Archive for October, 2013

Uranium Mining Impact on Health and the Environment 04102013 Tanzania

October 13, 2013

National Environment Management Council (NEMC)

This presentation was not particularly consoling.  The occurrence of Uranium in Tanzania  is seen as economically viable.  They have both Uranium235 and Uranium 238 occurring (this is totally to be expected).  The first can be used for nuclear weapons and for nuclear power plants and the second for using as a radiation shielding material.  (The latter is fallacious).

The risks related to Uranium are that it targets the kidneys and the lungs.  It was realised that the impacts of mining and producing yellow cake are very negative as the pollution takes the form of being solids (tailing rock waste), liquid (water pollution) and gaseous (Radon).

Two companies have been registered to open mines – Mantra in two cases and Uranex in one.

NEMC oversees the process of the EIAs, writes standards and ensures compliance.  It also co-operates with the Ministry of Energy and Minerals.

The Mkuju river project (Mantra) is deeply flawed and in conflict with UNESCO’s WHC conditions.  This resulted in an engagement in March 2012 to have to area deproclaimed as a World Heritage Site.  The Tanzanian Government has imposed conditions to keep the operation clean and safe.

Author’s comment

Unfortunately, the Tanzanian Government has no comprehension of the impacts of mining Uranium.  They believe that it is inert until processed into fuel rods.

Health Aspects and Uranium – Mining Regulations in the USA – Prof Doug Brugge

The USA has mined Uranium since 1940 and in South West America there is radioactivity which people are still trying to clean up.  It affects children, animals – in fact everything.  There are very high levels of Radon gas in houses in the area, which means that at least 7 people in the area suffer from lung cancer per community.  The Uranium workers were compensated for illnesses and death by US$824 million for some 8000 workers.

The Uranium ore contains Radium, Arsenic, Thorium and ionising radiation elements.  The impacts include kidney damage and developmental defects in humans and animals.  There is damage to the uterus in females as well as DNA damage.  A study of Namibian miners uncovered DNA damage and a studying the Karros County of Texas looking at people living near the Uranium mines uncovered similar problems.  In fact genes are changed by exposure to Uranium.  It gets into the brain and causes behaviour changes.  Additional problems include hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease, plus weakening of the autoimmune system.

Scientists are now studying the effects of Gamma radiation as well.  In addition, there are growing concerns around the number of abandoned Uranium mining sites worldwide where communities are exposed to the impacts of radiation.  The real challenge is to establish the exact exposure of such communities to Uranium and Radioactivity plus Radium.  However there is a growing body of research evidence that such exposure leads to highly negative health impacts.

Uranium Mining and Health – Impacts on Miners and the Public by Hilma Shindondola-Mote, Namibia

In 1976 the Rossing Mine was opened in Namibia with promises of riches for the miners.  This promise proved fallacious and the miners discovery extreme poverty and loss of health as well.  The mining companies are profit orientated and drive the miners to produce mercilessly, plus they ignore the impacts on the local community.  From 2008 onwards, the miners are falling sick from cancers.  Their only protection is hard hats, glasses, boots and overalls.  No protection from inhaling Radon is given.

In 2008 a report was released called “The Mystery behind Low-Level Radiation”.  The doctors at the mine said that radiation was too low to cause sickness.  However the workers denied this as they were and are sick.  This situation has not been assisted by the fact that Namibia has not signed many of the Conventions around Uranium mining, radiation and nuclear, so feels no need to comply.

The Profundo Study declared that “All Uranium miners are badly affected”.  However the mine says that the workers are falling sick because of their life styles (this is common statement in the Uranium/Nuclear industry).  Mine doctors say that the workers are healthy and force them back to work.  In some cases they put them on “Work separation leave” without explanation.  The mining company takes no responsibility for workers falling sick after leaving the mine and the workers’ health files are withheld from them.

In Arendis, the local town housing the mining community, the children are suffering from allergies as are the women.  There is a real need for an in-depth study.

Minister of Health for Tanzania

He made a statement that mining in has become safer and better regulated.  New regulation will make this certain.  He intends to strengthen environmental awareness, health requirements and the rehabilitation of mining sites on closure.

Impact of Uranium on Living Organisms – Prof Urs Ruegg

The major impact of Uranium is on the kidneys, as it develops faster.  In the years 2010 and 2012 there has been a notable increase in problems with renal failure resulting in the need for dialysis.  5% of Uranium is ingested, whilst the rest is inhaled.  Uranium destroys the kidney’s filtration processes.  There have been a number of epidemiological studies done around the results of drinking water containing Uranium.  The one in South Carolina, conducted between 1996-2005, concluded that this resulted in increased levels of renal and other cancers.  A similar study in Bavaria, between 2002-2008, found similar results.  The real barrier to ongoing studies is that the instrument used for the tested is very costly and requires a specialist to operate it.

