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      Anger over uranium exploration at Aminuis

      by

      Photo: Uranium Investment News

      • JEREMIAH NDJOZE

      THE councillor for the Aminius constituency in the Omaheke region, Peter Kazongominja, has joined his community in denouncing the prospects of uranium mining in the area.

      This follows the recent drilling of boreholes by Headspring Investments' Project Wings Exploration at the Okahiokavapa and Omurambauondjombo villages in the region.

      Headspring Investments is a subsidiary of Uranium One, which is a subsidiary of Rosatom, a Russian state-owned uranium exploration, mining, and processing company.

      Speaking to The Namibian, Kazongominja said while the project has been going on for almost two years, there were no significant talks between his office and the exploration entities.

      “We were just told they have permission from the government to explore, and that all they wanted was permission for water use,” he said.

      “What we understand is that they have an exploration licence, and will only be granted a mining licence by the ministry once they have found the minerals,” he said.

      Kazongominja said his office has been inundated with complaints by members of the community over exploration activities.

      Headspring Investments spokesperson Riaan van Rooyen yesterday said the company is in constant contact with all the relevant ministries to ensure things remain above board.

      He said minister of agriculture, water, and land reform Calle Schlettwein raised an issue with their operations months ago.

      “Currently all our four EPLs have been approved by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and we still have our environmental compliance certificates from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and we are respectfully good to go,” Van Rooyen said.

      He said they are “still in talks with the ministry of agriculture to ensure total compliance with all parties”.

      The former National Unity Democratic Organisation councillor for the Okakarara constituency, Vetaruhe Kandorozu, says: “If a developmental project poses a higher threat to the public's welfare, it should be halted immediately.

      He says the exploration method in the Aminuis case is of concern.

      “The fact that they have to drill ... presents a higher risk of contamination, which cannot be confined, and its impact to the ecosystem could be massive,” he says.

      Kandorozu rubbishes claims that once the project comes to fruition it stands to provide more jobs for the masses in the region, citing that similar projects in other regions have to date failed to translate into direct employment opportunities or social development.

      “There is a mine at Khorixas, but the level of poverty remains at an all-time high. The same for Karibib, Arandis and Swakopmund, where we have major mining activities underway.

      “Moreover, most of the job prospects at such mines are taken by people from other regions,” Kandorozu says.

      “We are in luck that the ministry has also pronounced itself on the matter, and the rest of us will abide by its decision,” Kazongominja said yesterday.

      SCHLETTWEIN

      Schlettwein is on record throwing his weight behind the aggrieved communities, citing the irrelevance of prospecting for uranium at Aminuis.

      “I believe any mining in an aquifer is potentially harmful. In this case they want to mine and discharge the effluent (sulphuric acid) into the Stampriet artesian aquifer on which the whole central-eastern farming community is depending.

      “I think it would be irresponsible to allow the potential pollution and destruction of such a valuable water resource in an otherwise dry country,” he had said during a previous interview.

      Schlettwein at the time said the same company had its water licence revoked because it did not comply with the regulations of its water permit.

      The regulations required the company to report back and conduct inspections, which it did not do.

      “They are still at the exploration stage, and we got worried when they were not compliant with the permit conditions posed on the permits for groundwater, and that is where we are.

      “From there on we did not proceed with issuing more permits until such time we have concrete evidence that correct measures were implemented or evidence of wrongdoing,” he said.

      Speaking at the launch of the third edition of Namibia's hydrological map late last year, the minister said the government should equally hasten to stop potentially harmful exploration and other mining activities currently taking place in areas which have been declared water reserves.


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