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Omaheke uranium exploration tension continues

2022-07-22  Maihapa Ndjavera

Omaheke uranium exploration tension continues

A Russian company exploring for uranium in the Omaheke region continues to ruffle the feathers of local farmers and environmental groups.

Uranium One Group is standing by its statement that all chemicals being used in its exploration activities are environmentally friendly, compared to conventional open-pit and underground mining; thus, farmers in the area should not be worried. 

On Wednesday, the company held a familiarisation tour at farm Tripoli, some 15km outside Leonardville in the Omaheke region. 

Uranium One is a Russian State-owned entity, known for uranium exploration, mining and processing. 

Farmers in the Leonardville area have been concerned of potential pollution with radioactive minerals about the underground water resource that covers the Stampriet Artesian Basin (SAB) aquifer, the largest artesian basin in the country, which covers 60 000 square kilometres in south-east Namibia, and it expands into neighbouring Botswana and South Africa.

The Stampriet Aquifer Uranium Mining Committee, a committee of concerned farmers, geologists and other stakeholders, including lodge owners, who have been in contact with the Russian company, is not happy with Uranium One. 

They wanted to list their concerns during Wednesday’s visit but they could not.

They said they were not invited on the tour and only learned about it on Tuesday. 

According to the committee, they feel they should have been part of it to raise their concerns. 

The committee is expected to release their concerns today.

Uranium One spokesperson Riaan van Rooyen said the company has nothing to hide. 

“It will not benefit us not inviting relevant stakeholders to come witness our operations. We invited them three times, and they declined. After hearing we are having a media familiarisation tour on Wednesday, they called on Tuesday afternoon, which was late to accommodate them,” he explained.  

The company is expected to use the in-situ leaching (ISL) method to extract uranium. 

ISL, also called in-situ recovery (ISR) or solution mining, is a mining process used to recover minerals such as copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into a deposit. 

In-situ leach works by artificially dissolving minerals occurring naturally in a solid state.

Uranium One operates six in-situ recovery mines in Kazakhstan, which has a total yearly uranium production of 10 000 tonnes. 

The 25-year Namibian project is anticipated to be of the same scale as one of the mines in Kazakhstan.

So far, four exploration rigs have been set up in the region. 

Once it starts mining, the company said it could invest between US$300 million to US$500 million over 25 years.


Government support

At the same event, deputy mines minister Kornelia Shilunga said mineral resources are normally found in remote parts of the country and investments in the exploitation of such resources open frontiers for development. 

Thus, they help fight poverty and employment challenges as presented in such areas.

She further urged the public to put trust in government, saying all steps had been followed, and government is there to serve and not damage the community. 

Sharing same sentiments, Omaheke governor Pijoo Nganate welcomed the exploration, saying it will help the region fight poverty through creating employment for locals. 

“The region remains at the bottom as far as socio-economic development is concerned, and we noticed cattle is not enough to fight poverty. We hope this exploration will provide opportunities to the community,” he said.


2022-07-22  Maihapa Ndjavera

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