This begs the question as to who meets the costs especially after the mine has been closed.  These are the externalised costs of nuclear never mind Uranium mining (my comment).

It can be concluded that Uranium in drinking water can induce renal carcinoma.

Tanzanian Atomic Commission Presentation

This was short and full of good intentions.  I felt deeply saddened

Uranium Mining – Impacts on Miners and the Public – Dale Dewar MD Canada

He first became involved in studying the effect of Uranium mining and milling in 1991 in Saskatchewan involving 6 active and one “decommissioned” mine.  His studies between 1991 and 1993 exposed lupus as a major health problem.  By 2013, the studies proved that Uranium milling is a causative effect in contracting lupus.

No heavy metal has any biological benefits for any living being.  The chemicals used in Uranium mining and milling include Ammonium Carbonate and Sulphuric Acid, rendering the polluted water unrecoverable.  The entire
Uranium decay chain is highly toxic and Uranium can only be removed from water using reverse osmosis.

Bottom line – Uranium is not healthy for any living thing!

Tuberculosis in Miners – Robert Mtonga MD Zambia

This is the worst public health epidemic that countries are facing today.  It is associated with:

  • Poverty
  • Conflict
  • Mining

And it runs with diabetes and cancers.

The drivers are

  • Mining
  • Poverty
  • Drugs

Mining companies are very bad wage payers; the working environment is unsafe and no or poor protective clothing is supplied.  Miners do not have regular medical check ups because “Mining is a business not a charity”.

TB is a disease of poverty and one third of new cases relate to mining.  In 2011 there were 2.3 million new cases and 220 000 deaths in Africa.  Anywhere else this would be a health emergency.  In South Africa in 2011 there were 760000 new cases.

We must remember that miners are:

  • Young and productive
  • They have poor working conditions
  • Overcrowded accommodation
  • Poor wages that result in malnutrition
  • Poor health facilities
  • Poor education
  • Poor labour laws
  • Please for help fall on deaf ears (bribery and corruption plus political expediency)

Prevention is better than cure!

Uranium and its influence on the Renal System – Andreas Uhl Switzerland

Enriched Uranium is used mainly for nuclear weapons only 10% is used for energy.  It is sourced from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, USA, SA, Namibia and Tanzania.  The Wismut Uranium mine in East Germany was totally dismantled after 1990 at a very high cost.  The following health problems arise from Uranium Mining:

  • Uranium
    • Renal problems
    • Tumours
    • Leukaemia
    • Radon
      • Lung Cancer
      • Tracheal cancers
      • Dust
        • Silicosis
        • Multi organ cancers
        • Organic compounds
          • Allergies
          • Rashes
          • Immune system reactions
          • Target organs
            • Kidney
            • Bones
            • Brain/Central Nervous System
            • Immune System
            • Eyes
            • Blood
            • Respiratory system
            • Liver
              • Gastroenteritis
  • Skin
  • Cardiovascular
  • DNA
  • Reproductive system
  • Chemicals
    • Motor oil
    • Modified cellulose
    • This includes bacteriacides
    • Modicide is also toxic
    • Cashew nut shell oil which contains a compound similar to poison ivy and causes eczema

Geology and Mining in East Germany Prof Thomas Seifert Germany

Mining was stopped in 1990 when the Russians left however Uranium Mining started in 1932 in Saxony and the Wismut mine was mined for Uranium from 1946-1990.  It was heavily exploited by the USSR and entire villages were destroyed as well as huge waste rock dumps being created.  It has to be noted the granite also contains “Uranium and is radioactive.

Mali’s experience with Uranium Mining – Nouhom Keita ARAFC

The Malians see Uranium mining as very dangerous so they have mobilised rapidly against it.  ARAFC’s objectives are to support and promote local development and human resources to help the communities to build capacity.  Their strategy is to support all organisations involved and the methods used are to ensure access to information for the communities and the miners from the government and the mining companies.

The Falea community is remote and easily cut of especially in the rainy season.  In fact many people in Mali do not know that it exists even though it is where mining is taking place.They make use of satellite communications to be heard by the rest of the world.  They have now put out a call for Uranium mining to be stopped altogether, breaking a taboo against speaking out.

The mine has destroyed the cultural and heritage activities of the community as well as the local agriculture.  The Vice President of the Regional Council has declared that Malians have been lied to and he is not afraid to expose this to the government and everyone else.  He sees Uranium mining as slow genocide.

