Uranium kills in Namibia http://www.news24.com/Columnists/AndreasSpath/Uranium-kills-in-Namibia-20140422 2014-04-22 Andreas Wilson-Späth
That uranium is a radioactive and toxic substance with potentially lethal impacts on the people who dig it out of the ground is generally glossed over by those among us who argue for nuclear power as a clean, green, safe and sustainable source of electricity.
Along with other intractable problems faced by the atomic energy industry – like its propensity to lay to waste entire landscapes if and when things go wrong and the fact that we still don’t have a long-term solution for storing its noxious waste products – this is not in dispute. It’s merely a matter of unintended side-effects. Collateral damage.
For uranium miners in Namibia, however, their occupation in proximity to the metal has much more first-hand and personal consequences. A report soon to be released by Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute argues that long-time workers at the Rössing uranium mine are routinely exposed to unhealthy working conditions, radiation and dust.
Rössing, which is located in central Namibia and employs over 1500 people, is majority owned (69%) by British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. The next biggest shareholders of the mine are the government of Iran (10%) and our own Industrial Development Corporation (10%).
Rio Tinto officials have consistently denied that they’re to blame for any harm, insisting that their operations at Rössing and elsewhere, including their copper, gold, coal, bauxite, iron ore and diamond mines around the world, are well monitored and run ethically, for the benefit of local communities, respecting human rights and protecting the environment.
But a closer look at the multinational’s global operations reveals that Rio Tinto isn’t quite as squeaky clean as they would like us to believe:
• At the end of last year, radioactive and acidic slurry spilled from a uranium processing tank at Rössing. Two weeks later the damaged rubber lining of a similar tank at the company’s Ranger mine in Australia’s Northern Territory leaked more than a million litres of the stuff.
• In 2013, 33 miners perished when a tunnel collapsed at Rio Tinto’s Grasberg gold and copper mine in Indonesia – the largest portion of the total of 41 deaths at their global operations during that year which international trade union IndustriAll claims the company should have done more to prevent.
• Locals have blamed the Grasberg mine for pollution affecting the environment and population.
• In Madagascar, activists have accused Rio Tinto of “land grabbing and environmental devastation”.
• A lawsuit has been filed against Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine in the US state of Utah for five-year breaches in air pollution regulations. The organisations that brought the case claim, that on some days the dust from the mine has a similar “effect on people who are consistently outdoors” as “smoking a pack of cigarettes a day”
• In Mongolia, indigenous nomadic herders have raised concerns that an expansion of Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert would threaten the integrity of the local ecosystem along with their access to fresh water.
Of course Rio Tinto also made over $1 billion in profits last year. I guess in the minds of the company’s executives that justifies the occasional mishap.
- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter:@Andreas_Spath
Radiological Impact of Rössing Uranium Mine – Namibia http://www.facing-finance.org/en/2014/04/radiological-impact-of-rossing-uranium-mine-namibia/ April 17th, 2014 by jdub / facing finance
At the Annual General Meeting of Rio Tinto in London, 15 May 2014, two recent reports about the impact of the uranium mine Rössing near Arandis, Namibia, on the environment and health were presented to the shareholders.
In cooperation with Earthlife Namibia, the French organizationCRIIRAD (Commission de Recherhe et d’Information Independantes sur la Radioactivite) analyzed the radiation of soil, water and sediments samples taken near Rössing´s mine caused by the tailing dams and waste rock dumps. Results show elevated levels of heavy metals and uranium in the samples up to more than 2000 times higher than WHO recommendations.
In their study, Earthlife Namibia surveyed the health status of current and former workers of the mine. Many of them complained of health problems, among them respiratory problems and illnesses due to the constant exposure to radon gas and dust.
CRIIRAD and Earthlife Namibia demand more independent research on radiation at the Rössing mine, a broad independent examination of the health status of workers and access to monitoring data for experts, as well as workers´ unrestricted access to their own medical reports.
Read CRIIRAD´s report here
Read Earthlife Namibia´s report here
Uranium Miners in Namibia Face Rise in Water Price, Paladin Says http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-04-04/uranium-miners-in-namibia-face-rise-in-water-price-paladin-says By Felix Njini April 04, 2014 Uranium miners in Namibia, already coping with water shortages in the semi-arid Erongo region, face a steep rise in costs, Paladin Energy (PDN) Ltd. said.
