as TB and lung cancer and many workers have developed chest problems. ● Workers did not trust medical personnel ● Workers believed the true nature of their health problems was never revealed 20

21 The situation of the workers When the workers are declared unfit for work they are either on medical separation or on disability ◦ medical separation: they have no claims at all ◦ disability: they receive 75% of their former salary In both cases they are discharged from the medical aid scheme at a time when they need it most Mining management insist there is no connection between working condition and health problems because the workers live unhealthy life styles, smoke, abuse alcohol and have HIV/AIDS Many dismissed workers move back to their former homes; they are never part of any health statistic 21

22 One medical case ● Petrus started working for Roessing in 1976, at a time when no safety measures were applied. Personal protective clothes were available but not enforced to wear. The workers were not informed about the danger of exposure and therefore did not use the protective clothing. ● Johannes worked in the laboratory and says he had to pipette yellow cake by mouth His health problems started in 1980 His medical history indicates his long and agonizing suffering, the many tests and treatments he underwent and the frequent submissions to hospitals 22

23 Tests showed elevated levels of radiation Petrus had a critical level of uranium in his urine and too high levels of irradiation on his film badge. He had blood in his urine and his kidneys were damaged. In 2000 he was declared medically unfit for work but is still on Roessing’s pay role and receives 75% of his former salary. ● He wants to have in writing that his health problems are linked to his former occupational exposure. For years all his attempts were ignored by Roessing ● Now, suddenly after 12 years, he was asked to start work again. In case he refuses he will be fired and his payment will be stopped. He tries to get a medical report stating his condition but he can’t find an unbiased doctor. They are all influenced by Roessing in one or another way. 23


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