Mining in Niger – Solli Ramatou

Uranium mining began here in 2006 and Niger needs to mobilise and assist Mali as well.  The Niger mines have not closed and the communities have to prove that uranium mining is dangerous to health.  They have deformed babies being born and these births are covered up and concealed.  There is a total cover up around the health impacts on the communities and the miners, plus there is increasing rationing and privatisation of water.


Uranium Mining Impact on Health and the Environment 05102013 Tanzania

Economic, Social and Political Aspects

Market Situation on U as a source of Energy – Prof Andreas Nidecker Switzerland

Production countries

Kazakhstan is the major producer. Namibia’s mine is shutdown currently. In 2007 there were plans to increase production as demand was expected to be 85000 tonnes then came Fukushima

In the U market if the supply and demand are equal this should raise the price.

Today demand is dropping.  Originally it was driven by the Cold War demand for weapons.  Since this ended the production has gone down.

200097-2009 production lagged behind.   Currently there is an oversupply of U in the market and the price has dropped.

U Participation corporate recommendations in 2008 predicted price rise but they are project a rise in demand which is not happening.  As nuclear weapons are dismantled the highly enrichment U can be down grade for fuel production.

Market is unpredictable

World Nuclear Assoc update in 2013 – indicates that the prediction of demand is incorrect as it is dropping.  Yet the world’s mining production is expanding.  The countries involved should look at the global demand side before committing themselves… Price is now $35 per tonne.  Production costs are $35 – 40 per tonne.  Not viable.

Production and Demand projections before Fukushima indicated a need to increase.  Latest scenarios indicate very differently.  The U industry only concerned with itself and not with alternatives impact.

World Nuclear Assoc is still saying that U market will change, but this is also pre-Fukushima.

In May 2013 Rossing was put into care and maintenance due to bad financial state of the company. Rio Tinto is thinking of selling it.

What are the U customers doing?

Weapons – being destroyed, so the demand is fading away.

Nuclear power plants – the global chart of plants is shrinking.  WISE report of July 2013 and reactors being built may never be completed.

More reactors are being shutdown than being built on an annual basis.  The costs have risen fourfold in the last 10 years.  Trend is to have fewer reactors operating.  Nuclear investments are considered risky including U mining.

In the US nuclear is being replaced by natural gas.

2013 Alternatives – renewables are replacing nuclear and global investment is rising rapidly.  Nuclear is dying and it is the fossil way to produce electricity.  Even China is producing more power via solar than nuclear.

Q: how does fracking affect this?

A: We must look at sustainability and environmental impacts and fracking has its own risks.  He is focused on the impact of radionuclides on environment.  The latter also pollute in this way.

Q: Niger is planning a water cooled reactor

A: Unfortunate.  Download the World Nuclear Energy Status Report and query government as to why they want to go-ahead with outdated and expensive technology.  Inform governments of the alternatives and the trends.

Point made that solar uses rare earths and this also has negatives however these are less than nuclear.  This must be done with foresight and care.

Dialogue again and again between activists

Dialogue to find out how to get the message to government – either name to shame or engage and understand and intervene

Dialogue on the strategies and the issues so that we talk with power and conviction. 

45 Years of U Mining in the heart of Europe, power and politics against man and nature – Sebastian Pflugbeil, President German Society for Radiation Protection

During the secret investigations into mining he was arrested and his files taken as well as his phone.  In 1998 he was in the revolution that broke the secrecy of German politics in the area of nuclear and U mining.  From 1999 he fought against the laws that promotes nuclear.

WISMUT was the large largest U mining facility in the world and was being used to mine U for nuclear weapons.   Huge negative environmental and human health impacts are experienced.

The mine was Russian run and the casualties amongst the miners in 1946 were severer.

These health effects have continued until today.  Workers’ sicknesses were no recognised as being the result of their occupation.  Only around 60 people were compensated – this in a democratic country which does not want to pay out.

As in dictatorships as in democracy which is disappointing.  Further health problems created by Chernobyl and they are the same as those found in U mining.   Both non-cancerous and cancerous diseases result from Chernobyl and U mining.

A conspiracy of silence has prevented the truth coming out to the public.

The Soviet and East German secret services protected the problems in the mine so that Russia could develop its nuclear weapons as well as cover up the pollution from the mining.

This experience gives pause as to how such mining should be regulated in future.

They have had considerable problems in rehabilitating the site and the underground areas are not fixed.  Radiation protection is not perfect as the have used the East German rules which are less rigorous.  Costs so far are €6 billion which is far more than the U brought in income.  Extensive water pollution and no-one knows exactly what is affected in the aquifers.

