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Yeelirrie Solidarity Camp 2019

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
K-A Garlick ‒ nuclear-free campaigner with the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

The launch of the first Yeelirrie Solidarity Camp was a massive success with over 30 campaigners from across Australia and Aotearoa / New Zealand participating in the one-week event at Yeelirrie to support Traditional Owners who oppose uranium mining in Western Australia (WA). 

The Solidarity Camp replaced this year's Walking for Country and was launched at the end of September as a camp-out on Tjiwarl country, better known as the Goldfields region of WA near the site of the proposed uranium mine.

Over thirty interested and passionate people listened, learned and showed their support to the people of both Kalgoorlie and Leonora in their fight to stop uranium mining on their country. For a week we travelled part of the proposed "nuclear freeway" between the Mulga Rock uranium project, Kalgoorlie and the proposed Yeelirrie uranium project.

The first night we spent in Kalgoorlie with our good friends and local hosts at the Wongathu Birni Aboriginal Centre. We were welcomed by Anangu women Debbie Carmody and her sister Libby Carmody from Tjulma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corporation. Debbie and Libby have joined many walks all over the world with Footprints for Peace and reconnected this night with many of the walkers. They have been standing up strong against the proposed Mulga Rock uranium project.

Also joining us at Kalgoorlie was Kokatha woman Sue Coleman-Haseldine from Ceduna (South Australia) and her sister Sue Thiselton, both long-time activists about the suffering from the Maralinga bomb tests and advocating for a future without nuclear weapons. They joined to stand with the Tjiwarl aunties to stop the threat of uranium mining on country.

The following day we travelled a further 430 kms to Sir Samuel to stay with Tjiwarl woman Vicki Abdullah and family at the Bellevue Gold Camp that has been negotiated with some of the Traditional Owners of the area. It was an interesting and insightful stay, raising many questions for the group.

A short drive the following day along the red earth unsealed roads towards Yeelirrie had us arriving before lunch to set up camp for four nights. We had a beautiful welcome to country by Vicky and that evening she shared her story as we sat around the fire.

This country has become very familiar to many of us who have returned year after year for nearly 10 years to show our opposition to uranium mining in WA. For many of us it is a welcome, familiar feeling in which we feel at ease amongst the beautiful mulga trees, spinifex, red earth and big blue skies. 

Yeelirrie station

The following day we arose early to walk to the gates of the Yeelirrie station. There are many conversations as we walk behind the Aboriginal flag leading the walkers to the gates.

A campaign update was given at the gates about the proposed Yeelirrie uranium project, and a short campaign history covering Walking for Country events, actions in Perth and elsewhere, and the legal battle ‒ three Tjiwarl aunties, Shirley, Lizzie Wonyabong and Vicki Abdullah fought hard for over 2.5 years to save their country in a legal battle against the Canadian company Cameco and the WA government. They are true warriors.

The afternoon was filled with an excellent nuclear free snapshot from Aunty Sue, Gem Romuld from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Mara Bonacci, SA nuclear-free campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

That evening around the camp fire, we listened to the incredible personal story of Aunty Sue Coleman-Haseldine. The story of people still suffering from atomic bomb testing in SA more than half a century ago. It was a powerful reminder of this deadly and toxic industry that we are trying to stop. Aunty Sue was born just before her family's desert lands to the north were bombed by the deadliest weapon we know by the British government. She told of us of the invisible killer that she had experienced through grand-daughters' thyroid removals and the still-born jelly babies born in her family.

"Anything to do with uranium mining and nuclear there is no winners, everybody loses. You can never feel guilty about what happen in the past, you can't turn back time but you can work together for a better future," she said.

A STOP sign sits at Yeelirrie Station. The women here are locked out of their own country. Some miners and governments are putting these stop signs up here. These companies and governments have only come in lately ‒ these people have been here forever and they don't have the right to go beyond the signs without someone saying so.

We headed out to good allies and local station holders, Colin and Marilyn from Youono Downs. Marilyn had invited all of us to come over and take showers and cool off in the oasis of their station. We settled in to listen to Marilyn and Colin's concerns about the uranium mine project. As they have been fighting for many years, they also had many stories to share!

Back at camp and surrounding the fire, we heard the great stories from Bilbo Taylor with his incredible experience of remote blockading. From stories to strategies we listened to the dangers, the rewards, the creative and fun ways of remote blockading. For many years, Uncle Kev, Bilbo and others kept a constant vigil on BHP's Olympic Dam uranium mine in SA.

Campaign planning

On our last full day at Yeelirrie, we revisited the core themes of the camp, and broke off into smaller working groups to discuss campaign options. We came away with six working groups for ongoing campaign work ‒ communication, outreach, creatives, fundraising, resources and spokes group.

We have a richness in this campaign that is from the connection to people and connection to this country. We have built a solid base and this will continue to slowly build should we need to fight by blockading. People are preparing themselves for the long fight. Our three core themes for the camp ‒ a 10-year campaign strategy, Yeelirrie blockade, and active campaigning now ‒ were all addressed during the week and clear outcomes achieved.

Red earth deep in our pores, the landscape etched in our minds, relationships deepened, we leave feeling satisfied to stand with the Tjiwarl women and community that tirelessly fight to stop uranium mining on their country. We stand as one, we stand together.

See the video at

A longer version of this article, with lots of photos, is posted at

Tjiwarl women win conservation award for uranium mine campaign

"Over the decades they have seen off at least three mining companies, including BHP, and in the process they have given strength and courage to their own community and many others."

Three Tjiwarl women, Shirley Wonyabong, Elizabeth Wonyabong and Vicki Abdullah, have been awarded the Australian Conservation Foundation's 2019 Peter Rawlinson Award for their decades-long campaign to protect their country and culture from a proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie in outback Western Australia.

"Shirley, Elizabeth and Vicki, along with other Tjiwarl people, have spoken up for their country and culture around campfires, in politicians' offices, on the streets of Perth and in Western Australia's highest court, all the while looking after their grandchildren and each other," said ACF's Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O'Shanassy.

"Every year for the last eight years, these women have taken people from all over the world through their country on a one-month walking tour. In this way, hundreds have seen their land. Over the decades they have seen off at least three mining companies, including BHP, and in the process they have given strength and courage to their own community and many others."

The latest company with ambitions to mine uranium at Yeelirrie is Canada's Cameco, which hopes to dig a nine-kilometre open mine pit and destroy 2,400 hectares of native vegetation. Cameco's proposed mine would use nine million litres of water a day and generate 36 million tonnes of mine waste that would remain radioactive for thousands of years.

The WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) rejected Cameco's proposal because it was almost certain to wipe out several species, including rare stygofauna (tiny subterranean creatures that live in the groundwater) and the entire western population of a rare saltbush, and harm other wildlife like the Malleefowl, Princess parrot and Greater bilby.

But state and federal authorities went against the EPA's advice and approved the mine.

Shirley, Elizabeth and Vicki took the matter to court – eventually to the Supreme Court of Appeals – which dismissed their case, confirming conservationists' fears that an Environment Minister can legally approve a mine knowing it would lead to the extinction of multiple species.

'The most important clean-up in Australian mining history': Rio Tinto under scrutiny at Ranger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear-free campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation

The complex task of remediating four decades of imposed uranium operations in a World Heritage region is continuing inside Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), majority owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, has recently released the second version of its Mine Closure Plan (MCP) outlining how it intends to rehabilitate the Ranger project, Australia's longest running uranium mine.

Despite their clear opposition Ranger was imposed on the lands of the Mirarr Aboriginal people in the 1970s. In the decades since the mine has been a source of contamination, controversy and contest.

Under the terms of the mining license all mining and mineral processing at Ranger is required to end by January 2021. Mining ended earlier this decade and ERA is now processing stockpiled ore and increasingly turning its mind to the massive challenges involved in restoring the heavily impacted site. ERA is required to clean up Ranger to a standard where "the rehabilitated area could be incorporated into the Kakadu National Park".

Given that Kakadu is Australia's largest national park and is World Heritage listed for both its cultural and natural values and importance this is a very high bar and there are real concerns over how this will happen and whether it is even possible.

The general direction of the MCP is positive but, as ever, the devil is in the detail – or in this case, the lack of it. While outlining a broad rehabilitation pathway the MCP continues to defer detailed analysis and approaches to future iterations of the document over coming years. This approach is partly understandable as the works will evolve with experience and there are legitimate areas of uncertainty, but such an approach also allows considerable scope for future works to be driven primarily by corporate imperatives rather than defined environmental objectives.

The first MCP was released last year and reviewed in Unfinished Business (, a joint report by national environment group the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Sydney University's Sydney Environment Institute.

The report highlighted a need for increased scrutiny, broader stakeholder engagement and transparency to facilitate the best possible closure and rehabilitation outcomes at Ranger. These issues remain as unfinished business in the current version of the MCP.

A further uncertainty surrounding rehabilitation efforts at Ranger is ERA's financial capacity. In February 2019, a new ERA feasibility study significantly increased the estimated rehabilitation costs at Ranger to around A$925 million (US$633 million). ERA has assets of around $A425 million, or less than half the amount currently understood to be needed for the clean-up. This clear funding shortfall has been described by the Mirarr as 'a source of significant concern to the Traditional Owners' – an understated view shared by other stakeholders.

ERA has recently moved to provide some assurance over the finances needed for clean up by launching a renounceable share offer. It is planned that over three million new shares will be issued, with existing shareholders being offered the first purchase option. At the time of the launch Rio Tinto's head of energy and minerals, Bold Baatar, stated "we take mine closure very seriously and are ensuring that ERA is able to fund the closure and rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area". Rio has committed take up its full entitlement and underwrite the initiative.

The new share issue will both increase Rio's stake in ERA and raise an expected A$476 million to aid in funding rehabilitation. The initiative is being currently being challenged by Singapore-based ERA minority shareholder Richard Magides and his Zentree Investments group who, unlike Rio Tinto, are keen to continue operations at Ranger. The Mirarr Traditional Owners have spoken of the urgent need to secure a funding solution and both they and ACF have welcomed the share move as an important step in providing certainty and capacity for the complex rehabilitation and closure effort.

The challenge posed in attempting to clean up a contaminated site in a tropical landscape is profound. This is exacerbated by the Aboriginal cultural significance and global recognition and awareness of Kakadu. Veteran resource journalist Matt Stevens recently wrote in the Australian Financial Review that Rio "wants to make Ranger the gold standard of mining rehab" and described Ranger as "the most important clean-up in Australian mining history".

