Inspection of uranium environmental report extended

The environmental commissioner has extended the period in which members of the public can inspect the environmental impact assessment report for the proposed Wings Project in the Aranos basin in the Omaheke region for environmental clearance consideration.

This is an ambitious project in which Russian state-owned atomic energy corporation Rosatom plans to start in-situ leach mining of uranium by 2029, in collaboration with its global mining subsidiary, Uranium One, which has applied for an environmental clearance.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Romeo Muyunda, the public review period of this application and relevant reports has been extended effective from yesterday (24 January 2024).

“The application and relevant document are available for inspection immediately and comments in writing can be submitted on or before Friday, 23 February 2024 at 17h00,” said Muyunda, without giving reasons for the extension.

He said this undertaking is in accordance with the Environmental Management Act, which makes provision for the environmental commissioner to make available for public comments, the Environmental Assessment Report and other relevant documents pertaining to an application for environmental clearance.

Muyunda added that the Environmental Impact Assessment, draft Environmental Management Plan and other associated documents for this application were submitted to both the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the environmental commissioner, for environmental clearance consideration.

The reports are available for inspection at the Office of the Environmental Commissioner in Windhoek and comments can be submitted by email or by hand to the environment ministry’s head office.

This extension of the period of inspection comes soon after Uranium One withdrew its case in the High Court in which it was challenging the minister of agriculture, water and land reform, Calle Schlettwein over his refusal to grant the company a drilling permit.

The company cited the changed legal landscape as reason for the withdrawal of its case.

The company wants to drill in-situ leaching exploratory holes in the Aranos basin, which is part of the Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System that covers a large arid region stretching from central Namibia into western Botswana and South Africa’s Northern Cape.

Schlettwein says the government should not allow in-situ mining in areas with aquifers because that would contaminate the underground water – the only source of water for people in the arid Kalahari Desert.

Fighting in the minister’s corner is the Stampriet Aquifer Uranium Mining Association (Suama), comprised of farmers, lodge and other business owners, fighting to protect the top-rate drinking water in the aquifer from contamination.

Sauma recently warned the government of a national catastrophe including litigation, should full-scale in-situ leach mining be allowed in the area.

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