Enrichment of  U – an Example: URENCO  between Power Plants and Nuclear Weapons – Dirk Seifert Germany

Actions taken by German activists against U enrichment because of their impacts on the environment and human health.  Many German companies are still involved in enrichment despite the Germans withdrawing from nuclear power.  Robin Wood has a long term campaign to close down the factories and they are informing the public about the dangers of enrichment and why it should stop.

8 reactors have been closed and the final 9 will be closed down by 2022.  The problem of closure and rehabilitation is not yet solved especially for high level waste.  These problems are growing exponentially.  No solutions are being found to handle the situation.

Experiences from SA – How the U economy affects Africa Dr David Fig

Katanga produced the U for the atom bombs dropped on Japan.  Then SA U was exclusively and secretly purchased for the US and UK nuclear weapons programmes.  U is a by-product on gold mining. 

Nuclear for peace programme meant that the US donated research reactors to DRC and SA, possibly Egypt as well. Niger’s U was taken by France for its nuclear weapons programme.

Because U was being supplied to the U”S and UK, SA was not stopped from the apartheid regime and the regime also started building nuclear weapons.  In addition, SA controlled Namibia and it gained a share in the RTZ Rossing mine, which is an opencast mine

U price was stable until 2002 when it rose steeply, but after 2005 it declined rapidly.  This is mirrored by the share price of Paladin an Australian mining company.    At the moment the price trend is downward.

Why did the price rise?

1                     Looked like oil was becoming scarce as we were at “peak oil”

2                     The U stockpile was in depleted post Chernobyl and Five Mile Island

3                     End of the cold war and the arms race.  Weapons were reused

4                     Mines experienced difficulties with floods which made them unable to supply

5                     Industry tried to talk the price up because there was to be a renaissance

2007 global financial crisis caused drop in U price as economic decline decreased need for power.  3/3/2011 Fukushima disaster set off a rethink around nuclear.  The results have not been controlled to date.  Countries started rejecting plans to expand and in fact phase out nuclear.  Germany, Switzerland and Italy voted to close their nuclear plants down and Japan has closed down its nuclear fleet.

China and Russia are saying they are slowing down their build programme.

US found that nuclear is becoming too expensive and four reactors are closing down.  Brazil has cancelled orders for new nuclear reactors. More are now being closed than built.  The Economist calls it the “dream that failed”.

This is reflected in the fortunes of AREVA and other nuclear corporations.   Its new EPR reactor is proving difficult to build with huge delays with huge cost overruns.  AREVA bought up other U mining companies and in many cases paid way too much.  They reported huge losses and the assets were downgraded in value.  SO they closed many of the mines and lay off workers.  AREVA is in trouble as is Paladin.

Nuclear fuel cycle and the problem of waste disposal are unsolved.  During apartheid, SA generated weapons.

U one mined and milled U to yellow cake and then generated UF2 gas.  The enrichment plant is a Val indaba with fuel fabrication at Melinda.  AREVA built the Koeberg reactors 24km from Cape Town.  This is the fruit and wine production area and an accident would destroy them.

Low level waste is dumped in Vaalputs as is the intermediate level waste.  It has been closed down twice by the NNR.  High level waste is without a solution at present.  They are currently stored in ponds close to the reactor.

In 1990 SA closed down the weapons programme and shredded the documents in order to protect those involved.  All that was left were the 2 reactors plus the elderly research reactor.

The short life of the PBMR which never worked and was abandoned in 2010.

SA’s nuclear plans:

  • 6 new reactors
  • Smelter
  • Reopen enrichment plant
  • Nuclear police force
  • Reprocessing plant

Huge opposition to this because it will raise the price of electricity so it’s not just NGOs who are opposing it but also industry.

Creation of TSUNAMI in January 2013 which is an alliance of concern communities and NGOS etc.

SA nuclear industry is leading the push for nuclear in Africa.

The catalogue of problems far outweigh the short term profits as there are no solutions to the impacts of U mining and nuclear.  The costs are for the country not for the mining companies.

Africa needs a smarter strategy than nuclear.  We need to demonstrate that the alternatives are far more viable and safer.

U mining economic aspects from exploration to rehabilitation – Gunter Wippple, uranium-network, Germany

Two kinds of cost – monetary and social.  The latter are heavier.

Mines indicated for Tanzania are open pit, which include blasting and raising of a lot of dust, which will include U in it. Once u is out of the ground, it can never be contained again safely.