In a single sentence he expressed the intent and the determination that has long driven the Aboriginal and environmental positioning around this work: 'this job has to be done right'.

Rio Tinto does seem committed to repairing decades of damage at Ranger. But trust is a finite commodity and must be built, demonstrated and delivered. The Ranger rehabilitation effort remains unfinished business and Rio Tinto remains the focus of global attention and scrutiny.

2019 uranium news highlights and lowlights

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Here's a collection of 2019 uranium news highlights and lowlights taken from the WISE-Uranium website ( ‒ a remarkable resource maintained by Peter Diehl for as long as anyone can remember.

For more information on these news items, see the 2019 Uranium News webpage ( and follow the links.


‒ ERA releases updated Closure Plan for Ranger uranium mine

Report identifies need for improvements with clean-up of Ranger uranium mine to address long-term risks for Kakadu national park

Decommissioning cost estimate for Ranger uranium mine increases further to A$830 million

‒ Court dismisses appeal against federal environmental clearance for Yeelirrie uranium mine in Western Australia

‒ Evaporation ponds at Olympic Dam mine are still killing hundreds of birds

Consequence of potential failure of Olympic Dam tailings dams rated 'extreme'


‒ INB signs agreement with Public Prosecutor's Office on necessary improvement of management of Pocos de Caldas tailings

CNEN establishes 'action plan' for inspection of Pocos de Caldas tailings dam

‒ Five years after halt of operations, license renewed for Caetite uranium mine

‒ Brazil's government plans to allow public-private partnerships for uranium mines, circumventing parliament

‒ Nuclear fuel convoy attacked by armed men


‒ Tribunal orders TEPCO to pay damages in dispute over cancellation of Fukushima uranium supply contract, but reduces TEPCO's obligation to 6% of amount claimed by Cameco

‒ Small fluorine release in Cameco Port Hope UF6 plant (Ontario)

> Heavy rain causes water inflow at Cameco Port Hope conversion plant

> Property remediation resumes at Canada's Port Hope Project

‒ Nova Scotia legislators deny request from mining industry lobby to lift province's uranium ban

‒ CNSC to hold un-hearing on revised financial guarantee for McArthur River mine

‒ Cameco opposes more stringent environmental review process for uranium mining projects

‒ CNSC seeks comments on project description for Wheeler River in situ leach uranium mine project with freeze wall

‒ Spill at mothballed Key Lake uranium mill contained uranium concentrations exceeding standard ten-fold

‒ Proposed production of nuclear fuel pellets at BWXT Peterborough nuclear fuel facility raises concern among residents


‒ Violation of criticality rules at Framatome's FBFC Romans nuclear fuel fabrication plant

‒ Justice bars Greenpeace from approaching Orano's uranium transports

‒ Greenpeace 'repaints' train carrying reprocessed uranyl nitrate from La Hague to Pierrelatte

‒ Anti-nuclear sabotage against electrical equipment on railway siding to Areva's depleted uranium storage facility at Bessines

‒ Environmental guidance values for uranium in waters downstream from former uranium mines in France not met at four sites, at least

‒ Orano plans to construct four additional buildings to extend storage capacity for reprocessed uranium at Tricastin

‒ Almost 100,000 t of depleted uranium oxide in use as radiation shield for Orano's reprocessed uranium stored at Tricastin

‒ ASN demands Orano for improvements with storage of uranium material after loss of containment at decommissioning uranium conversion plant for reprocessed uranium at Pierrelatte


‒ 300 demonstrate against Framatome Lingen nuclear fuel plant and nuclear power plant

‒ Wismut's former uranium mining site in the Ore Mountains becomes World Heritage

‒ Wismut starts construction of final cover on Culmitzsch uranium mill tailings pile

Further financing assured for reclamation of Wismut legacy sites in Saxony

‒ Demonstration against Urenco's Gronau enrichment plant

‒ Demonstration against Framatome Lingen nuclear fuel plant and nuclear power plant

‒ Preparations started for reclamation of abandoned Hakenkruemme uranium mill tailings site

‒ 250 Easter March participants demonstrate against Urenco's Gronau enrichment plant

‒ Injured mineral collector rescued from unsecured abandoned uranium mine


‒ Government of Greenland rejects company's complaint about handling of EIA report for Kvanefjeld uranium mine

‒ Stability of tailings dam at proposed Kvanefjeld uranium mine unclear

‒ Demonstration against proposed Kvanefjeld uranium mine

‒ Formation of joint venture with CNNC for processing of Kvanefjeld rare earth ‒ uranium minerals raises concern that Greenlandic uranium may end up with Chinese military


‒ Uranium mining polluting groundwater in Andhra Pradesh villages, scientists warn

‒ Residents living near Tummalapalle uranium mine block UCIL vehicles demanding supply of purified drinking water

> State Pollution Control Board issues directions to UCIL on impacts of Tummalapalle uranium mine

> State Pollution Control Board to hold hearing on alleged violations leading to groundwater contamination at Tummalapalle uranium mine

> Expert committee urges medical care for residents affected from impacts of Tummalapalle uranium mine

‒ Rally held against proposed uranium mining in Nallamala forest

70,000 people to be displaced for uranium mine in Amrabad Tiger Reserve

> Telangana State Assembly passes resolution opposing uranium mining in Nallamala forest

> Telangana Congress party demands reversal of state government's approval of uranium exploration in Nallamala forest

> Protesters prevent UCIL officials from conducting uranium survey in Nallamala forests

> Rallies and road blockade against uranium exploration in Amrabad tiger reserve

> State official vows they won't allow anyone inside for uranium exploration in Amrabad Tiger Reserve

> Campaign launched to save Amrabad Tiger Reserve from uranium mining

> Environmentalists back Chenchus' fight against uranium mining at Amrabad

> Professor arrested on his way to meet opponents of uranium mining in Nallamala forest

> Professor arrested on his way to meet tribes affected from proposed uranium mining in Nallamala forest ‒ again

‒ Environmental approval of uranium exploration affects tribals in Betul, Madhya Pradesh

‒ Displaced people demonstrate at Narwapahar uranium mine (Jharkhand)

‒ Workers at several uranium mines in India on strike

‒ India to develop 13 new uranium mine projects, increasing production by factor of up to four


‒ Iran to restart uranium enrichment at Fordo underground facility in breach of nuclear deal

‒ Iran announces tenfold increase in enriched uranium production in breach of nuclear deal

‒ Ardakan uranium mine delivers yellow cake consignment


‒ Kyrgyzstan's parliament bans uranium exploration and mining after protests

> Association of Miners and Geologists supports uranium ban in Kyrgyzstan

> At demonstration in Bishkek, more than 300 demand ban on uranium mining in Kyrgyzstan

> Kyrgyz Prime Minister bans exploration and mining of uranium before legal response

‒ Residents mined sand from Kyzyl-Ompul uranium deposit

> Demonstration in Karakol against Kyzyl-Ompul uranium mine project

> Prime Minister orders suspension of works at proposed Kyzyl-Ompul uranium mine site amid growing protests

> Licensing commission suspends exploration license for uranium at Kyzyl-Ompul

> Over 10,000 people sign online petition against proposed uranium mine at Kyzyl-Ompul

‒ Cleanup to start at two uranium legacy sites in Kyrgyzstan

‒ Hundreds join march from Balykchy to Bishkek to protest against proposed uranium mine

‒ More than 300 people gather for protest at proposed Tash-Bulak uranium mine site

‒ Chhattisgarh chief minister categorically opposes uranium mining in his state

‒ Kyrgyzstan issued 20 uranium prospection and exploration licenses, so far


‒ Paladin acting big: mothballed Kayelekera uranium mine discharged over 1.1 billion cubic metres of treated water into Sere River, according to 2018 Sustainability Report

‒ Paladin to sell its interest in mothballed Kayelekera uranium mine

‒ New Mines and Minerals law for Malawi


‒ Rio Tinto completes sale of its stake in Roessing Uranium Limited share

‒ China to fund construction of new SWAPO headquarters in exchange for uranium prospection licenses

‒ Upon sale to CNNC, Roessing uranium mine life 'potentially' to be extended beyond 2025

‒ Decommissioning fund for Roessing uranium mine currently holds 54% of amount required

‒ Swakop Uranium agrees to some of Husab uranium mine workers' safety demands

‒ Husab mine operations halted after protests against negligent handling of explosives


‒ Orano's Akouta uranium mine to be closed in 2021

‒ Additional deposits included in Madaouela mining permit without requirement for new environmental assessment

‒ Foundation stone laid for Madaouela uranium mine

Solar power for proposed Madaouela uranium mine?


‒ Presidential Council on Human Rights concerned about storage of depleted uranium hexafluoride in open air at Angarsk

‒ Moscow residents hold protest against road construction through tailings dump on bank of Moskva River


‒ National Court dismisses appeal against authorization for Retortillo uranium mine project

> Students from eight European countries protest in Retortillo against the uranium mine project

> Protesters hold road blockade to demand termination of Retortillo uranium mine project

> Berkeley obtains permit for extension of uranium exploration around Ciudad Rodrigo

> Miner Berkeley appeals to Spain's Supreme Court over nuclear watchdog nominees

> Spain-Portugal cross-border human chain held against Retortillo uranium mine project

‒ Bush fire near closed Quercus uranium mill

‒ More than 13,000 signatures against uranium exploration in area of former Cabra Alta mine

> 1,500 demonstrate against uranium exploration in area of former Cabra Alta mine

> Exploration authorization suspended for area of former Cabra Alta uranium mine


‒ Aura Energy lodges compensation claim for loss of Haeggaan mining project due to Sweden's uranium ban

United States:

‒ U.S. EPA reaches agreement with three mining companies to investigate impacts and possible remedies of groundwater contamination at San Mateo Creek Basin Site in New Mexico

‒ Centrus Energy signs contract with U.S. DOE for demonstration of high assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) production at American Centrifuge enrichment plant (Ohio). [A military project dressed up as a contribution to the development of 'advanced' power reactors ‒ NM.]