“When we get it, sometimes we have problems with the quality of the water and the cost,” said Simon Solomons, managing director of Paladin’s Langer Heinrich mine. “At the moment there is no long-term solution to the water-supply situation.”
The mines operated by Paladin, Rio Tinto Plc and China General Nuclear Power Group rely on water from a 20 million-cubic-meter capacity desalination plant operated by Areva SA, a French reactor maker. Areva is in talks to sell a majority stake in the plant to state utility Namibia Water Corp. after shelving its Trekkopje project in 2012 as uranium prices slumped in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
Namwater has “to look for finance to buy the plant,” Solomons said yesterday during a tour of the Subiaco, Western Australia-based company’s mine. “They will pass on those charges to the uranium mines.”
Calls to Namwater weren’t immediately answered.
The three mines, which require as much as 10 million cubic meters of water a year, were previously supplied by the Omaruru Delta aquifer, which has dwindling volumes as demand from the mines and surrounding towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay rises.
Langer Heinrich, which consumes 130,000 cubic meters of water a month, has had “no long-term and no firm discussion” with Namwater over supplies, Solomons said.
Namibia is the fourth-largest uranium producer after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
To contact the reporter on this story: Felix Njini in Windhoek at email@example.com
Rössing shuts operations after ‘catastrophic leak’ Namibia Times, December 6, 2013 By Jade McClune & Marshallino Beukes All milling operations at Rössing Uranium Mine ground to an immediate halt after “a catastrophic structural failure” at one of twelve leach tanks in the processing plant on Tuesday.
The incident triggered a veritable crisis, reinforcing widespread fears of a radioactive leak.
Sources at the mine told the Namib Times on Tuesday that they had heard some “kind of explosion”.
The mine has since confirmed that a leak was detected near one of the leach tanks and said there was “a very serious incident”, but did not mention any explosion.
A Red Banner Health and Safety Alert was sent out to all employees of the mine on Wednesday, confirming that there had been a “leach tank failure” at around 18:30 on Tuesday, 3 December.
The actual outcome of the incident was described as “serious” and the “maximum reasonable outcome: critical”……..http://www.namibtimes.net/forum/topics/rossing-shuts-operations-after-catastrophic-leak
Rio Tinto, Paladin Uranium Mines in Namibia Face Water Shortage, Bloomberg News By Felix Njini November 18, 2013 Uranium mines operated by companies including Rio Tinto Plc (RIO) and Paladin Energy Ltd. in Namibia face a water shortage as a drought in the southwest African nation curbs supply to the operations and three coastal towns.
Volumes from the Omaruru Delta acquifer, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of the capital, Windhoek, have declined to 4 million cubic meters this year from 9 million cubic meters a year earlier, said Nehemia Abraham, under-secretary for water and forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The source is in the semi-arid Erongo region, which supplies the towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay and suffers from severe shortages. Water from a desalination plant owned by Areva SA (AREVA), the country’s first such facility, isn’t enough to meet needs of Paladin’s Langer Heinrich uranium mine, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co.’s Husab uranium project and Rio’s Rossing complex.
“The water-supply situation at the coastal area has become too critical,” Abraham said by phone yesterday. “Mining companies in the area will have to operate with less water. We are reviewing the situation now and from end of November we might be unable to get enough water from the aquifer to supply to mines.”
Langer Heinrich spokeswoman Ratonda Murangi didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed questions. Botha Ellis, a spokesman for Rossing, directed queries to Namibia Water Corp., the country’s state-owned utility known as Namwater.
Rossing’s total water requirement for 2012 was 7.48 million cubic meters, 41 percent of which was for fresh water, while the rest was recycled, according to its website.
The three towns use about 4.5 million cubic meters and there is currently no spare capacity from the aquifer, known as Omdel, Abraham said…… http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-18/rio-tinto-paladin-uranium-mines-in-namibia-face-water-shortage
Shares of uranium miner Paladin dive after cancelled sale Reuters, Aug. 02 2013, Shares of Australian uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd. fell as much as 29 per cent in Toronto on Friday after the company cancelled plans for now to sell a minority interest in an African mine, and instead raised funds through a private placement of shares. Paladin said it ended negotiations with a potential investor on Thursday and all other parties for a stake in its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia. The company said it was unlikely to get the price it wanted because of low uranium prices….. Trading of Paladin stock was halted in both Canada and Australia on Thursday, pending news.
