“………..the bigger issue should be that uranium mining is just a very dirty business that we didn’t clean up but source out. France used to have 200+ uranium mines but thanks to better care for environment and workers the last one closed in 2001. Instead, new ones were opened in places like Niger, Namibia and Malawi. In short: places where we can shift the real costs from uranium mining to the people and environment. As a matter of fact, CEOs in the business are quite frank about that. The former CEO of Paladin, John Borshoff, an Australian uranium producer who opened mines in Namibia, said that Canadian and Australian environmental norms are “over-sophisticated“. What he actually means is that in African countries you don’t need to pay much or anything at all to “protect” either your workers or the people living in the vicinity from dying from cancer due to exposure to uranium.
He’s just implementing the Lawrence Summers Principle. This ‘principle’ originates from a 1991 memo written or dictated by Summers whilst he was the World Bank’s chief economist. In this memo, he promoted dumping toxic waste in the Third World for economic reasons: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]? […] A given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”
The uranium sector squared up to that. But for how much longer will it get away with that?
Last time rebels in Mali came too close to the AREVA mines in Niger for comfort, France suddenly sent in their army. Under some humanitarian pretext. And if rebels don’t succeed in capturing these remote mines, the global environmental justice movement might just succeed in closing a couple of them down.
The legacy from uranium mining
Being part of that movement, I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of making a toxic tour around a now closed uranium mine in Bulgaria. Massive amounts of toxic sludge were stored behind a weak dam that showed signs of distress after heavy rains caused a spill in 2009. Old EU money was still keeping the dam up but as we’re talking about radioactive waste, money will need to keep flowing to dam repairs for millennia to come.
Since 1992, when the mines closed, and for time immemorial, that will be public money. And that’s how it goes with uranium mines in places with weak or no legislation: short-term private profits followed by perpetual public losses. In Bulgaria the people are still lucky enough to be in the EU with at least some environmental regulations and EU money for environmental protections. The same goes for other EU countries like France, which has dozens of zombie mines: dead but still active. The US also has plenty more zombie mines. The lands of the Navajo Nation include over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Despite the fact that they stopped operating in 1986, new and related lung cancers, bone cancers and impaired kidney functions keep appearing.
But while EU and US now have enough safeguards to keep their own uranium safe under the ground, there’s nothing of that in Namibia or Niger. These two countries are rising players on the uranium market, both exporting their uranium to the EU. Niger has now produced more uranium than France ever did in it’s whole history. It’s here that UK-Australian and French companies are doing the dirty digging that destroys local environment and populace.
Three reports from the EU-funded EJOLT project deal with the environmental and social issues related to uranium mining. One deals with the impacts, one concentrates on a mine in Malawi and the third dwells on the examples of successful resistance to big mining in general.
Bruno Chareyron, a French nuclear engineer who authored most of these reports, has been carrying out toxic tours along uranium mines for the last two decades. That’s not always an easy job, with for example the police confiscating most of your measuring equipment upon arrival in Niger. Nevertheless, Bruno was able to measure that radioactive scrap metal from the mines and mills is sold on the market. Waste rocks from the mines were used to pave roads, build homes and even at the local hospital where the radiation was 100 times above normal. Piles of radioactive waste were left in open air, unprotected, next to two cities with a total population of 120.000.
The missing piece of the puzzle
Where is uranium in the whole debate about nuclear energy? It’s usually only mentioned when the industry says: uranium is only a tiny part of the total cost of our energy model, unlike the situation in the gas and oil industry.
Well, there’s a reason why it’s only a tiny part of the total cost and it’s called cost shifting.
Ecological economists have given names to processes witnessed in the uranium sector:accumulation by contamination, ecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt. More and more, people all over the world are coming together to resist against environmental justice.
Our EU and US based nuclear power is currently coming at the cost of poisoning people in Africa. But it begs the question: are we ready to face that reality?
Nick Meynen is one of The Ecologist New Voices contributors. He writes blogs and bookshttp://www.epo.be/uitgeverij/boekinfo_auteur.php?isbn=9789064455803 on topics like environmental justice, globalization and human-nature relationships.
When not wandering in the activist universe or his Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/nick.meynen
is dead, he’s probably walking in nature.
Ugly Australians, like Paladin Energy, linked to 100s of deaths in uranium mining in Malawi and Namibia
There is a very strong perception that when Australian mining companies come here they take every advantage of regulatory and compliance monitoring weaknesses, and of the huge disparity in power between themselves and affected communities, and aim to get away with things they wouldn’t even think of trying in Australia,”
Australian miners linked to hundreds of deaths, injuries in Africa, SMH, July 11, 2015 -Will FitzgibbonAustralian mining companies are linked to hundreds of deaths and injuries in Africa, which can go unreported at home. Some of the Australian Securities Exchange-listed companies include state governments as shareholders. One company recorded 38 worker deaths over an eleven-year period.
In Malawi, litigation continues against Paladin Africa Limited, a subsidiary of Perth-based Paladin Energy, and its subcontractor after an explosion disfigured one worker with such heat that his skin shattered when touched by rescuers. Two others died in the same incident.
Other allegations include employees in South Africa hacking a woman with a machete and Malian police killing two protesters after a mine worker reportedly asked authorities to dislodge a barricade on the road to the mine.
An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in collaboration with 13 African reporters, uncovered locally-filed lawsuits, violent protests and community petitions criticising some Australian companies. Continue reading
[Paladin’s] Langer Heinrich Uranium mine[Namibia] …
Craton Mining and Exploration [copper] is a subsidiary of Australian-based International Base Metals…..