> U.S. DOE contracts Centrus Energy subsidiary for HALEU fuel fabrication system

> Groups raise concern over proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's High assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) project (New Mexico)

‒ U.S. House of Representatives passes bill for permanent uranium mining ban near Grand Canyon

> Groups call for closure of Canyon mine due to groundwater pollution hazard resulting from ongoing flooding (Arizona)

> Bill for permanent uranium mining ban near Grand Canyon passes House committee

> Tribal leaders, lawmakers push bill for permanent mining ban near Grand Canyon

> U.S. Supreme Court denies review for Canyon uranium mine near Grand Canyon

‒ U.S. Army Installation Command requests relaxation of environmental monitoring requirements for depleted uranium munitions test areas

> U.S. NRC approves 20-year deferral of decommissioning of DU munitions test area at Jefferson Proving Ground (Indiana)

> U.S. NRC issues Environmental Assessment on proposed 20-year deferral of decommissioning of DU munitions test area at Jefferson Proving Ground

> Utah Governor quietly allows bill that loosens state restrictions on accepting depleted uranium for disposal to become law without his signature

> Utah lawmakers finally approve bill that loosens state restrictions on accepting depleted uranium for disposal; groups ask governor for veto

‒ U.S. NRC denies 25% reduction of financial surety for Grants uranium mill tailings site (New Mexico)

> 12,000 gallon spill of brine from evaporation pond at Grants uranium mill tailings site

> 'Unauthorized release of impacted water' from collection pond at Grants uranium mill tailings site

> Tighter standard warranted for uranium in groundwater at Grants uranium mill tailings site, review of EPA report finds

‒ US$125 million settlement announced for cleanup of Nuclear Metals/Starmet DU munitions facility site in Concord (Massachusetts)

‒ Study finds uranium in Navajo women, babies

> U.S. EPA to award $220 million for uranium mine cleanup on Navajo Nation (New Mexico)

> Navajo sign national research agreement for study on effects of environmental exposure to uranium on babies (Arizona)

> U.S. EPA funds study on impacts of abandoned uranium mines on air quality in Cove, Arizona

‒ Positive results announced for Preliminary Economic Assessment of Charlie uranium project, based on uranium sales price 2.5 times current levels (Wyoming)

‒ Failure of criticality alarm system in downblending station for High-Enrichment Uranium at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant (Tennessee)

‒ Security violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant (New Mexico)

> Lunchbox-based security breach incident at Urenco USA enrichment plant

> U.S. NRC identifies violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant in connection with dropped cylinder containing enriched uranium

‒ Wyoming DEQ invites comment on Western Nuclear's request for 6-fold increase of selenium standard in groundwater at Split Rock uranium mill site (Wyoming)

‒ Arco demands jury trial over cleanup liability for former Jackpile uranium mine site (New Mexico)

‒ 'Unplanned' surface contamination found on heeled UF6 cylinders received at Framatome Richland nuclear fuel plant (Washington)

‒ U.S. NRC issues final interim staff guidance for conducting the Section 106 process of the National Historic Preservation Act for uranium recovery licensing actions

> Wyoming DEQ invites comment on Western Nuclear's request for 7-fold increase of nitrate standard in groundwater at Split Rock uranium mill site

> U.S. NRC investigation identifies apparent violation involving submission of inaccurate and incomplete information on groundwater situation at Split Rock uranium mill site

‒ CDPHE approves Removal Site Evaluation Work Plan for Trichloroethene in Groundwater and Soil at former Canon City uranium mill site (Colorado)

> CDPHE invites comment on Removal Site Evaluation Work Plan for Trichloroethene in Groundwater and Soil at former Canon City uranium mill site

‒ U.S. NRC identifies undisclosed safety violation at BWXT Lynchburg nuclear fuel plant (Virginia)

> U.S. NRC identifies violation of criticality safety procedures at BWXT Lynchburg nuclear fuel plant

‒ More than 100 vicinity properties may still contain uranium mill tailings at Durango (Colorado)

‒ Court orders closure and cleanup of Van 4 uranium mine that went idle 30 years ago (Colorado)

‒ Uranium-laden water leaks from refuse container at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant (South Carolina)

> Citizens frustrated, distrusting after Westinghouse cleans up uranium contamination at Columbia nuclear fuel plant

> Groundwater not contaminated from uranium leak through floor of WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

> Workers at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant still receive individual radiation doses twice average

> Violation of criticality rules at WEC Columbia nuclear fuel plant

> Waste drum damaged due to over pressurization at Westinghouse Electric Co. Columbia nuclear fuel plant

‒ County health commissioner holds public forum on neptunium found in air at school near decommissioning Portsmouth enrichment plant (Ohio)

> School closed for suspected contamination from nearby decommissioning Portsmouth enrichment plant

> No unusual radioactive material found at school closed for fear of contamination from nearby decommissioning Portsmouth enrichment plant

‒ U.S. President declines to set U.S. uranium production quotas, orders further review

‒ Natural flushing of contaminated aquifer at former Riverton uranium mill site might not be accomplished in 100-year regulatory time frame (Wyoming)

‒ Supreme Court upholds Virginia's ban on uranium mining

‒ Even improved groundwater remediation unlikely to meet remediation goal at former Monticello uranium mill tailings site (Utah)

‒ U.S. DOE to repair stream bank near Canonsburg uranium mill tailings disposal cell (Pennsylvania)

> No cancer cluster around former Canonsburg radium and uranium plant, study finds

> Uranium concentrations in groundwater at Canonsburg uranium mill tailings site don't decrease as expected

‒ Protest march to White Mesa uranium mill (Utah)

‒ Utah DEQ wants improvements for cover of reclaimed Lisbon Valley uranium mill tailings

‒ Utah DEQ issues Notice of Violation for failures at idle Shootaring Canyon uranium mill

‒ NX Uranium Inc. gives up on uranium, repositions itself in the cannibis industry, and renames itself Rogue Station Companies. "The Company's Board of Directors believes this name change more accurately reflects its planned activities in cannabis-oriented businesses." (Utah)

‒ U.S. NRC staff concurs with DOE's request for 'supplemental standards' rather than cleanup of road and trail near Moab uranium mill tailings site (Utah)

> 60% of Moab uranium mill tailings relocated at 10th anniversary of first shipment

‒ Presence of Technetium-99 complicates groundwater cleanup at former Kerr-McGee Cimarron nuclear fuel plant (Oklahoma)

‒ Uranium One requests five-year interim stabilization for Christensen Ranch in situ leach uranium mine site (Wyoming)

‒ U.S. NRC Board grants evidentiary hearing on stalled survey of historic, cultural, and religious sites for Dewey-Burdock in situ leach uranium mine project (South Dakota)

> In spite of appeals court ruling, U.S. NRC leaves disputed license for Dewey Burdock in situ leach uranium mine project in place

‒ U.S. uranium production reaches historic low

‒ Funding sought to speed up cleanup of Niagara Falls Storage Site (New York)

‒ Lawsuit filed against changes to U.S. DOE worker compensation program

‒ Bill again re-introduced in U.S. Congress to amend Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

‒ Uranium plumes in groundwater extending beyond Bluewater uranium mill tailings site remain unchanged, DOE report finds (New Mexico)

‒ Cameco abandons Three Crow Expansion project of Crow Butte uranium in situ leach mine (Nebraska)

‒ U.S. NRC announces opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene on proposal to place mine waste repository on top of reclaimed Church Rock uranium mill tailings deposit (New Mexico)

> U.S. NRC invites comments on scoping for EIS on proposal to place mine waste repository on top of reclaimed Church Rock uranium mill tailings deposit

‒ Newmont Mining requests relaxed radiation cleanup standards at former Midnite uranium mine (Washington)

‒ U.S. EPA releases Phase 2 Groundwater Investigation report for San Mateo Creek Basin Legacy Uranium Mines Site (New Mexico)

‒ U.S. NRC approves Framatome's requests to postpone decommissioning of Uranyl-nitrate storage building at Richland nuclear fuel plant (Washington)

‒ Bills introduced in South Dakota Legislative Assembly to allow people in areas impacted by mining to have a voice in the water permitting process

‒ Umetco applies for reduction of groundwater monitoring at former Gas Hills uranium mill site (Wyoming)

> Interim stabilization of ANC Gas Hills uranium mill tailings completed - unresolved issues remain

‒ Bill introduced in Colorado Assembly to protect water quality from adverse mining impacts

‒ U.S. NRC requests views on whether to resume rulemaking on ground water protection at uranium in situ recovery facilities

‒ Depressions on cover of Mexican Hat uranium mill tailings disposal cell assumed to be result of precipitation-induced erosion (Utah)

‒ U.S. NRC notes violation of criticality safety requirements at NFS Erwin nuclear fuel plant (Tennessee)

‒ DNR demands corrective action on radiation hazard from stockpile at idle Sunday mine (Colorado)

‒ Wyoming uranium mining industry makes plea for 15-year tax break

‒ U.S. DOE wants to end groundwater remediation by active pumping at Shiprock uranium mill tailings site although remediation goals not met (New Mexico)


‒ Czech Republic: Project for municipal and industrial waste collection center on Mydlovary uranium mill tailings site stopped; reclamation to be completed by 2024

‒ Former Czech state uranium miner now turns to lithium

‒ Groups demand halt of nuclear fuel exports from Framatome Lingen plant to Doel nuclear power plants (Belgium), after European Court ruled that prolonging life of the ailing reactors infringed European law

‒ Sellafield Ltd fined GBP 380,000 for safety breaches leading to worker contamination with plutonium (UK)

‒ Tails de-conversion plant at Urenco Capenhurst site completed four years late at costs of almost GBP 1 billion ‒ 2.5 times initial estimate (UK)

‒ Silex and Cameco to acquire GE-Hitachi's stake in GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC

‒ Will your next hard disk be made of a uranium compound?

‒ Lung cancer risk for uranium miners confirmed even for low radon exposures

‒ Rebels take control of mining town Bakouma in Central African Republic

‒ Jordan to train Saudis on uranium mining

‒ Regional Court upholds Ministry's rejection of further uranium exploration at Kuriskova site (Slovakia)

‒ Positive feasibility study announced for Tiris uranium mine project, assuming uranium sales price at least twice current prices (Mauritania)

‒ Heap leach pilot plant planned for Central Jordan uranium project

‒ Nuclear bill introduced in Nepal parliament to regulate uranium mining and processing

‒ Non-proliferation experts raise concern over lack of scrutiny on uneconomical projects, such as by-product recovery of uranium from phosphate, in UNECE's proposal on 'Redesigning the Uranium Resource Pathway'

‒ Group initiates referendum against proposed uranium mine in Western-Mecsek Landscape Protection Area (Hungary)

‒ Cleanup of Kamianske uranium mill tailings still stuck by insufficient allocation of funds and improper use of those allocated (Ukraine)

‒ Kazatomprom plans 20% cut to uranium production in 2019 (Kazakhstan)

Yellowcake blues: Uranium bulls "as rare as white unicorns"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Uranium bulls are "as rare as white unicorns" according to a commentary in FNArena in September 2019, and the market is "sick and dying" with uranium "quickly becoming a dinosaur of a commodity".1

Canadian company Cameco says it cannot see any case for construction of new uranium mines for some years to come. Chief financial officer Grant Isaac says that new mines will not win financial backing without a far stronger recovery in demand for uranium than is currently on the horizon.