Paladin’s stock was down 28 per cent, or 26 Canadian cents to 66 Canadian cents in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/shares-of-uranium-miner-paladin-dive-after-cancelled-sale/article13572589/
Uranium producer Paladin’s shares slide after stake sale delay BY:BARRY FITZGERALD The Australian June 27, 2013 SHARES in African uranium producer Paladin have been pulled back to near 52-week lows because of a delay in a planned debt-reducing sale of a minority equity position in the group’s flagship Langer Heinrich operation in Namibia.
It had been hoped that Paladin would make inroads into its $US740 million debt pile by making the sale the news of which pushed the shares from an April low of 70c to more than $1 a share in late May. But recent concerns that the previously advised June 30 target date would not be met have sent the shares lower.
The concerns were well placed, with Paladin saying yesterday that the planned sale had been delayed until mid-to-late August. Paladin shares closed 6c, or 6.8 per cent, lower at 82c.
The fall came despite Paladin managing director John Borshoff remaining confident a sale will be achieved. The planned deal is with two unnamed nuclear groups……http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/uranium-producer-paladins-shares-slide-after-stake-sale-delay/story-e6frg9df-1226670445221
Namibia’s Roessing uranium mine to slash jobs Global Post, 1 Mar 13, The Roessing uranium mine in Namibia, a unit of British mining giant Rio Tinto, said Friday it plans to cut 17 percent of its workforce due to slowing demand for nuclear fuel…. As with many other uranium producers, Roessing is buckling under low metal prices and reduced demand, the company’s managing director Chris Salisbury told reporters.
“Since the Japanese tsunami in 2011, uranium demand has remained depressed and the uranium price has fallen by more than 36 percent,” he said.
Japan shut down its nuclear power plants after the tsunami destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, and a number of other countries including Germany have also signalled they plan to reduce or phase out their facilities.
“With the utility sector in Japan essentially shutdown, there is little prospect of a turnaround in the near term,” he added.
At the same time electricity and water costs have gone up…. Roessing Uranium Limited is owned 68.6 percent by British mining giant Rio Tinto and is one of two operating uranium mines in Namibia. .http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130301/namibia-s-roessing-uranium-mine-slash-jobs
Paladin, which has been the subject of some controversy in Malawi over job cuts, was last year linked to a funding application through its employees’ charity – Friends and Employees of Paladin for African Children.
Paladin’s (African) Ltd general manager, international affairs, Greg Walker, who was invited late last year to be Australia’s honorary consul to Malawi, was involved in the process, according to 2012 correspondence from Australia’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Matthew Neuhaus, to Mr Walker. The letter obtained under freedom of information confirmed Mr Walker’s successful application for the employees’ charity funding proposal.
Firms use tax money for aid projects : http://www.smh.com.au/money/tax/firms-use-tax-money-for-aid-projects-20130129-2ditd.html#ixzz2Jbp0RzOT January 30, 2013 Rory Callinan
WEALTHY resource companies operating overseas are tapping into Australian taxpayer funds to set up aid projects potentially benefiting their corporate social responsibility credentials.
Aid and mining watchdogs have expressed concerns about the practice, arguing the corporations are wealthy enough to bankroll their own aid and that linking donations to controversial mine operations is a conflict of interest.
Nine mining companies all operating in Africa have been linked to the successful applications via the Foreign Affairs Department’s Direct Aid Program – a scheme that allows heads of missions to give up to $30,000 to local causes.
About $215,000 of taxpayers’ money went to the mining company-conceived projects last financial year, including a school for the deaf, providing trade skill training to local workers, establishing women’s groups and digging wells. Two applications involved uranium mining companies, Paladin Energy in Malawi and Bannerman Resources in Namibia. Continue reading
End of last month, the price had fallen to US$49.25 and for most of September, it hovered at the US$48 mark. This is almost 60% below the entry level target as calculated by Bannerman. The impact on the development of new mines, is obvious.
I believe the commodities boom is over, or at least on hold for another five years. In the meantime, no new mines.
Our Anticipated Uranium Projects Will Not Go Ahead, Except One [analysis] Equities.com Daniel Steinmann All Africa Global Media 22 Sept12, Bannerman Resources, the Australian company driving one of four new uranium projects in Namibia, recently said at a mining conference, the price for uranium U308 needs to be between US$75 and US$90 per pound (0.454kg) to drive any new investment in greenfields uranium mines.
