Uranium mining bad, TZ told

Tanzania stands to lose more in health and environmental impacts rather than gain economically if it is to embark on Uranium mining, experts have warned.

The experts came from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Uranium Network, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). 

They advised the government to first consider the long-term impacts of the industry, which outweigh any of the seemingly economic benefits.

The warning was raised yesterday at a conference on uranium mining held at a city hotel and which is set to wind up today. It attracted the attendance of experts from all around the world.

A Uranium expert from Germany, Mr Gunter Wippel, told The Citizen on Saturday that it will not be a good idea for Tanzania to mine the material because the country lacks the financial capacity to combat the resultant health effects as well as recovery of mining sites.

“Germany is using more than seven billion euros in reclamation of old uranium mining sites, poor countries can’t afford that. Niger is a living example, they have failed to do so after years of mining and it continues to pose serious health and environmental risks to civilians,” he warned.

Reading the joint statement of the organisers, a Radiologist from IPPNW, Prof Andreas Nidecker, said uranium is very different from most of other minerals. It is not only toxic, but also radioactive, potentially causing different cancers, abortions, birth defects and genetic damage.

“Uranium does not affect just the miners and their families, but people living near uranium mines or nuclear power plants. People in most uranium mining countries have experienced more problems than economic benefits. The recent Fukushima disaster in Japan has just proven this point,” he said.

Meanwhile, the minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, who officially opened the conference said the government was well aware of the adverse effects of uranium mining to environment and health of workers and those living close to the mining sites, as such they have already put in place policies that will ensure no harm will be done to the society.

According to Mwinyi the government will require mining companies to set aside funds for environmental rehabilitation and mine closure obligation.

“Uranium is known to be highly toxic, we are committed to protecting locals and miners; to the government the attendance of such distinguished experts in this conference will provide a lot of opinions which will strengthen our determination to make sure safety is paramount in mining uranium,” he said.

The mining process has started in Mkuju River project in Namtumbo District, Ruvuma Region. Mining plans are at different stages in Bahi District, Dodoma Region and Manyoni District, Singida Region, where uranium deposits have been discovered.
Source: The Citizen, reported by Athuman Mtulia from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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