Environmental consultant cuts ties with Russian uranium explorer

A CONSULTING firm has cut ties with a Russian state entity exploring for uranium in the Omaheke region after complaining of a lack of information to determine whether mining activities would contaminate Namibian groundwater.

The firm, Environmental Compliance Consultancy (ECC), was commissioned by Uranium One to conduct an environmental and social impact assessment for the proposed uranium mining pilot project in the Leonardville area.

In recent months, residents have raised red flags about uranium activities, including concerns about contamination in the artesian Stampriet Basin which covers a vast arid region stretching from central Namibia to Botswana. and South Africa.

The environmental society responsible for investigating potential dangers to this aquifer has now decided to pull the plug.

“Irreconcilable differences have emerged between ECC and Headspring Investments [Uranium One]which caused ECC to officially withdraw its professional environmental consulting services from the project and the developer,” the environmental company said in a statement.

The consulting firm reportedly struggled to get information from the Russian uranium company.

Sources say the ECC requested information from the Russian company, but they did not receive sufficient responses.

According to sources, this frustrated the company as it would not be allowed to meet deadlines and produce scientific advice.

The company feared misleading Namibians about the security of the project, sources said.

The environmental assessment company says it is a “Namibian environmental company that prides itself on conducting high-quality, ethical environmental and social impact assessments that follow evidence-based science and best practice methodology” .

According to the release, ECC has completed a detailed series of public consultations on the project and prepared a draft scoping report.

“ECC has also prepared detailed terms of reference for a specialized groundwater study – the most important and controversial element of the in situ leach (ISL) uranium mining project.”

The uranium debate has dominated public debates in recent months.

The director general of the Namibian Chamber of the Environment (NCE), Chris Brown, said last month that the exploration method proposed by the Russian company would inevitably lead to leaks into the aquifer, which would then be contaminated with pollutants. radioactive uranium.

“The entire Kalahari Basin depends on groundwater – cities, towns, farms, tourist settlements, irrigation, domestic stocks and wildlife. The aquifer system is shared with Botswana and South Africa. beyond the basin and would threaten tourism in general, as well as export markets for beef and other products,” he said.

Brown said the Russian company hired a Kazakh company to conduct a groundwater study, although it expected a local company to do so.

“Needless to say, the work was hopeless. He was sent to an independent and reputable company in Cape Town, which had worked in Namibia and was trusted by government and the private sector. Their report, which the Russians kept out of the public domain, found that Kazakhstan’s report was grossly deficient in many ways, including that they provided virtually no data to back up their modeling results,” did he declare.

Brown said it was a major problem for farmers and other people in the Kalahari.

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) has threatened to take legal action to prevent Uranium One from continuing its planned exploration activities.

LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi said: “We cannot have in the basins of Aminuis, Stampriet and Aranos a uranium mining operation which will destroy large areas of our agricultural sector.”

He says that although the country is home to many uranium mines, no Namibian has benefited from them except by being employed.

Uranium One recently sent six Namibian journalists to Kazakhstan to observe similar mining activities.

Uranium One spokesman Riaan van Rooyen said last month that they could not comment on “generalisations, faulty assumptions and slanderous false accusations”. The article has been forwarded to our legal counsel and the matter is now pending”.

Meanwhile, mines and energy minister Tom Alweendo said the ministry would continue to monitor the company’s activities to ensure it meets all the conditions of its exploration permit.

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