CONCERNS continue to mount over the opening of the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine in the Namib-Naukluft Park despite Government insisting that ‘all is well’.
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The World Information Service on Energy (Wise), one of the world’s largest networks of groups working on nuclear energy issues, is the latest organisation to express opposition to the opening of the mine.
In a statement, Wise said uranium mining creates radioactive dust and emission of poisonous gas.
The emissions, it said, put residents at a greater risk of developing cancer.
“Wise, one of the largest networks of groups working on nuclear energy issues, strongly opposes the opening of the Langer Heinrich Uranium mine in Namibia.
Mining uranium and mineral sands creates radioactive dust and radon gas,”said Peer de Rijk, Executive Director of Wise.
“When breathed into the lungs, the dust and gas release their radiation at close range where it does the most damage to the lining of the lung and increases the risk of developing cancer.”
Further, noted the pressure group, the radiation exposure could affect men and women’s reproductive health.
Studies by the United States Department of Occupational Safety and Health revealed that low doses of radiation, spread over a number of years, could be just as dangerous as acute exposure.
In short, there are no safe levels of radiation exposure.
In Namibia, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has said that the mining operations would seriously affect the biodiversity of the Swakopmund environs.
The ecosystem, it said, was set to be contaminated.
But Government insists that the criticisms do not hold water.
According to Joseph Iita, Permanent Secretary of Mines and Energy, those with dissenting voices were not saying much tangible.
He said all procedures were followed properly and everything was in order.
Iita said an environmental impact assessment study was carried out before s licence was granted.
Concerns over the environment, he added, were adequately addressed.
“In line with constitutional mandates, all procedures pertaining to the environment were properly followed.
An environmental impact assessment study was carried out prior to issuing the licence.
Nothing is so peculiar to uranium mining in Namibia.
“It’s not the first time either.”
While Government expressed satisfaction with the progress so far, the NSHR said the granting of the licence was “as good as licensing death”.
Dorkas Phillemon, a public relations and administration officer at the NSHR, said research on uranium mining at a global level had shown that no single mine to date had done very well.
Phillemon said it was improper to sacrifice people’s health for the sake of investment and employment.
“Such kind of investment is not proper,” said the human rights activist.
Rijk added that the health risk of uranium mining was not confined to workers alone.
Waste leaks into surrounding areas, especially rivers and underground water supplies, could pollute water sources.
The Wise executive director said: “The radioactive wastes left over from mining are a major hazard because they are easily dispersed through wind, rain and human error.
“Waste leaks into surrounding areas, especially rivers and underground water supplies, affect people’s skin, clothing and vehicles can be contaminated by being near radioactive material.”
The German Oeko Institute and Earthlife Namibia have also raised concerns about the granting of the licence.
They raised technical issues related to the way in which the environmental study was undertaken, insisting that notable issues were left blowing in the wind.
The Oeko Research Institute said the assessment done by the Australian company Paladin Resources Limited was not carried out properly, as it did not clearly define the area where the doses were below the dose limits and where the limits were exceeded.
Earthlife Chairperson Bertchen Kohrs said one of the most serious shortcomings of Paladin’s assessment was that no realistic view of the hazardous effects on workers at the mining site was presented because no estimate had been made of the collective dose for the proposed operations.
The Oeko Institute said it had established that the Australian mining company had underestimated the concentrations for radium and radon by a factor of four.
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