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Fight against in-situ mining continues

THE Stampriet Aquifer Uranium Mining Association (Sauma) has intensified efforts to stop the planned uranium mining in the top-quality drinking water aquifer of the Stampriet Artesian Basin (SAB).

The latest issue of the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) newsletter says the planned in-situ leaching mining of uranium by Russian company Headspring Investments came to light at a public meeting on 28 September 2021.

Sauma is convinced that no mining activities – let alone uranium extraction – should be allowed in the fresh artesian water area.

“Mineral exploration and planned mining activities in the SAB must be stopped before pollution occurs. Ideally, this would be stopped by legislation,” Sauma said.

The Sauma committee expects Headspring Investments not to give up easily and the case could end up in court, thus, the committee is busy with an information campaign.

The committee will be required to provide evidence to convince the authorities or the court that such an enterprise could potentially be disastrous.

This has financial implications and the committee is, therefore, appealing for contributions to cover costs.

Headspring Investments is a subsidiary of the Russian atomic energy corporation, Rosatom.

According to the newsletter, the company commenced exploration work on several farms in the area in 2011 and has drilled more than 600 boreholes to date.

Two uranium ore bodies were discovered in the main underground artesian sandstone layer (Auob formation) of the basin.

“This layer is widespread throughout the basin and extends into Botswana and South Africa where the same excellent quality

drinking water is pumped,” said Sauma.

The water table in the layer is high (i.e. artesian), so the uranium cannot be mined by open pit or underground methods.

“The only method is through in-situ leaching which involves drilling thousands of boreholes, on average 20-25m apart, pumping in a sulfuric acid solution that dissolves the uranium and associated heavy metals, and pumping out the metal-rich and radioactive solution,” said Sauma

The committee says the metal content of the solution pumped out far exceeds the safe metal content of drinking water as per the World Health Organisation.

Following a field inspection, the Department of Water Affairs in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform withdrew two drilling permits in November 2021, due to permit requirements violations.

Meanwhile, 250 new applications for drilling permits have (provisionally) been rejected by the water affairs department, however, there are suspicions that exploration and drilling could continue.

– Email: [email protected]

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