EXCHANGE PROGRAMME: A Namibian delegation at the Karatay mine in the Turkistan province in Kazakhstan. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED
EXCHANGE PROGRAMME: A Namibian delegation at the Karatay mine in the Turkistan province in Kazakhstan. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

Kazakhs assure 'aquifer will not be contaminated'

Uranium One says it will provide regular water sampling in the Leonardville area once it gets the nod to extract uranium through in-situ acid mining through its subsidiary, Headspring Investments.

The company is currently conducting exploration sampling over fears that it could contaminate groundwater sources if it gets the green light to mine in the area.

Uranium One invited journalists to the Turkistan province in Kazakhstan, where it is involved in several joint venture operations with local partners. Namibian media practitioners were taken to its Karatay mine, where it is currently engaged in active in-situ leach mining in a 50-50% arrangement with the Kazakhstani government.

Should it be given the go-ahead at Leonardville, this will be the first in-situ mining process on the African continent. It would involve pumping an acid or alkaline solution into the ore body to extract ore.

Ore bodies similar

During a question-and-answer session with mine management, officials gave their assurance that the mining method is safe and is subjected to regular monitoring.

"We will apply a similar approach to Namibia. We would have two types of monitoring – one going into the ore body and the other going into the aquifer. Even if there is contamination, it will go down and not come up to the mining area. The aquifer will not be contaminated.

"The source aquifer [in Kazakhstan] is like Namibia; it is above the pay dirt," Karatay LLP radiation and environmental engineer Mikhail Zaika said.

Mine manager Rauan Utetileuov added that regular water testing will be conducted to ensure contamination is picked up as soon as it occurs.

"What we can do is make sure we take water samples from every water source in the area where we mine, every tap where water comes from, and take samples to third-party laboratories for testing to make sure people drink clear water."

Regulatory sampling not mandatory

Although regular water testing is not mandatory in Namibia, the company will do it at its own cost to build confidence in its proposed mining process, it said.

"We will go out of own costs to ensure that there is no contamination," Utetileuov said.

During the visit to the mine, journalists had to sign non-disclosure agreements and leave cameras and other recording devices at the security gate. The mine said this was necessitated by the need for it to protect its intellectual property.

Farmers and traditional leaders are expected to form part of the next visit to Kazakhstan while an inter-ministerial committee will round off the visits to that country as part of Uranium One’s consultative process.


Namibian Sun 2023-05-29

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