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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Call for care in uranium exploration, extraction

 

Imelda Urio
German experts yesterday urged the government to exercise maximum care in uranium exploration and extraction to ensure the mineral does not affect people’s health.

“There is no way that you can mine uranium without damage to the environment. Experience all over the world shows that there is no way people can mine uranium properly without damaging the environment or endangering the health of the people,” said the chairman of the Germany-based Uranium Network, Gunter Wippel.

He gave the advice at a news conference organised by the Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC) to share experiences on uranium mining in his home country.

Wippel cited the example of Germany, saying despite having money and technological capacity it is compelled to spend at least 7.0 billion Euros to maintain all mines after uranium extraction.

Thousands of German uranium miners, he said, died of lung cancer for working in poorly vented underground shafts in the 1950s.

He said for Tanzania, like other countries, discharge of radioactive and poisonous contaminants as well as other effects of mining such as heavy freight, traffic, water consumption will challenge the integrity of the mining area.

Wippel said dealing with uranium mining was more hazardous than other types of mining because of its long term effects.

The expert noted that uranium mining hazards are enhanced by local risk factors which include large-scale flooding during the rain season, safety of mine facilities, direct exposure of people to dust and water due to traditional life styles.

“Due to the shallow nature of the uranium deposits at Bahi and Manyoni, it is likely that people get in contact with elevated radiations and wells might be contaminated naturally. However this phenomenon needs to be examined in depth before drawing any conclusion,” he said.

Another expert, Martin Kurz, said his organisation was informed about Bahi district being subjected to uranium exploration by its partners in 2008.

“We were scared about how the people will be affected. I got in touch with Gunter and we’ve informed ourselves on the problem of mining and we are still thinking of how it threatens people’s lives at the area,” he said.

LHCR acting executive director Imelda Urio urged the government to halt its plan of uranium exploration and extraction and look alternative sources of income because of the metal’s adverse effects.

“We advise the government to find alternative sources of income to rejuvenate the national economy or for increasing revenue instead of dealing with uranium exploration,” she said.
She said research carried out by her organsation has shown that people living in areas surrounding uranium exploration projects were ignorant of the hazardous mineral, nor do they know its uses or advantages.

When contacted for comment on the matter, Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals Stephen Masele said the government has not issued any permit for uranium extraction pending environmental impact assessment by the National Environmental Management Council

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