The waste rock and other waste products remain radioactive for millions of years.  NO such thing as rehabilitation.  Even reclamation does not work either.

German study of the cost of mine closure and reclamation.  The costs are difficult to define – anything between $4 and $46 per ton. The costs far outstrip the income from mining.  This makes U mining completely untenable for Tanzania.

Mining companies avoid paying for the closure costs so it becomes the responsibility of the government which often does not have sufficient funds or the political will.

Even in the US, Germany and France reclamation does not work.

Complete toxic and radioactive waste left everywhere which impacts on the population who are unprotected.  The health impacts are enormous.

Mongolia Mining – Selenge Lkhagvajav Nuclear Safe Mongolia

Having a problem with AREVA, plus 24% of the country has been sold to companies for mining.  72% of the country is desertified because of mining and degradation and most of the water has completely dried up.  The government is going ahead with encouraging other countries to build power plants which were promoted by the USA.  Mongolia is also being used for storing nuclear waste from Japan in return for a nuclear power plant.  Also storing for South Korea and Taiwan so that they do not have to worry about it further.

A Green Party was established in June 2011 to oppose nuclear in Mongolia and prevent more storage of nuclear waste.  They started a petition and delivered over 6000 signatures to their government.  Even so the nuclear cooperation agreement has not been suspended.

Human Rights Aspects in Concerned Populations

Tanzania – Amani Mustafa HakiMadini

How does mining investment affect and influence internal politics?  Everyone wants to benefit from these investments and government tends to get into a dependant situation with the companies.  This weakens their relationship with the communites and also their ability to regulate.  It also encourages government to defend its pposition against all comers even by suppressing activists and communities.  The mining companies will support the government is being re-elected.

However mining gives big environmental challenges – it affects fishing, crops etc which are lost to the mining ventures..  NO large scale mining operation has looked at the effects on the population that it displaces and whom it impoverishes.  The impact on the women is particularly bad as they lose access to everything they originally supplied to the village plus access to water is llost.

Mining was sold as providing decent jobs, which it does not.  The mining companies oppose unions and they treat their workers very badly – life span reduced from 56 to 40.

Access to information is a problem and particularly around mining, including the mining planning.  Affected communities cannot findout how they will be affected.  In addition the media has been compromised by government and the mining companies.

Access to justice is very limited and people have very little access to finding out what their legal rights are.  The legal system is not actually working despite huge breaches of the constitution.  Looking to SA and India for precedents in obtain ECRS.  SA has already given a judgement pro affected communities and Tanzanian lawyers are looking at how to apply this in their country

The weak regulatory environment makes opposing U mining very difficult.  The mining companies are getting away with polluting and the communities are being abused with no action taken against the companies.

Decision to mine or not is purely political

There is a need to protect the environment and human life above money.  Past mining has not enriched the communities so why mine U which is highly destructive.


The Australian Experience – Dave Sweeney Australian Conservation Foundation

Australian Conservation Foundation sees no value in U mining and nuclear as it is slow and expensive plus highly dangerous

Australia has 35/40% of U reserves and it supplies a large amount of the world’s market.  However U is unique and high risk through ionising radiation and heavy metals. U industry is thirsty and dirty.

In Australia there is a tough and continuous struggle against the U industry and there have been significant and repeated successes.

Major win for Jeffrey Lee and Koongara – finally got this area folded into a national park in 2013.

Mines that were mined 50 years ago are still being cleaned up at taxpayers’ expense – not the mining companies.  Civil society is seen as the dissidents and the companies are OK.

Australia directly fuelled Fukushima.  Government and industry has refused to take any responsibility for this.  Big companies have withdraw or mothballed their operatins.  Small companies are trying to mine instead with neither the experience or the finanace.

U mining addresses climate change and jobs – myths, just a happening things.

Experience from Bahi – Anthony Lyamunda CESOPE

He has no presentation and he wants his colleagues to speak on the issues.  They heard in 2007 of the possibility of a U mine in the area and they then sought information on what was intended.  They called on the international community to assist in their campaign.  Their farming has been affected as have their fish.  Mining will remove their independence and their pride.  It will destroy our health and the health of others.

Manyoni has problems with water resources and it will be mortally affected by U mining.  All the research has been done in the area where the water wells are.  So U mining will affect the water resource.

Huge impacts on farming, salt industry and fishing which are the main occupations here, so all this will be destroyed.  There are no obvious benefits to the community from U mining.  All that is being sold is monetary benefits to the government nothing else.

The issues only concern the leaders’ improvements not the communities. Biggest problem is that mining exploration is done in secret and activists are arrested for no reason.

Final Panel – the Way Forward

This will follow later