Experts discuss Stampriet aquifer basin
Headspring Investments this week arranged a public dialogue on the groundwater survey findings in the Stampriet Aquifer Basin (SAB) in Namibia and the international track record of modern uranium mining technologies.
Representatives from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Namibian Agricultural Union, Namibian Uranium Association, the Namibia University of Science and Technology, the University of Namibia, SAUM, the Radiation Protection Authority, local farmers, and the media attended the talks.
Following the opening remarks on the huge and crucial impact that the uranium mining sector has on the economy and prosperity of Namibia, Dr. Roy Miller presented his viewpoints and concerns regarding uranium mining’s impacts on the drinking water of the SAB.
“Groundwater is a critical and permanent commodity in the SAB and must be protected for present and future generations,” Dr. Miller said during his speech.
International experts from the Czech Republic (EU), Canada, USA, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation, who were invited to join the Public Talks, and Headsprings Representatives, agreed on the necessity to consider groundwater safety as of utmost importance and shared their professional expertise in uranium mining, hydro(geo)logy, groundwater rehabilitation and radiation studies throughout the world on experiences regarding ISR uranium mining projects.
By International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requirements, as part of the exploration activities and baseline determination, Headspring conducted water assessments in the SAB within the boundaries of the Exclusive Prospecting Licenses. Analysis for radionuclides in 63 water wells demonstrated high concentrations above World Health Organization’s limits both for Alpha and Beta activity in some of the farmers’ wells located along the main ore body.
This is a result of the natural radioactive decay of uranium mineralization. Experts ensured that uranium, as a contamination source, will be removed from the relevant aquifer during ISR mining, while ensuring that the necessary control measures are in place.
Kirill Egorov-Kirillov, Director of Mining Projects of Uranium One JSC (mother company of the Headspring explained that the area of the potential effect on the aquifer horizon is limited to the ore body zone that covers less than 1% of the SAB.
However, they advised that an extensive, independent study should be done to determine the full extent of natural contamination.
Both Dr. Alla Udalova, professor of the Nuclear University MEPhI, and mining engineer and hydrogeologist from the Czech Republic, Jan Fajgl, emphasized that radioactivity is a natural phenomenon and part of the environment.
“To eliminate the risks of radiation we shall establish sound regulations based on the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). It is of utmost importance to test water for radionuclides in certified and available laboratories” said Fajgl.
Jan Fajgl added, “Further groundwater analysis should be made to define natural contamination zone and to ensure Governmental control of its usage. Namibian national laboratory for groundwater radionuclide analysis should be established”.
Dr. Wayne Anderson, WA Safety Consulting Director, Canada, said that radiation potential hazards can be managed using well-established engineering tools through careful monitoring and adherence to ISO requirements.
Fletcher Newton shared the experience of low pH ISR uranium mining in Wyoming, the USA which is famous for its agricultural, tourist, and mining sectors. Lance is one of the largest uranium projects in Wyoming, licensed and constructed by Peninsula’s wholly owned US subsidiary, Strata Energy Inc.
The company conducted groundwater restoration studies, which have shown that the uranium concentration was reduced even to lower levels than the target restoration values during simulated groundwater restoration, following leaching with sulphuric acid-based lixiviant. Headspring, which has the environmental clearance certificates to continue with the exploration activities on their EPLs, made it clear that they are focused on transparency and is considering to establish a social council to foster regular and transparent communication.