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Canadian uranium search will kill off the last Bushmen of Africa

By Adriana Stuijt     Dec 19, 2008 in Business
A Canadian company this week was granted exclusive uranium-prospecting licenses in two ecologically very sensitive nature reserves in Namibia in the Namib Naukluft Park. The local Nama tribal chief warns that mining would destroy their desert homeland.
The Namib Naukluft Park is one of the largest national parks in Africa, covering much of the central Namib Desert and the Naukluft (Narrow Canyon in German) Mountains. It is home to some of the rarest and weirdest plant -and animal species in the world, including the Welwitschia Mirabilis, large lichen fields and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra - and also is home to the last surviving remnants of southern Africa's First Nation, the Khoi-Khoi.
The Afrikaans newspaper Suiderland reports that Canada's Xemplar Energy Corporation's geologists will search two blocks comprised of 188,417-hectares for new uranium deposits.
Namibia is one of the world's most underpopulated regions (2-million, of whom 210,000 are infected with HIV-AIDS). see:
Local tribal chief Seth Kooitjie see his background here, of the desert-dwelling Topnaar community told a local newspaper that he was growing very concerned over the ongoing prospecting and mining of uranium in these protected areas with their unique flora and fauna.
The Topnaar, a subtribe of the Nama minority, are southern Africa's original hunter-gatherer San or Khoi-Khoi tribes -- often referred to derogatively as Hottentots -- who were pushed from their habitats around the Orange River in southern Namibia and northern South Africa in the mid nineteenth century by agriculturalist-settlers. Just like the Boers, the Topnaar also undertook a Great Trek north, led by their famous leader Jan Jonker Afrikaner. There are only about 60,000 Nama people left in all of Namibia. From DNA testing of 19th-century workers' graves on Boer farms in South Africa in a Johannesburg University study, it has been established that these so-called 'Bushmen' indeed are the true forebears of the first Nation of southern Africa. see
Only 20% of the desert might be saved after mining...
Said the tribal chief this week: "Mining in protected areas is a threat to conservation of the desert and its living organisms and deprives future generations of what is theirs. Even if mining is stopped in later years, only 20 percent of the desert will be saved. For us, mining in the park is not a good thing," Kooitjie told New Era newspaper at Gobabeb during the recent centenary-plus celebrations of the Namib Naukluft Park they live in.
"The Government should not give out too many prospecting licences," the Topnaar chief had also cautioned earlier. (New Era Oct. 13, 2008). The survival of the Topnaar - a clan of the Nama people - are already under threat from the Namibian government's blocking access to their traditional food, the !nara melon, a bitter-tasting, thorny desert plant with high levels of vitamin C. see
The !nara was the only source of income and the primary element of the Topnaar diet (which was supplemented by hunting). The Topnaar hunting grounds are now part of the Namib-Naukluft park -- which is now also being prospected for uranium. The chief and his people are no longer allowed to hunt there and the !nara melon is under threat due to the falling water table but also by its careless use by tourists. see:
Also being threatened is the ecologically-sensitive Garub-water hole -- the main watering site for the giant Namib desert's mysterious wild horses, the Shagyas, located inside this nature reserve about 120 km east of the Namibian harbour of Luderitz. The origin of the park's protected desert horses is lost in time, the subject of endless speculation. Their DNA however links them to the Arabian Peninsula's Shagyars horses.
How they got there - nobody can really prove whether they formed part of the stud of the legendary Baron von Wolf of Schloss Duwisib in then-South West Africa, or were military remounts belonging to the South African forces in World War 1. They escaped from domestication about a century ago and have adapted well to the harsh conditions of the ecologically very sensitive Namibian desert.
Namibia Africa's top uranium producer
Namibia is Africa's top uranium producer, closely followed by Niger. And the open-cast mining method does indeed destroy vast sections of the Namibian desert elsewhere -- as the Topnaar chief pointed out.
See the issues with the Rössing mine here
Uranium is used for nuclear-energy generation. In 2007, 14% of all of the world's electricity came from nuclear power and with the growing fossil-fuel crisis, many nations are increasingly turning to nuclear-power generation and for military and space-exploration use: some 150 nuclear-powered naval vessels are patrolling the oceans and some space vehicles are already powered with nuclear energy.
The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 19% of the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical energy from nuclear reactors—78% as of 2006. In the European Union as a whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity.
South Africa's only uranium mine, Dominion, recently closed down after a series of accidents, mainly because the SA government 's state-run electricity supplier Eskom was unable to guarantee a trustworthy electricity supply to keep it running safely.
At the moment, Niger's uranium resources also are especially sought after by the Chinese government, who are buying up uranium yellow-cake uranium ( U3O8) and converted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in larger quantities than ever before -- as are the Russians in Namibia. Large uranium deposits are also being mined in Australia.
Uranium trades at $54 US /lb
Xemplar is also searching for uranium in Namibia's far South eastern region near Warmbaths. The Canadian company already has 738,200 hectares under explorion for the energy source. Uranium does not trade on an open market like other commodities. Buyers and sellers negotiate contracts privately. Prices are published by independent market consultants Ux Consulting and TradeTech. At the moment it trades for $54.00 per pound of yellow-cake.
Xemplar also obtained more exclusive prospecting licenses through the state-owned Namura Mineral Resources for the Aus region north of the Tiras mountains and contracted geological consultants from Namib-Hydrosearch to search this region.
Canada is now a superpower in the African mining sector.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources Canada , only the Republic of South Africa, with over 35% of assets and investments, is just ahead of Canada in the African mining industry.
But with South Africa’s assets concentrated on its own territory, Canada dominates the rest of the continent. In 2001, Canadian companies have operations in 35 countries .
91% of Canadian investments were concentrated in eight countries, with the order of countries’ importance being the following: South Africa (25.6%), DR Congo (17.8%), Madagascar (13.8%), Zambia (9.9%), Tanzania (9.5%), Ghana (6.5%), Burkina Faso (4.7%) and Mauritania (3%).
Africa represented 11% of Canada’s US$25.8 billion in cumulative mining assets in 2001, a proportion which had risen to 17% of the total $85.9 billion in the same assets by 2007.
More about Namibia, South Africa, Canada, Uranium yellowcake, Uranium mining
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