Is uranium mining in the Karoo over before it even began?

The Karoo uranium mining developers Australian Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited and the South African Lukisa JVCo have announced the withdrawal of their joint application for mining rights to 570,000 hectares of Central Karoo farmlands in the Western Cape.

In essence, this announcement indicates that the current mining rights application is cut down to 12% of the original application. For this 12% (or 73,000 ha) a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is to start all over again.

“This is a wonderful victory for most people of the Karoo, the region’s environment, and indeed for the South African nation”, says Ani Tsondru, the CEO of SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute in Cape Town.

“While the economics to mine Karoo uranium were questionable from the outset, the current large-scale withdrawal puts a stop to most plans of this disruptive industry, whose impacts would have been felt far beyond the Karoo.”

Uranium mining would never have generated much more than the meagre 250 jobs the company were promising, promises made without underpinning details and guarantees.

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This development means many more jobs will be saved in agriculture and tourism. Already the Renewable Energy industry employs more and more people, especially in the Karoo.

It is now the duty of the landowners – often the mining companies which have now claimed to have withdrawn – and Government to clean up the legacy of past uranium mining still endangering the Karoo. High-grade uranium ores are still scattered across the Karoo with very little safeguards.

SAFCEI has brought this to the attention of the regulator. However, to date nothing has been done to prosecute the responsible parties and to clean up the radioactive hotspots.

truewan Feb 2016