"It's pretty hard to say you're going to take the risk on an asset … that isn't licensed, isn't permitted, probably doesn't have a proven mining method, when you have idle tier one capacity that's licensed, permitted, sitting there," Isaac said.2

Moreover, Cameco has no plans to restart mines put into care-and-maintenance in 2016 and 2017: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US.3 Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in March 2019.

Instead, Cameco will continue to meet its contracts by purchasing uranium on the spot market. Delivering the company's third-quarter results, chief exec­utive Tim Gitzel said that only 9 million pounds of uranium oxide will be produced from its mines next year, with the remainder of its requirement of 30‒32 million pounds supplied from spot market purchases.4

Cameco's workforce in Canada has halved. Before the Fukushima disaster, the company employed more than 2,100 people in Saskatchewan. Since then, 810 mine and mill workers have been sacked, along with 219 head office employees in Saskatoon.5

Cameco announced a small loss for the third quarter6 and the company's share price is down more than 75% from the pre-Fukushima price.

Another problem hanging over the company's head is the Canada Revenue Agency's appeal against a Federal Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Cameco. The CRA alleged that Cameco avoided paying as much as C$2.2 billion in tax through its use of a subsidiary in Switzerland.7

Gitzel remains bullish, claiming that demand will increase (which seems unlikely) and that production is decreasing (in fact, following years of oversupply after the Fukushima disaster, demand is now roughly equivalent to primary plus secondary supply). He seems to be in denial about the fact that the nuclear power industry will need to run just to stand still: that it will have to markedly increase new build just to match the closure of aging reactors over the next few decades.

Resources journalist Tim Treadgold opined in August 2019:8

"The core problem, too much material chasing a slow-growing (or even declining) market, has not been solved despite claims from supporters of the industry that better times are just around the corner. The truth is that better times have been out of reach for decades with three nuclear accidents weighing heavily on public sentiment even as the search for carbon-free energy accelerates. The 1979 Three Mile Island power plant radiation leak in Pennsylvania was the first big setback for nuclear power. The Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 compounded the poor image, and Fukushima delivered a near-fatal blow, powerful enough to see some countries opt to close their existing reactor fleet and others to go slow with expansion plans."

Uranium Prices (US$ / pound uranium oxide)


1 June 2007

1 Dec. 2008

1 Feb. 2011

1 Dec. 2011

1 Dec. 2016

30 Sept 2019

Spot price








contract price








Peak bubble

Bubble burst


Decline 2011-16

Decline 2011-16

Flat 2017-19

Source: Cameco:


Traders and specialists say the uranium market is likely to remain depressed for years, Reuters reported in August 2019.9 Australian financial services company Hartleys doesn't expect a recovery until the second half of the 2020s.10

Sellers are buying and buyers are selling: Cameco is buying on the spot market while Japanese companies have begun offloading unwanted inventories onto the global market. The Japanese sales so far have been small, but were made at values well below the purchase price and will likely further depress the uranium market according to two senior market specialists who spoke to Reuters.9

"Given the extended shutdown of our reactors, we are selling uranium as well as canceling long-term contracts where necessary," Japan Atomic told Reuters.9

"Japanese inventory is a big overhang in the market," a US-based market specialist said. According to Reuters' calculations, Japan's nuclear companies are sitting on nuclear fuel inventories worth nearly 50% of the market value of the nine publicly-traded nuclear utilities.9

TEPCO canceled a supply contract with Cameco in 2017, citing force majeure in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Cameco was awarded US$40.3 million in damages in July 2019 by the International Chamber of Commerce (a small fraction of the amount sought).11


In addition to Cameco's cut-backs, Kazakhstan's (mostly) state-owned uranium producer Kazatomprom has cut uranium production by 20% since late 2017 in response to oversupply and low prices. Kazatomprom recently announced that the 20% curtailment of production will be extended until 2021, and its statement left plenty of wriggle-room for curtailment beyond then: "Kazatomprom does not expect to return to full production until a sustained market recovery is evident, and demand and supply conditions signal a need for more uranium."12

Numerous other mines around the world are in care-and-maintenance (e.g. Beverley, Beverley North and Honeymoon in Australia; and Paladin's Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines in Africa) while others are operating at reduced capacity. Paladin is in the process of selling its Kayelekera project, for next-to-nothing.

AMP Capital estimates that around half the world's uranium mines are losing money.13 Specialist US uranium investor Sachem Cove Partners said in June 2019 that the price of uranium would need to double from today's spot market levels – and to stay there for a sustainable period – before a majority of miners could even contemplate restarting idled capacity or moving ahead with new projects.14

Uranium exploration and mine development expenditures in 2016 were just one-third of the 2014 expenditures and are expected to continue to decrease in response to a "sustained depressed uranium market" according to a December 2018 report by the IAEA and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency.15 The report further noted that: "[T]he Fukushima Daiichi accident has eroded public confidence in nuclear power in some countries, and prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity are thus being reduced and are subject to even greater uncertainty than usual. … Challenges remain in the global uranium market with high levels of oversupply and inventories, resulting in continuing pricing pressures."


Uranium mine production increased by 50% from 2007 to 2016.16 The increase was driven, initially at least, by expectations of a nuclear power renaissance that didn't eventuate. Stockpiles alone would suffice to keep the entire global reactor fleet operating for roughly eight years.17

Recent cut-backs have resulted in a closer matching of production and demand. If inventories are being drawn down, that is happening slowly. Kazatomprom said in early 2019 that last year saw a shift in balance toward undersupply, with the market being in slight deficit.18 And it may not be happening at all. Olga Skorlyakova, senior project manager at the World Nuclear Association, said in June 2018 that "in the near term the market is an oversupply position and we project that accumulation of inventories will continue until the beginning of the 2020s".19 Likewise, Macquarie Group anticipates a 2‒3% surplus of uranium in 2019‒20, sufficient to keep the price capped at current levels.20 Macquarie estimates that global uranium demand, from power generators and investors combined, will fall 1.9% in 2019 and a further 4% in 2020.20

Uranium industry insiders and investors hope that Chinese demand will save the day. But China only intends to source one-third of its demand on the open market, with another third produced domestically, and the third third obtained through foreign equity in mines and joint ventures overseas.1

Arguments advanced by former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd in 2014 still hold.21 He argued that "the case made by the uranium bulls is in reality full of holes" and that a new era is emerging with the uranium market split into three:

  • The Chinese will favor investing directly in mines to satisfy their requirements; they are not going to 'play ball' with the established uranium market.
  • The Russians will continue to be significant nuclear fuel exporters but their own market will remain essentially closed to outsiders. They still have secondary supplies to tap into (plenty of surplus highly-enriched uranium remains to be down-blended) and they will follow the Chinese and invest directly in uranium assets if their own domestic production remains constrained.
  • The established uranium producers will have the remainder of the market to satisfy and that will likely be declining in magnitude.

Even the World Nuclear Association acknowledges some glum realities about the uranium market, albeit the case that its realism is interspersed with speculative enthusiasm. The Association said in September 2019:22

"The uranium market has been characterized by oversupply in recent years, which has led to a sizable reduction in uranium production levels at existing mines and a sharp decrease in investment in the development of new and existing mines. ... There are more than adequate uranium resources to meet future needs; however, oversupply and associated low uranium prices are preventing the investment needed to convert these resources into production. ...

"The relative contribution of secondary supply to overall uranium supply will gradually diminish. However, a major component of secondary supply, commercial inventories, are playing an increasingly important role in the market, as many participants try to benefit from the current low prices of uranium and enrichment, increasing their stockpiles. Thus it is expected that in the short- or medium-term potential supply gap or shortfall may be covered by commercial inventories."


1. Rick Mills, 23 Sept 2019, 'Uranium Sector Won't Catch A Break',

2. Nick Evans, 6 Nov 2019, 'Cameco: No market for new uranium mines',

3. Nuclear Monitor #823, 4 May 2016, 'Uranium on the rocks; nuclear power PR blunders',

See also Cameco,

4. Cameco, Nov 2019, 'Quarterly Reports - 2019 - Q3',

5. Jennifer Quesnel, 27 Feb 2019, 'Cameco has cut half its Sask. workforce since Fukushima meltdown',


7. CBC, 26 Oct 2018, 'CRA appeals $2.2B tax bill dispute decision that ruled in favour of uranium giant Cameco',

8. Tim Treadgold, 22 July 2019, 'Uranium Reclaims The Headlines But Its Got A Long Way To Go Before Reclaiming Investor Confidence',

9. Aaron Sheldrick, Yuri Harada, 23 Aug 2019, 'Exclusive: Japanese utilities start selling uranium fuel into depressed market',

10. SightlineU3O8, 7 Nov 2019, 'The uranium industry wants to be great again, but how long will it take?',

11. CNIC, Sep/Oct 2019, 'Amount of Damages Determined for TEPCO's Termination of Uranium Supply Agreement',

See also WISE-Uranium,

12. Greg Peel, 27 Aug 2019, 'Uranium Week: Activity Reawakens',

13. Matt Griffin, 19 Dec 2018, 'Why 2019 could be uranium's break out year',

14. Tim Boreham, 3 June 2019, 'Is Uranium a hot stock?',

15. World Nuclear Association, 13 Dec 2018, 'Uranium resources adequate but investment needed',

16. World Nuclear Association, 'World Uranium Mining Production,

17. Nuclear Monitor #857, 14 Feb 2018, '2017 in review: Uranium is best left in the ground',

18. World Nuclear Association, 1 Feb 2019, 'Kazatomprom reductions continue in market-centric approach',

19. World Nuclear Association, 27 June 2018, 'IAEA emphasises vital role of uranium',

20. Greg Peel, 1 Oct 2019, 'Uranium Week: Not A Pretty Picture',

21. Steve Kidd, 6 May 2014, 'The future of uranium – higher prices to come?',

22. World Nuclear Association, 5 Sept 2019, 'The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2019-2040',


Navajo women and infants: high levels of uranium exposure

Associated Press reported in October 2019:

About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation.

