By: Kelvin Chiringa
The Chairperson of the Stampriet Aquifer Uranium Mining Committee (SAUMC), Divan Opperman, wants to retract all EPLs issued for uranium prospecting across the Stampriet Artesian Basin.
In the same breath, the organisation has thanked the agriculture ministry for its latest retraction of two drilling permits granted to Headspring Investments based on non-compliance with permit conditions.
But Opperman has pointed out that only drilling permits have been retracted, not the Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (EPLs) in their totality, as some media houses reported.
“We, however, wish to express continued concern over all the EPLs issued to Headspring Investments, its associate companies and overall EPLs issued for uranium prospecting across the Stampriet Artesian Basin.
“Collectively, these cover a swath approximately 50 km wide and 500 km long all the along the northern and western margins of the basin where recharge of the aquifers takes place, a total area of 2.7 million hectares. There are more than 30 EPLs across the Stampriet Aquifer registered under various names for uranium prospecting,” he said.
Opperman said the ministry explicitly expressed concern over borehole patterns ‘mimicking that of an in-situ leaching technique.’
He added that this raises the question of whether Headspring and/or other EPL holders have already carried out in-situ leaching or are preparing for in-situ leaching without proper authority and permits.
He also said this further raises the question of impact and whether leaching has taken place already.
“Uranium contamination and radioactivity cannot be detected through sight, taste or smell, but is recorded worldwide to have negative impacts on the health of humans, animals and plants. Rehabilitation and remediation processes in other countries have taken decades to complete at immense cost to the respective governments.
“In light of the recently concluded Climate Summit held in Glasgow, where Namibia’s leadership expressed full commitment to environmental matters in a global drive to lessen anthropogenic impacts on our planet, it is imperative to keep to our promises made before a global audience. In-situ leaching of uranium in a critical, potable groundwater resource cannot be part of our green vision,” he said.
Several farmers located in the Leonardville area of the Omaheke region had been up in arms with the Russian company Headspring Investment over fears that its activity may cause pollution of underground water.
The farmers feared the Stampriet Artesian Basin (SAB) aquifer, which is considered the largest artesian basin in the country and covers some 60 000 square kilometres in south-east Namibia.
Opperman’s SAUMC consists of concerned Namibians wishing to alert the ministries implicated in this mining project to the potentially disastrous impacts that in-situ leaching of uranium in the underground aquifers of the massive Stampriet Artesian Basin could have for this arid region of Namibia’s southeastern Kalahari Desert and our neighbouring countries.
He said, “The people and animals there depend totally on this high-quality underground drinking water, their lifeblood, for their livelihoods as farmers, as meat exporters, as fruit and vegetable producers and as lodge owners supporting a growing tourist industry. The basin is a legislated water-control area.”