Namibian Government Engages UNESCO and IAEA on Uranium Mining in Omaheke

The Namibian government is seeking expert advice and technical assistance from international organizations like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to address concerns surrounding uranium mining in the Stampriet Artesian Basin.

Uranium Mining in Omaheke

The Namibian government is seeking expert advice and technical assistance from international organizations like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to address concerns surrounding uranium mining in the Stampriet Artesian Basin. This move comes amid ongoing debate and controversy surrounding the proposed mining activities in the region.

Concerns and Stakeholder Responses:

Agriculture, water, and land reform minister, Calle Schlettwein, emphasized the importance of making scientifically informed decisions regarding uranium mining in the area. The Russian Uranium One Group, proponents of the mining project, have welcomed this initiative, highlighting their commitment to adherence to best practices and continuous improvement.

Government’s Stance and Company’s Response:

Schlettwein addressed questions posed by United People’s Movement member of parliament Jan van Wyk, emphasizing the need for careful consideration of the potential risks associated with in-situ mining and its impact on the aquifer. The government has enlisted the support of UNESCO, IAEA, and other development partners to ensure decisions are based on scientific evidence.

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Uranium One spokesperson, Riaan van Rooyen, expressed the company’s openness to dialogue and consultations with all interested parties. He stressed their commitment to transparency and compliance with global standards in environmental safety and security. Additionally, he refuted allegations of non-compliance with licensing conditions, stating that the company remains committed to providing verified data and information to relevant ministries.

Project Progress and Concerns:

The Uranium One Group has conducted extensive exploration activities in the region since 2012, including drilling numerous boreholes. However, concerns have been raised regarding the proper sealing and grouting of these boreholes. The project has also faced opposition from environmentalists and local communities, citing safety concerns over in-situ mining and potential contamination of the Stampriet Artesian Basin.

Controversy Over Uranium Mining Method:

The proposed uranium recovery in-situ mining method involves drilling boreholes into the ore body and using chemical agents to dissolve mineral deposits. This method has faced criticism from the Stampriet Aquifer Uranium Mining Association and others who fear it could lead to contamination of vital water sources in the area.

Challenges and Delays:

The project has encountered significant challenges, including resistance from environmentalists, communities, and the denial of a drilling permit by the agriculture ministry. Despite attracting substantial investments amounting to N$900 million, the project has been stalled, with drilling activities ceasing since November 2021.

Future Prospects and Assurance:

Despite the setbacks, Uranium One remains confident in the safety of its extraction method and its commitment to conducting a field trial to demonstrate its viability. The company believes that verified results from this trial will confirm the safety of the extraction method, particularly concerning underground water sources crucial to local communities.

The Namibian government’s decision to engage UNESCO and IAEA reflects its commitment to making informed decisions regarding uranium mining in the Stampriet Artesian Basin. As stakeholders continue to navigate the complexities and concerns surrounding the project, dialogue and collaboration remain essential in ensuring the protection of the environment and the well-being of local communities.

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