The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen ‒ the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research ‒ said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year.

Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said.

The research is continuing as authorities work to clear uranium mining sites across the Navajo Nation.

"It forces us to own up to the known detriments associated with a nuclear-forward society," said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, a tribe whose jurisdiction lies west of Albuquerque.

The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age's impact on Native American communities.

The three are pushing for legislation that would expand radiation compensation to residents in their state, including post-1971 uranium workers and residents who lived downwind from the Trinity Test site in southern New Mexico. …

On the Navajo Nation, … the EPA has identified more than 200 abandoned uranium mines where it wants to complete investigation and clean up under an upcoming five-year plan, using settlements and other agreements to pay for the work that has taken decades.

Abridged from: Mary Hudetz, 8 Oct 2019, 'US official: Research finds uranium in Navajo women, babies',

New setback for the Kvanefjeld mining project in Greenland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Niels Henrik Hooge - NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark's Uranium Group

According to Greenland's Ministry of Nature and Government, the Australian mining company Greenland Minerals Ltd. (GML), owner of the large Kvanefjeld rare earth elements and uranium mining project, has systematically undermined Greenland's environmental standards. In addition to misinforming the authorities, GML has failed to comply with requests and instructions to correct and supplement its environmental impact assessment (EIA) draft reports.

In a decision aimed at GML's Managing Director, John Mair, and co-signed by Greenland's Prime Minister, Kim Kielsen, and the Department of Nature and Environment's Permanent Secretary, Mette Skarregaard Pedersen, the Greenlandic government has rejected a complaint by GML about the length of the EIA review process, which is now in its fourth year.1

In the decision, it is established that GML frequently contacted high-ranking civil servants and ministers who have no competence within the EIA review process and that these contacts sought to undermine the authority of Greenland's Environmental Agency for Mineral Resources Activities (EAMRA). The government finds that this behaviour is unacceptable and requests GML to abstain from this practice.

Increasing international interest

A reason for GML's disregard of Greenland's environmental legislation could be increasing international focus on the mining project. Greenland is estimated to hold 38.5 million tons of rare earth oxides, while total reserves for the rest of the world stand at 120 million tons. In addition to containing the second biggest uranium deposit (according to GML)2 and by far the largest thorium deposits, the Ilimaussaq-complex, of which Kvanefjeld is a part, has the second largest deposits of rare earth elements in the world.

Lately, Kvanefjeld has not only been the object of interest from the Chinese government, but also from the Trump administration. Both have signaled that they want the mining project to move forward. Earlier this year, the Chinese company Chinese National Nuclear Company, CNNC (formerly the Chinese Ministry of Nuclear Industry, which built the first Chinese atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb), formed a joint investment company with another Chinese company, Shenghe Resources Holding, which is the biggest shareholder in GML. Many expect that the Chinese could take over the mining project, if GML is granted a mining license.

Furthermore, the U.S. Geological Survey has carried out explorations in the area and recently the American ambassador to Denmark visited Narsaq – the town located only 6 km from the projected mining site – accompanied by energy experts from the U.S. State Department. According to some sources, GML may even have been involved in the process that led to the Trump administration's offer to buy Greenland.3

Lack of documentation

It is expected that the government's rebuttal of GML will prolong the EIA process for some time. GML submitted its application for a mining license to EAMRA in June together with its fourth EIA draft report.4 The three previous drafts had all been rejected because of lack of documentation. The same month, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Greenland and U.S. governments to explore minerals in Southern Greenland was signed.5

Nonetheless, the timing of the submission was surprising, considering that EAMRA had identified a series of issues that had not been sufficiently addressed by the mining company. Among other things, GML is criticised for not providing a comprehensive assessment of the earthquake risk in the region, final results of tests of toxic elements during extraction and processing, final radiological estimates and results of investigations of impacts of radioactive minerals, and for failing to describe the alternatives regarding management of tailings and the shutdown of the tailings facility.6

Kvanefjeld's negative environmental impact

For years, the Kvanefjeld project has also been criticized by Greenlandic and Danish NGOs and green groups for not living up to Greenland's environmental standards. Despite the fact that Greenland is not a signatory to the Aarhus Convention and attempts from GML to block their access, they have continuously been able to publish the mining company's EIA draft reports.7 The consensus is that none of the reports address the concerns of the local population, NGOs, politicians and international environmental and health experts.

Considering that there is no real difference between the latest and earlier EIA draft reports, criticism of the mining project largely remains the same. In 2017, at the request of the NGOs and green groups, Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, an expert in technology assessment and life cycle analyses of energy systems in the Netherlands, published an analysis of GML's first draft report8, which is still valid.

Among other things, he concludes that extracting the full resources from Kvanefjeld would generate a tailings volume about ten times larger than in the current design of the mining project. Because the ores also contain thorium in concentrations 3-10 times higher than uranium, the radioactivity of the tailings would be 3-10 times higher than might be expected based on the presence of uranium alone.

The storage of the tailings in the tailings facility in the Taseq basin would generate health hazards due to unavoidable events, even if the dams would behave as planned. This risk would grow with time, the more so after the final closure phase when inspections and maintenance might come to an end.

In addition to authorized discharges, also unintentional, but unavoidable discharges might be expected caused by leaks, spills, seepages and accidents. In the course of years, a vast area around the mine would become contaminated by radioactive and non-radioactive materials from the mine, many of which may be highly toxic. People living in the contaminated area would be chronically exposed to radioactive and other toxic species via drinking water, food and air.

Seafood would become contaminated as well, due to the substantial discharges of wastes into the coastal sea. Bioaccumulation of radionuclides and nonradioactive chemicals in the food chain may also become a serious problem.

Furthermore, according to van Leeuwen, the quality of the uranium ores at the Kvanefjeld is very near the energy cliff, due to the low grade and the mineralogy of the ore. This means that a nuclear energy system using uranium from this ore, measured from cradle to grave, is an energy sink and does not deliver useful energy to the world.

Unlikely to meet environmental and climate requirements

J.W. Storm van Leeuwen's estimates are compounded by more recent assessments. In 2018, the NGOs and green groups involved in the Kvanefjeld campaign asked for an expert opinion on the embankment structures in Kvanefjeld's tailings facility by an independent Austrian expert, heading an engineering office, which among other things deals with the assessment of the stability of dam structures.

After reviewing GML's EIA draft reports, including the latest, and their approximately 70 background documents, he concluded that he could not give an opinion, because there was no plan for or description of the embankment structures. Thus, the project could not be precisely defined and the risks of the project reliably identified9. The lack of documentation has been confirmed by EAMRA as well as Greenland's Ministry of Nature and Environment.

Furthermore, the mining project not only violates the Mineral Resources Act's environmental requirements, but also its climate protection requirements, because it significantly increases Greenland's total CO2 emissions.10 Initially, the CO2 emissions were expected to increase from currently almost 10 tons CO2 per capita yearly to 16 tons ‒ i.e. more than 60 percent ‒ in the operational period, which could be centuries, considering the size of the uranium deposit. In the latest, EIA report, however, the increase is set at 43 percent, from almost 10 tons CO2 per capita to almost 14 tons per year. Nonetheless, it is projects like Kvanefjeld that are perceived to have prevented the Greenlandic government from adopting the Paris Agreement and other international climate agreements.

Threatening the Kujataa UNESCO world heritage site

The Kujataa world heritage site11, which was inscribed on UNESCO's world heritage list in 2017, could also be a nail in the coffin for the Kvanefjeld mining project. The site ‒ a sub-arctic farming landscape ‒ is located very close to the mining area. The property consists of five components, which represent key elements of the Norse Greenlandic and modern Inuit farming cultures.

There have already been calls to put Kujataa on the World Heritage Convention's danger list. Kujataa's unique farming traditions have been a determining factor in designating it as world heritage. However, the Danish Risø National Laboratory has estimated that up to a thousand tons of radioactive dust might be released annually from the open pit mine12. A lot of it will be carried by heavy arctic sea winds across the region, where it will affect among others agricultural activities. Currently, the World Heritage Centre is monitoring the site closely and has asked for additional information from the Greenlandic and Danish authorities.13

As of now, the World Heritage Committee has a no-mining-policy, and in addition to a no-go policy (no mining on the site) there are efforts to adopt a no-impact policy – no mining which could have an environmental impact on the site.

Also, a campaign has been launched to make the Kujataa world heritage site include the Erik Aappalaartup Nunaa Peninsula itself, where Kvanefjeld is located. One of the participants is Alliance for Nature, an Austrian NGO specializing in defending existing and identifying potential new world heritage sites.

So, what is on the cards? There is no denying that popular sentiments towards the Kvanefjeld project have changed. People in Greenland are not eager to see their mineral resources taken over by China and the U.S. The latest incident involving GML makes it unlikely that any decision on a mining license will be made this year. Furthermore, GML's lack of ability to produce an EIA report that meets the environmental and climate requirements of Greenland's Mineral Resources Act could ultimately stop the mining project in its tracks or at least delay it indefinitely.


1. Naalakkersuisut's decision on GML's complaint against EAMRA. (2019, September 6).

See also: GML's complaint to EAMRA. (2019, April 4).

2. GMEL, Kvanefjeld Presentation, Greenland Day PDAC Toronto, p. 4. (2014, March 3).

3. Trump Might Want to Buy Greenland But His Nemesis, China, Is There Before Him. (2019, August 19). Forbes.

4. Kvanefjeld Project. Environmental Impact Assessment. (2019, June). Greenland Minerals & Energy A/S.

5. Joint U.S.–Greenland technical engagement through a new MOU on mineral sector governance. (2019, June 6).

See also: US enticed by Greenland's rare earth resources. (2019, August 20). Financial Times.

6. Kuannersuit ‒ Greenland Minerals har ansøgt om udvindingstilladelse. (2019, July 25). Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa.øgt-om-udvindingsti...

7. All the draft reports can be found at NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark's uranium website:

8. Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen. (2015, October). Mining at Kvanefjeld. Comments on: Kvanefjeld Project. Environmental Impact Assessment, Greenland Mineral and Energy Limited Draft, prepared by Orbicon A/S.

9. Kuannersuit: Holdbarheden af dæmningen er ukendt. (2019, April 28). Sermitsiaq.

10. The Kvanefjeld project does not meet Greenland's Mineral Resources Act's environmental and climate requirements. (2017, March 10). NGO Press release.

11. Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap. (2017, July). UNESCO.

12. Kim Pilegaard. (1990, September). Preliminary environmental impact statement for the Kvanefjeld uranium mine. Risø National Laboratory. p. 44.