Rio Tinto owns Rössing Uranium Mine…
[Australian] Deep Yellow Limited (DYL) the Aussinanis uranium project.
Aussies in toxic trail By Shinovene Immanuel, Ndanki Kahiurika 10 July 15 http://www.namibian.com.na/indexx.php?id=28936&page_type=story_detail&category_id=1#sthash.TJSxEgQV.P3bN2nwk.uxfs&st_refDomain=blogs.icerocket.com&st_refQuery=/search?tab=buzz&fr=h&q=uranium+Australia NAMIBIA, a mining frontier for decades, continues to struggle with mining companies which subject workers to dangerous working conditions.
What ICIJ uncovered and pieced together suggests a troubling track record on the part of Australian companies in the rush for Africa’s minerals, including practices that would be impermissible, even unthinkable, in Australia and other parts of the developed world.
ICIJ found that, at the end of 2014, there were more than 150 Australian-listed active mining companies with recorded properties in Africa. Other estimates, using different criteria, put the number even higher.
Australian companies have 49 mining licences in Namibia; two of those companies are operational.
Even though Australian firms run successful mining companies which contribute to Namibia’s economy and workplace conditions have improved compared to two decades ago, there are still questions about the safety of workers.
Thousands of people, including village chiefs, former employees, human rights defenders and government agencies across Africa have taken Australian companies, their subsidiaries and their contractors to court for alleged negligence, unfair dismissal and eviction or pollution, according to court submissions and judgements unearthed from more than a dozen countries.
Namibia’s Rossing Uranium revenue tumbled in 2014 – official, Star Africa May 19, 2015 The impact of lower prices and the lower production figures in 2014 has strained Rossing Uranium’s revenue, which declined by 19 per cent compared to the previous year, leading to a net loss after tax of N$91 million (about US$8 million), compared to N$32 million (about US$2.7 million) profit in 2013.
The company’s turnover in 2014 was N$2.4 billion (about US$201 million), down from N$2.9 billion (about US$243 million) in 2013.
Managing director Werner Duvenhage revealed in a statement issued to APA on Tuesday that 2014 was a tough year due to continued decline of uranium globally, putting substantial pressure on the business.
â€œThe challenging times currently experienced in our industry are mainly because of global influences. It was a tough year because the uranium price continued to decline globally, putting substantial pressure on our business, with the average uranium spot market price at US$33 (N$333) per lbs, much lower than the US$38 (N$418)) per lbs average in 2013,â€� he explained……….
Unfortunately, the uranium price declined further during the first half of the year, leading to a management and board decision to curtail production and meet only contractual commitments, with the resulting curtailment production plan effective from August 2014,â€� he said.
â€œThe 2011 tsunami in Japan and its impact on the Fukushima nuclear plant still continued to plague the uranium market in 2014, with excess supply causing a decline in market prices.
â€œNuclear plants in Japan remained off-line for most of the year. Supply has increased over the three years since the Fukushima incident.
â€œThis is a recipe for continued weak prices in the near term. Utilities are holding large stocks in all forms, which defer their need to buy for one to three years on averageâ€�……http://en.starafrica.com/news/namibias-rossing-uranium-revenue-tumbled-in-2014-official.html
Fire at Namibia’s Rossing Uranium plant A fire has broken out at the product recovery plant of the Rio Tinto-owned Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia, the company confirmed on Friday. The Citizen, 13 Feb 15 “The origin and cause of the fire and possible damage to equipment or the final product recovery (FPR) building is currently being assessed,” the mine said in a statement on its website according to a Sapa correspondent. The mine is situated in the central Namib Desert, 60 kilometres east of the coastal tourism town of Swakopmund.
The fire broke out around midday on Thursday in the FPR plant of the open pit mine, where drums are filled with processed uranium, also called “yellow cake”.
Emergency response teams brought the fire under control…….The German language newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung reported that members of the fire brigade had to hand in their protective clothing to mining officials after the fire was extinguished and had to undergo urine tests……http://citizen.co.za/326132/fire-namibias-rossing-uranium-plant/
Cancer Locks a Deadly Grip on Africa, Yet It’s Barely Noticed, By Jeffrey Moyo HARARE, Feb 13 2015 (IPS) – Hidden by the struggles to defeat Ebola, malaria and drug-resistant tuberculosis, a silent killer has been moving across the African continent, superseding infections of HIV and AIDS.
World Cancer Day commemorated on Feb. 4 may have come and gone, but the spread of cancer in Africa has been worrying global health organisations and experts year round. The continent, they fear, is ill-prepared for another health crisis of enormous proportions.
By 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 16 million new cases of cancer are anticipated worldwide, with 70 percent of them in developing countries. Africa and Asia are not spared………
in Namibia, uranium workers were reported to have elevated rates of cancers and other illnesses after working in one of Africa’s largest mines.
Rio Tinto’s Rössing uranium mine extracts millions of tonnes of rock a year for the mineral. “Most workers stated that they are not informed about their health conditions and do not know if they have been exposed to radiation or not. Some workers said they consulted a private doctor to get a second opinion,” say researchers at Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute who collaborated in a study.
“The older workers all said they know miners dying of cancers and other illnesses. Many of these are now retired and many have already died of cancers,” says the study report……..http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/02/cancer-locks-a-deadly-grip-on-africa-yet-its-barely-noticed/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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