Proposed uranium mining in Namibia threatens farming

Proposed uranium mining in Namibia threatens farming
Farmers in some parts of Namibia are being inundated by prospectors wanting to gain access to agricultural land. Photo: Helmuth Stehn
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The Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) has expressed serious concern about the apparent increase in the number of exclusive prospecting licenses (EPLs) being issued by the Namibian government.

Piet Gouws, NAU president, said in a statement that the organisation had been inundated by enquiries from its members during the past few weeks about prospectors wanting to gain access to agricultural land.

“This is becoming a muddled and unmanageable situation. Added to this is the fact that the consultants and/or potential prospectors often act unreasonably in their dealings with landowners in terms of timelines and [other issues].

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“NAU consequently started to closely monitor the situation, to ensure that EPLs adhere to legislation, environmental concerns, and that landowners’ rights were respected,” he added.

NAU was particularly concerned about a proposed uranium mine in the Leonardville area. Many of the landowners seemed unaware of the possible impact in-situ leaching associated with uranium mining could have on meat and food production, tourism possibilities, and availability of drinking water, to name but a few, the statement said.

The organisation therefore advised landowners affected by EPLs in that country to register as interested and affected parties.

The planned uranium mine would be located in closed proximity to Stampriet Artesian Basin aquifers.

A scientific report made available to Farmer’s Weekly by NAU indicated that abnormally high concentrations of uranium occurred in the area.

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the porosity of the area where the mining was expected to take place fluctuated between 25% and 30%, which made it possible for uranium molecules, oxidised or reduced, to move through the aquifer with the normal southward flow of the water.

The authors of the report, the Environmental Compliance Consultancy, advised authorities that the mining of uranium be avoided.

“The aquifers in the Stampriet Artesian Basin are the life-blood of the farming, tourism and business communities in the Kalahari area of the south-eastern part of Namibia.

“The proposed uranium mining development and its probable environmental impact would have an enormously detrimental effect on the area including its economy, farming and the environment,” the report said.

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