13. Communication from UNESCO World Heritage Centre to NOAH Friends of the Earth (2019, October 1).

India's unyielding quest for uranium on a dangerous upswing

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Author: Sonali Huria ‒ PhD research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University, New Delhi

The Indian Prime Minister is no stranger to the art of doublespeak. Launching the 'Status of Tigers in India Report, 2018' in July, Mr Modi lauded conservation efforts in India1, terming the country among the 'biggest and safest habitats for tigers in the world'. More recently, in an alternately loved2 and lampooned3 reality show aired on Discovery Channel4, the Prime Minister spoke eloquently of his love for nature and his government's commitment to environmental and particularly, tiger conservation efforts.

That in May this year, a Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, had granted in-principle approval to a proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to 'survey and explore' uranium deposits over an area of 83 sq kms in the Nallamala forest, home to the Amrabad Tiger Reserve in the State of Telangana5, did not appear to weigh down Mr Modi. Neither has the multiplicity of dissenting voices from civil society organizations, tiger conservationists, and environmentalists against the proposed uranium exploration and mining, deterred the Government from staying the course.

If anything, the government is making steady efforts to clamp down on dissenters and activists such as, Prof Kodandram, who was detained by the State Police6 while on his way to meet and express solidarity with the protesting communities. That however, has not deterred protestors who have come together to vehemently oppose the government's plans. An online people's petition7 to 'Save Nallamala and Stop Uranium Mining' has garnered close to 10,000 signatures over the past month.

Nallamala forest is spread over seven districts across two contiguous States of India – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and is home to not only the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, among the biggest in the country, but also the fast-dwindling Chenchu Tribe who live deep in the heart of the forest and have been designated a 'Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group' (PVTG) by the Central Government8; the 2011 population census pegs their number at 47,315.9 The Amrabad Tiger Reserve, spread over 2,800 sq kms across the districts of Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda of Telangana, had earlier been part10 of the 'Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger reserve'. However, following the bifurcation of the State of Andhra Pradesh, the northern part of the reserve fell under the State of Telangana and was renamed the 'Amrabad Tiger Reserve'.

The Reserve is reported11 to have "around 70 species of mammals, more than 300 avian varieties, 60 species of reptiles and thousands of insects, all supported and nourished by more than 600 different plant species". With a little over 18 tigers12 and a spectacular variety of wild animals such as, the panther, sloth bear, wild dog and herbivores like the spotted deer, Sambhar, wild boar etc., the news of the proposal to mine this pristine forested area13 has understandably, caused much concern.

Apart from the rich diversity of flora and fauna in the forest, activists argue that the area is also of significant archaeological import – 'the remnants14 of the ancient Nagarjuna Viswa Vidyalayam run by the great Buddhist scholar Nagarjunacharya (150 AD), relics of the fort of Ikshwaku Chandragupta, ancient fort of Pratap Rudra, and several others' dot the banks of the Krishna river.

For the Government however, the proposal for uranium exploration and mining in the area is not new; it has been toying with the idea for several years now. In a written response15 to a question in the Upper House of Parliament in 2015, the Central government had stated that the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) had 'located significant uranium deposits in parts of Nalgonda District, Telangana'.

In 2016, the Field Director of the Amrabad Tiger Reserve Circle conducted a field inspection to assess the potential impact of the proposed uranium exploration on the forest. In his report16, the Field Director minces no words in stating that mining will result in "erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from mining processes. Besides creating environmental damage, the contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals also will affect the health of the native wildlife. In these areas of wilderness, mining may cause destruction and disturbance of ecosystems and habitat fragmentation", and goes on to recommend that permission 'may not' be given to the 'user agency'.

It is no less worrying according to environmentalists and activists that the proposed mining will be in violation of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act of 200617, which disallows "any ecologically unsustainable land use such as, mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserves", as well as the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) which recognizes and protects the rights of forest dwelling communities, such as the Chenchu Tribe, and requires their approval before any developmental activity can be undertaken in areas which fall under the PESA.

The stated objective for seeking environmental clearance18 for the exploration of uranium deposits in the region by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) is to 'augment uranium resources and locate new uranium deposits' for the 'quantum jump' that India is set to take "in harnessing electricity through the nuclear route". For the exploration, it is estimated that nearly 4,000 deep holes will be required to be drilled19 which conservationists argue will not only annihilate already endangered species of plants and animals, but also contaminate the surface and groundwater.

A key apprehension voiced by several environmentalists is the fact that the area identified for carrying out the mining survey is a stone's throw away from the catchment area of the Krishna River, and that the exploration will contaminate the river with radioactive pollutants, on which the Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam reservoirs are built.20

No strangers to the devastation caused by uranium

The people of the region however, are no strangers to the devastation caused by uranium mining. In Andhra Pradesh from which the State of Telangana was carved out in 2014, the underground Tummalapalle uranium mine has been in operation in Kadapa District since the earlier part of the decade, and its environmental and health impacts have become too stark to ignore. Panduranga Rao, former Sarpanch from Nalgonda District, informs this researcher that the health impacts of uranium mining including, cancers of various kinds, reproductive health issues in adolescent girls and women, and crop failure, akin to those documented around the Jadugoda uranium mines21 in Jharkhand in Central India, are now being seen in the villages around the Tummalapalle facilities, causing immense fear and resentment among local communities.

The trouble began in 2017 when agriculturists in the area around the Tummalapalle mine, dependent on drip irrigation, noticed that their banana plantations had been steadily drying up and were yielding little to no produce. Dr K Babu Rao, a retired senior scientist from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), who has been closely associated with the farmers' movement, informs this researcher22 that after a sample of the water was tested by the local centre of the State Agriculture Department, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, it was surmised that the water was 'unfit for farming'. In addition, bore wells in the area had begun to run dry and in some places even drilling up to 1000 metres yielded no water. Moreover, some water samples collected from the bore wells had revealed an increase in the percentage of uranium and other minerals.

Following this, the farmers made several representations to the District Collector and local political representatives regarding groundwater contamination due to mining activities as well as the dumping of waste in the tailing pond at Kottalu village which is roughly at a distance of about 8 kms from the project site. In response, expert committees have been instituted on various occasions, and water and soil samples from the area taken for testing. However, argues Dr Rao, there has been no genuine effort on the part of the local administration or representatives of UCIL to address the people's concerns. Instead, consistent attempts were made to rubbish their claims and deny them an equal voice by refusing permission to experts such as, Dr Rao to represent the farmers, even as the UCIL brought in scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to argue on its behalf about the 'safety' of the mining project.

The charge that UCIL operations had caused ground water contamination and resultant sickness and infertility of agricultural land is not one that the UCIL faces for the first time. There have been countless instances of tailing pipe bursts23 and leakages, dumping24 of radioactive waste in unmanned, unlined and uncovered ponds, from where it leaks into local water bodies used by communities25 for fishing, drinking and bathing, and enters the ground water and the food chain.

The UCIL and larger nuclear establishment continue to remain in abject denial of the devastation that uranium mining has wrought on those living in the vicinity. One of the members of the expert committee formed following the directions of the Jharkhand High Court in 2016 to examine 'the effects of uranium radiation in Jadugoda' – the former director of the Radiological Safety Division of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), is reported to have said that the diseases afflicting the communities of Jadugoda were on account of "economic backwardness, smoking habits and malnutrition" and not radiation.26

Dr Rao doesn't expect any better from the recent 'committee of experts' set up on the initiative of the newly elected State Government of Andhra Pradesh to look into allegations by communities around the Tummalapalle uranium mine.27 The committee, comprised28 of government scientists and 'experts' from the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), as well as the Mines, Geology, Groundwater and Agriculture Departments of the State government and academics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Tirupati, can hardly be expected to make an impartial assessment, argues Rao.

It is this lived experience of the people that keeps them on the edge as the government moves in to open up newer fronts in its interminable quest for uranium and rides roughshod over environmental and health concerns and democratic processes in pursuit of its nuclear dream.


1. Tiger count in India at 2,967; PM Narendra Modi lauds conservation efforts. (2019, July 29). Times of India.

2. Twitterati goes gaga over PM Narendra Modi in 'Man vs Wild'. (2019, August 13). The Free Press Journal. Available at

3. Chitra Ramaswamy. (2019, August 16). Man vs Wild with Bear Grylls and PM Modi review – the most tasteless TV ever. The Guardian.

4. Narendra Modi walks in wild with Bear Grylls, talks about conserving nature. (2019, August 12). LiveMint.

5. Environmental Clearance Application Form seeking prior approval under section 2 of the proposals by the state Governments and other authorities for ‘Uranium Mining in Amrabad Reserve'. Part-I, Appendix, Form-A. Submitted by Regional Director, AMD-DAE, Hyderabad. Available at

6. Venkata Kondubhatla. (2019, August 03). Cops detain prof Kodandram over backing protesters of Uranium mining. The Hans India.

7. Raj Mahakala. (2019, August). "Save Nallamala Forest and Stop Uranium Mining". Petition, Available at

8. State-wise list of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Available at

9. Tribe-wise and Sex-wise population and their Percentages to Total Population in Andhra Pradesh – 2011 Census. Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh. Available at

10. About Amrabad Tiger Reserve. Tiger Available at

11. Imran Siddiqui. (2019, July 10). "Amrabad Tiger Reserve: An Eden under threat". Down to Earth Magazine, Centre for Science and Environment.

12. Rashme Sehgal. (2019, July 12). "Uranium Mining Set to Destroy India's 2nd Largest Tiger Reserve". Available at

13. Imran Siddiqui. (2019). Op.Cit.

14. Ibid.

15. Unstarred Question No.2409. Rajya Sabha. (2015, March 19). "Uranium found in Telangana". Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Available at

16. Field Inspection Report dated 24 July 2018, submitted by Field Director, Amrabad Tiger Reserve Circle, in context of according permission for survey and exploration of Uranium in Block-1 (38 and Block-2 (38 of Amrabad R.F. (around Amrabad and Udimilla village, Mahaboob Nagar District) of Achampet Division and Block-3 ( and Block-4 (04 of Nidugal R.F. (Near Narayanapur village, Nalgonda District) of N.Sagar WLM Division of Amrabad Tiger Reserve circle. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. Available at

17. Section 38 O (1)(b) of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 (Act No. 39 of 2006). Available at

18. Environmental Clearance Application Form for ‘Uranium Mining in Amrabad Reserve'. Op.cit.

19. Rashme Sehgal. (2019, July 12). Op.cit.

20. Bobins Abraham. (2019, July 22). "Despite Fears Of Threat To Krishna River & Tiger Reserve, Uranium Mining In Nallamala Okayed". India Times. Available at

21. Amlan Home Chowdhury. (2019, January 06). "Cancers, Abortions, Deformed Children are the High Cost of ‘Clean' Nuclear Energy in Jharkhand". The Citizen. Available at

22. Interview with Dr K Babu Rao, a retired senior scientist from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) on 27 August 2019.