Hidden in this seemingly neutral observation and analysis, are many serious consequences for the further development of the uranium sector Continue reading
Conflicts with unions and management may have even larger impacts in the future,
Uranium Miners in Africa Facing Labor Disputes, Business Insider, Resource Investing News | May 16, 2012, Uranium mining companies are operating in difficult environments in many jurisdictions, facing challenges ranging from regulatory compliance,
environmental delays, rising costs, and labor relations. Over the last year, the labor challenges seem to have become more accentuated for African uranium mining companies, with several companies having reporting strikes. Continue reading
Uranium, even when purified, Chareyron said is radioactive and miners cannot really be protected from it.
Concerns over uranium mining New Era, 12 Apr 2012 – by Irene Hoaës WINDHOEK – Renewed concern has been expressed regarding uranium mining activities along the coastal areas and its impact on the environment following tests undertaken by the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation (CRIIRAD) and EARTHLIFE Namibia.
These mining activities have a direct bearing on people’s health as they reportedly cause cancer, especially to people that get exposed to them.
According to CRIIRAD, people that spend 30 minutes to 35 hours at a distance below 25 meters from the waste rock dump, would receive an external radiation dose above the trivial dose of 10 microsieverts per year.
One of the main concerns is uranium concentrates found in underground water sources and on sediments in areas where Rössing and the Langer Heinrich mines are found, especially along the Khan and Gawib rivers.
According to Bruno Chareyron, a Nuclear Physics Engineer and Director of the CRIIRAD Laboratory, the radioactive tailings (waste) of the mines are not covered and dust particles from the tailings are accumulating on bushes and slopes.
“When it rains, this dust is even washed off the waste rock dumps that are situated next to the river banks and therefore deposited into the river system,” the nuclear engineer said. Continue reading
“The most difficult part for the victims of uranium exposure is to prove that their symptoms are directly related to the work they were doing in those mines,” Hecht said. Due to this difficulty, workers do not receive any compensation.
Lecture tackles global uranium trade, The Brown Daily Herald. Alissa Haddaji, February 17, 2012 To understand the consequences of global uranium trade in Africa, the intricate interaction between political lobbying, government and human interests must be explored, said Gabrielle Hecht, professor of history at the University of Michigan, in a lecture hosted by the science and technology studies program Thursday.
The presentation — held in Smith-Buonanno 106 — was part of the program’s lecture series “Nothing Can Go Wrong: Rethinking Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century” and introduced themes from Hecht’s forthcoming book, “Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium
Trade.” …. Continue reading
situation isn’t all rosy for the multinational, which has long faced allegations of widespread environmental destruction and labor and human rights abuses in Africa, Asia and even the U.S.
Foreign control of metals and other natural resources in African and other developing countries is increasingly seen as a new form of colonialism, wherein locals work for relatively low wages and often in grueling, repressive conditions for companies that take most of the profit from the resources and labor out of the country.
Namibian Uranium Miners vs. Rio Tinto, IN THESE TIMES, BY KARI LYDERSEN, OCT 3, 2011 Namibian union uranium miners on strike against international mining giant Rio Tinto alleged in late September that a week into the strike, the company was violating mutually agreed upon conditions of the strike by hiring nonunion workers at its Rossing uranium mine.
Rio Tinto says it is not hiring nonunion workers and is demanding written proof from the Namibian Miners Union.
Miners have demanded payments of $2,557 (USD) each to end the strike over union allegations of unfair bonus payments and other grievances. Rio Tinto has asked the country’s labor court to rule that the union’s complaints are not grounds for a strike. Continue reading
Strike at Rio Tinto’s Rossing mine, IOL, September 23 2011 Workers at Rio Tinto’s Rossing mine in Namibia on Friday started an indefinite strike at the uranium mine after rejecting management’s latest offer that was meant to settle a dispute over production incentives, a union official said.
“Workers have shot down the management offer. The strike has started as planned at 0800 (10:00 SA time) this morning,” Mineworkers Union of Namibia Rossing branch representative Ismael Kasuto told Reuters. - http://www.iol.co.za/business/international/strike-at-rio-tinto-s-rossing-mine-1.1143719
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