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Geingob to quell uranium quarrel

2023-03-22  Maihapa Ndjavera

Geingob to quell uranium quarrel

President Hage Geingob will soon lead a team to the Leonardville area, where a Russian company hopes to extract uranium, to listen to all concerned parties and debate on the controversial mining operations in the area. 

“Dialogue is the answer when diplomacy fails and people go to war when it fails. Sometimes you may be disagreeing on something you can agree on if you can have that dialogue and convince one another,” said Geingob last week while responding to questions in the National Assembly after delivering his State of the Nation address.

Late last year, agriculture and water minister Calle Schlettwein made his firm stance that no uranium mining would be approved in order to safeguard the quality of scarce groundwater resources in the area. Schlettwein is adamant that Russian company, Uranium One must present scientific data to show no contamination of underground water would occur if the company is granted permits to continue with uranium exploration.

“It is not anything against the company or investment,” Schlettwein said. “It is the principle that we have to look at that guards against the possible contamination of a very important renewable resource.” 

Headspring Investments is the Namibian subsidiary of the Russian company Uranium One, which in turn is part of the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom.

The company’s exploration has now been halted for almost a year. It is expected to use ISL, also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or solution mining. ISR is an extraction process used to recover minerals such as copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into a deposit.

The extraction process initially involves the drilling of holes into the ore deposit. 

However, Schlettwein made it clear that the State’s policy position is that no mineral exploration drilling and in-situ leaching activities shall occur in any aquifer. 

Uranium One now awaits its mining exploration and extraction licence renewals. This was as mines minister Tom Alweendo said Uranium One’s drilling of boreholes was at a halt as new permits were being deliberated on.

President Geingob last week urged ministers to listen to both parties and hear who is right.

“And if the process is going to kill our people, we stop it. So really, it’s a question of talking to one another. I intend to travel to the south, very soon. I will be the one to lead and organise so we can sit and talk and find one another. We are talking about something that will be useful to us, we cannot destroy it by us not talking to one another,” he assured the parliamentarians who raised concern over the matter. 


Court case

Headspring Investment recently approached the High Court on the matter as an applicant where 39 parties are cited as respondents. These include the ministers of agriculture, water and land reform; mines and energy; environment, forestry and tourism; director of the department of water affairs; chairperson of the advisory water board of Namibia; mining commissioner; the government of Namibia, Aminuis Village Council, Leonardville Village Council, up to 38 individual farmers as well as the environmental commissioner.

According to a document seen by New Era, the relief claimed by Uranium One is to review and set aside the decision by the water ministry to refuse to issue an exploration drilling permit.  

Headspring Investment bases its motion review application on Article 18 of the Namibian Constitution, which states: 

“Administrative bodies and administrative officials shall act fairly and reasonably and comply with the requirements imposed upon such bodies and officials by common law and any relevant legislation and persons aggrieved by the exercise of such acts and decisions shall have the right to seek redress before a competent court or tribunal.”

Thus, it was ordered that the applicant must file any intended application on or before 31 March 2023. Secondly, the parties must file a joint status report on or before 31 March 2023. 

Finally, the case is postponed to 6 April 2023 for a status hearing. 

According to Uranium One’s Namibian spokesperson Riaan Van Rooyen, the company “has launched review proceedings in the High Court of Namibia in terms of which it seeks to assail the decision taken by the minister of water in respect of an application for drilling permits submitted by Uranium One. As the case is currently sub judice [under judicial consideration], Uranium One will refrain from further commenting in respect to pending litigation”.


2023-03-22  Maihapa Ndjavera

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