23. Arnab Pratim Dutta. (2015, July 04). "Uranium Spill". Down to Earth Magazine. Centre for Science and Environment. Available at

24. Chinky Shukla. (2013). "Jadugoda: The Nuclear Graveyard". Hindustan Times. Available at

25. Amita Bhaduri. (2016, August 04). "Mines Radiate Disaster". India Water Portal. Available at

26. Sagar. (2018, January 03). "Endorsed by Courts and the Government, Uranium Mining Continues to Create Health Hazards in Jadugoda as the UCIL Expands Its Operations". The Caravan. Available at

27. "Panel to study uranium contamination in A.P.'s Kadapa district". (2019, August 31). The Hindu.

28. Sandeep Raghavan. (2019, September 10). "Uranium Mining: Expert Team Inspects Kadapa Project Site". The Times of India.

Uranium mines harm Australia's Indigenous people – so why have we approved a new one?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jessica Urwin

May 1, 2019: Last week the federal government approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine in Western Australia in the face of vigorous protest from traditional owners.1 This Cameco-owned uranium mine is the newest instalment in Australia's long tradition of ignoring the dignity and welfare of Aboriginal communities in the pursuit of nuclear fuel.

For decades, Australia's desert regions have experienced uranium prospecting, mining, waste dumping and nuclear weapons testing. Settler-colonial perceptions that these lands were "uninhabited"2 led to widespread environmental degradation at the hands of the nuclear industry.

As early as 1906, South Australia's Radium Hill was mined for radium.3 Amateur prospectors mined haphazardly, damaging the lands of Ngadjuri and Wilyakali Traditional Owners. An estimated 100,000 tonnes of toxic mine residue (tailings) remain at Radium Hill with the potential to leach radioactive material into the environment.

Uranium mines across Australia have similar legacies, with decades of activism from the Mirarr people against the Ranger and Jabiluka mine sites in Kakadu National Park.4 In the 36 years since it began operating, the Ranger mine has produced over 125,000 tonnes of uranium and experienced more than 200 accidents.5 In 2013, a reported one million litres of contaminated material spilt into the surrounding environment.6

Aboriginal communities remain at a disproportionate risk because large uranium deposits exist in lands deemed sacred and significant, while the testing and dumping of nuclear material is rarely undertaken in areas inhabited by settlers.

The federal government's ambivalence toward these impacts has most recently culminated in their decision to give Cameco the go-ahead for the Yeelirrie uranium mine, a blow to the traditional owners of Tjiwarl country.7

Native title fails to protect traditional owners from the mining industry

The Tjiwarl people have fought the Yeelirrie mine alongside the Conservation Council of WA for more than two years.8 They now must grapple with the government's decision to ignore their resistance.

But the Tjiwarl people are not alone. Aboriginal communities across Australia continue to engage with and mobilise against government decisions to ignore native title claimants.

As set out in Australian law, native title is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' rights to the land and waters, guided by traditional law and customs.9

Aboriginal communities have an opportunity to object to a mining application, 35 days before the outcome of the application is determined.10 A complex appeals process follows.

But even in the face of significant complaints, mining applications are more often than not approved. This has led to people mobilising internationally.

And in 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) negotiated with the United Nations to create a treaty banning nuclear weapons.11 The treaty, adopted on July 7, 2017, recognised the disproportionate impact nuclear material has on Indigenous communities around the world. It includes the mining and milling of uranium.

The treaty warns that parties should be "mindful of the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons, [and recognise] the disproportionate impact of nuclear-weapon activities on indigenous peoples."12

Nuclear weapons sourced from Aboriginal lands

The toxic legacy of uranium mining is not isolated to the contamination of ecosystems. Radium Hill provided uranium for weapons for the United Kingdom and United States, including the nuclear weapons tested at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia in the 1950s and 1960s.13 These weapons spread radioactive contamination and dispossessed Aboriginal communities in and around the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands.14

Uranium from the Ranger mine in Northern Territory found its way into the Fukushima reactors, a reality that plagues the Mirarr people. In 2011, senior Mirarr traditional owner Yvonne Margarula expressed her sorrow for those affected by the Fukushima meltdown: "It is likely that the radiation problems at Fukushima are, at least in part, fuelled by uranium derived from our traditional lands. This makes us feel very sad."15

These legacies are felt acutely by those who continue to struggle with the lack of protection from native title and other government policies apparently designed to prevent the exploitation of Aboriginal communities by various industries.

In the 1970s, when the Ranger mine opened, the Mirarr people felt largely powerless in negotiations between mining companies and the federal government. Last week, the Tjiwarl experienced similar disempowerment. Yet both communities are recognised by the government as traditional owners.16

Unsurprisingly, Australia is yet to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, continuing the persistently toxic legacy of Australia's nuclear industry.

Jessica Urwin is a PhD student in the Australian National University's School of History. Her research focusses upon the toxic legacies of Australia's nuclear history, rooted in imperialism and enacted upon populations across the continent.

Reprinted from The Conversation,


















Unfinished business: Spotlight grows on Rio Tinto's Kakadu uranium clean-up

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear-free campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation

Four decades of imposed uranium mining by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and Rio Tinto is about to end at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu in Australia's Northern Territory.

What remains is a heavily impacted site that requires extensive, complex and costly rehabilitation. This must meet both community expectation and the mining company's legal obligation to restore the site to a standard where it can be incorporated into the surrounding Kakadu World Heritage area.

As mineral processing winds down at Ranger ahead of a mandated 2021 end to operations, a new report has found that Kakadu, Australia's largest national park, is at long-term risk unless the clean-up is comprehensive and effective.

Unfinished Business, co-authored by the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of Sydney and national environment group the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), examines the ERA Mine Closure Plan which outlines the rehabilitation works.

The report identifies significant data deficiencies, a lack of clarity around regulatory and governance frameworks and uncertainty over the adequacy of current and future financing – especially in relation to future monitoring and mitigation works for the mine site.

Mine operator ERA and parent company Rio Tinto are required to clean up the site to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding Kakadu National Park, dual-listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

No mine in the world has ever successfully achieved this standard of clean-up and the rehabilitation project is attracting national and international attention. This interest has put increased pressure on the Australian and Northern Territory governments, and on ERA and Rio Tinto, to get this work right.

The outcome at Ranger is of critical importance to Rio Tinto's international reputation as a responsible corporate citizen and the company's wider social license to operate. The report argues that Rio Tinto's future access is directly linked to its efforts to repair past impacts.

Concerns over the adequacy of the rehabilitation plans and the financial capacity needed to deliver a comprehensive clean-up operation have been formally raised with Rio Tinto at the company's annual meetings in both London (April) and Perth (May).

Ranger has been one of the most contested and high-profile resource projects in Australia since the mine was opened in 1981 despite the clear opposition of the Mirarr Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people of the Kakadu region.

The challenge now facing Rio Tinto is not to simply scrape rocks into holes and plant trees, it is to make sure mine tailings, radioactive slurry and toxic by-products of mining are isolated from the surrounding environment for 10,000 years.

"Achieving this in a monsoonal environment like Kakadu raises enormous environmental and governance challenges," said report co-author Dr Rebecca Lawrence from the Sydney Environment Institute. "For the rehabilitation process to even have a chance at success, the existing opaque and complex regulatory regime needs an urgent overhaul".

Tailings ‒ the waste material remaining after the processing of finely ground ore ‒ are one of the serious environmental risks at Ranger. The report examines how ERA and Rio Tinto intend to deliver on the federal government's requirement to protect the Kakadu environment by isolating any tailings and making sure contaminants do not result in any detrimental environmental impacts for at least 10,000 years.

Long after the miners have gone, this waste remains a direct human and environmental challenge. This issue is key to the long-term health of Kakadu, but there is insufficient evidence and detail on how this work will be managed and assured in the future. Without this detail there will be a sleeping toxic time bomb deep inside Kakadu. This work is a key test of the commitment and capacity of Northern Territory and Commonwealth regulators as well as the mining companies.

At its recent twin AGMs, Rio Tinto again committed to make sure ERA has the financial resources to deliver its rehabilitation obligations, but the financial mechanism to do so remains undisclosed and uncertainty persists.

The report makes recommendations to improve the chances of a successful clean-up at Ranger. It calls for increased transparency and community input, the public release of key project documents, a better alignment of research and operations and open review processes for key decision points.

Australia has a long history of sub-standard mine closure and rehabilitation in the uranium and wider mining sector, and there is a clear need for a better approach and outcome at Ranger. The challenge is how to rehabilitate the heavily impacted mine and larger Ranger Project Area in a way that reduces adverse impacts and provides confidence that the living and peopled landscape of Kakadu is best protected, now and into the future.

The full report ‒ Unfinished business: Rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine ‒ is online at

Western Australian uranium industry on the brink

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Mia Pepper ‒ member of the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP) collective of Friends of the Earth Perth; board member of the Mineral Policy Institute. 

Ten years ago the conservative Barnett government lifted the long-standing ban on uranium mining in Western Australia (WA). The government had promised "$5 billion to WA's gross State product" and "$450 million a year." Industry proponents promised jobs and bragged that uranium will be like "iron ore on steroids."

The reality has been far more like morose miners on methadone. After a decade that has seen sustained Aboriginal and wider community resistance to mining plans, the uranium price plummet in the wake of Fukushima and a surge in renewable energy production, there is not a single operating uranium mine in WA.

Uranium exploration companies were a dime a dozen but just four projects surfaced as having potential in WA. Three of them raced through the environmental assessment process under the Barnett government and emerged with environmental, but not final, approvals just weeks before the state election in a clear move to wedge the incoming Labor government.

The McGowan Labor government felt the wedge and let the four mines with partial approvals continue ‒ a clear breach of Labor's pre-election promise not to allow mines to proceed unless they had full approvals. But the sustained low uranium price and community opposition has thwarted plans to develop any of the four mines.

Cameco has written off the entire value of the Kintyre project, Toro Energy has shelved its uranium plans and is now trying to strike lucky with gold, Cameco's Yeelirrie project is the subject of a legal challenge by the Conservation Council of WA and three traditional owners, and then there is Vimy's Mulga Rock project.

Vimy released its Definitive Feasibility Study for Mulga Rock earlier this year and the company is reported to be "confident of securing contract prices of about $US60/lb this year or next for delivery in 2021 when it hopes to be in production with Mulga Rock." There was supposed to be an investment decision by July but instead Vimy was handing out pay cuts and scaling back or bunkering down for the sustained lull in the uranium price (currently around $US30/lb).

And while Toro is looking for gold ‒ and other uranium companies have diversified into medicinal marijuana production or property development ‒ Vimy is hedging its bets by setting up a subsidiary to explore for base metals.

Globally, 115 nuclear reactors are undergoing decommissioning ‒ double the number under construction. The International Energy Agency is warning about the lack of preparation and funding for a "wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors" and an "unprecedented rate of decommissioning". A growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power, including Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Belgium and Taiwan.

The world's most experienced reactor builder, Westinghouse, went bankrupt last year and the debts it incurred on reactor projects almost bankrupted its parent company, Toshiba. After the expenditure of at least $A12.4 billion, construction of two partially-built reactors in the US was abandoned last year, and the only other reactor construction project in the US was almost abandoned this year after cost overruns of $A14 billion.

No wonder that nuclear lobbyists are themselves acknowledging a "crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West" and are already writing eulogies about the "ashes of today's dying industry".

Nuclear power's crisis has direct and obvious implications for the uranium industry. Only two mines uranium are operating in Australia ‒ Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile ‒ while mining has ended at the Ranger mine in the NT and ore stockpiles are being processed while work begins on a A$1 billion rehabilitation.

The low uranium price is a symptom of a growing trend away from nuclear, a trend matched by increasing investment in renewable energy. Renewables generate 2.5 times more electricity than nuclear reactors worldwide, and the gap is growing rapidly. Even Dr Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who used to be nuclear power's head cheerleader in Australia ‒ recently said that the window for large nuclear reactors has closed and that the cost comparison is rapidly diverging in favour of renewables.

It is with great optimism we look to great technological advancements made in renewable energy and hope to see the end of old and dirty energy like coal and nuclear. So we sigh with relief that there are no operating mines at Kintyre, Yeelirrie, Wiluna and Mulga Rock, that uranium from WA is not on its way to processing plants or reactors destined to become waste, a toxic legacy.

And we can celebrate those special places and unique ecosystems and continue, with watchfulness, to monitor the activities of those companies who have not yet seen the writing on the wall that uranium is uneconomic, unwanted and unsafe.

Closure plan for Ranger U mine in Australia's tropical Top End

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear-free campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation

Traditional Aboriginal owners and civil society groups have welcomed the public release of a detailed Mine Closure Plan for the controversial Ranger uranium mine in the Kakadu World Heritage region of Australia's Northern Territory.

The Mine Closure Plan was released on June 5, World Environment Day ‒ exactly 21 years since Traditional Owners positioned a massive banner on the Kakadu escarpment opposing the planned uranium mine at Jabiluka.

The plan to mine Jabiluka was defeated, and now the nearby Ranger mine is winding down. The Ranger mine, operated by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) – a Rio Tinto subsidiary – has ceased mining uranium and is now processing stockpiled ore prior to a mandated end of operations in 2021.

The rehabilitation of the site has been a focus for Aboriginal landowners and environment groups in recent years with sustained advocacy highlighting Rio Tinto's responsibility and calling for increased transparency and effective action. The release of the Mine Closure Plan follows recent calls by civil society groups at Rio Tinto meetings in Darwin, London and Melbourne and marks a significant step towards to end of the uranium mining story in Kakadu.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger site, described the plan as 'decades overdue' and called on Rio Tinto to demonstrate they have sufficient resources to provide confidence that they can meet their rehabilitation obligations. A joint statement by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council said: "ERA and its parent company Rio Tinto must clearly demonstrate that they have sufficient resources devoted to mine closure to provide stakeholders with confidence that the objectives outlined in the closure plan can be met. The future of Aboriginal communities downstream of the mine and the World Heritage listed values of Australia's largest national park are at stake. ERA and Rio Tinto's rehabilitation obligations include remediation of the site such that it can be incorporated in the surrounding Kakadu National Park."

Concerns have been raised about the lack of formal feedback opportunities on the plan. Environment and other civil society groups joined Traditional Owners in calling for the need for the broader community to comment on the plan and the proposed clean-up works.

Environment groups are independently reviewing the plan to ensure it is fit for purpose and delivers the best possible rehabilitation outcomes. The Environmental Defenders Office has been engaged by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environment Centre Northern Territory to provide legal expertise and advice. Principal Lawyer of the Environmental Defenders Office Northern Territory, Gillian Duggin, said: "It's a unique site surrounded on all sides by the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. It's also of incredible cultural significance. So getting the rehabilitation right is critically important and will be a complex and time-consuming exercise."

Cleaning up the heavily impacted mine site after three decades of operation is set to be a complicated and costly process with estimates ranging around one billion Australian dollars (€650 million). The complexity is compounded by the properties of the product and the politics of the place. Large volumes of long lived radioactive mine tailings need to be contained for a period of 'not less than 10,000 years' while the Ranger site is located inside Kakadu, Australia's largest national park and World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural value. The Ranger rehabilitation must be performed to a standard where the affected area can be accepted into the World Heritage region.

This is a very high bar and, as the Traditional Owners recently told Rio Tinto, 'the world is watching'.

The Mine Closure Plan is posted at

Berkeley Energia uranium mining project in Spain ‒ the EU's only new uranium mine?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Richard Harkinson ‒ research associate, London Mining Network

Since early 2017, the mayor of Villavieja de Yeltes municipality in Salamanca, north-west Spain, has been instrumental in calling Australian-incorporated Berkeley Energia (formerly Berkeley Resources) to account and in calling local residents and people from neighbouring towns to monthly rallies against the company's proposed Retortillo uranium project.1

Retortillo is planned as an open-cast uranium mine, heap leaching and processing or 'milling' plant, said to be ready to begin production in late 2018 but lacking necessary permits and facing four public interest litigation suits from the municipality and from national non-governmental organisations.

The project has sparked a wave of opposition arising from concerns about potential impacts on the environment and local people. These risks include its location very near a school area, possible impacts on a protected ecological zone, and its permit to discharge waste-water five kilometres upstream of established drinking water extraction sites for Villavieja de Yeltes. The water discharge permit contradicts a European Commission-funded regional five-river biodiversity project because it has transboundary significance.2,3 Close to 40 municipalities are opposed to the company's plan to develop the Retortillo project, which has potential impacts on the existing economy including spa tourism facilities.

Berkeley has renamed itself, changed some of its personnel, reduced its website information, changed its AIM nominated adviser (the AIM is a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange), and negotiated a potential 'take-off' contract with a commodity trader, which has 'phoenixed' itself; that is, one small company was liquidated and replaced by another (InterAlloys to Curzon Resources) run by the same individual. This has allowed Berkeley to raise capital, because it has obtained the support of Euratom to develop the European Union's only open-cast uranium mine.

European Commission involvement will not help provide sufficient environmental information in a timely manner to assist public participation in decision-making.4 With the need for more transparency, the continued involvement of former Spanish state officials Cañete and Lamela creates at best unfavourable impressions.5 While the Commission in its 2012 report on former uranium mining sites in Spain, some of which are under reclamation, had been informative about applicable costs, methods and requirements for treating toxic waste, it did however raise questions about the relationships between Berkeley and state uranium mining agency ENUSA.6

Potential radiation impacts are being identified by the growing social movement, who argue that the EIA process omitted consideration of ore processing. It is clear that a number of human rights are being abused or put at risk including the right to information7, the right to health8, the right to livelihood and an adequate standard of living9, and the right to a safe and healthy natural environment.10

What the company says11

Berkeley Energia claims on its website to have developed 'a good neighbour and business partner relationship with the local community' and to have local and regional support and major community investment and environmental rehabilitation plans for the project area. The website makes no mention of community opposition, health risks from uranium or other potentially negative social or environmental impacts, apart from initial felling of trees.

Berkeley's 2017 Annual Report cites 'highly supportive' local municipalities and sizeable community investments to date, and commits Berkeley to improve the ecological and agricultural value of the area through a reforestation programme. There is no mention of environmental risks from, or public concerns about, uranium. The Annual Report notes in passing that 'various appeals' against the necessary licences have been unsuccessful. It is quoted on as emphasizing the mine's job creation potential, adherence to 'the highest EU environmental and safety standards' and 'overwhelming support' from local and regional communities.

Berkeley is reported in the press as signing an agreement that 'will provide construction capital' with the Oman Sovereign Wealth Fund, an institution that has been evaluated as having a transparency rating of 4 out of 10.12

In 2016, Berkeley published a 'definitive feasibility study' on its website. As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated, however, the best approach advised by the UN is to evaluate the full, clearly disaggregated costs of 'economic and social viability'.13 Berkeley has not done this.

Listing on the London Stock Exchange

Berkeley Energia announced on May 2 its intention to delist from AIM and instead list on the full London Stock Exchange14 and that it intends to seek investment only from institutions. It also said it plans to list on the Spanish Stock Exchange or bolsa.

In the UK, NGO London Mining Network wrote to the London Stock Exchange, a private company and regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, arguing that the listing should be frozen because of Berkeley's wrongful claims of strong community support and that challenges to its regional permits have failed.15 In Spain, the Stop Uranio campaign protested to the bolsa and financial regulator, which avoided decision-making in deference to the London Stock Exchange.

The UK agencies declined to respond, and decided to accord full listing to Berkeley. In Spain a corruption crisis has engulfed the ruling Partida Popular16 and the expected political upheaval is taking place with a new left coalition coming to power. The upheaval has contributed to the bolsa delaying Berkeley's listing17, ostensibly on the basis of the incompleteness of its prospectus.

Existing parliamentary moves18 to freeze the Retortillo project by congress committee members in Unido-Podemos, now the main coalition partner in the new PSOE government led by President Pedro Sanchez, may well have changed the mine's prospects. Also, the Ombudsman has declared that Berkeley failed to give information about its water discharge permit19, and again coalition partner Unido-Podemos is seeking to block the permit, demanding transparency. June in Spain will be a busy month!

Berkeley hopes to attract German and Polish institutional investors, and the UK exchange's lack of insistence on rigorous risk assessments may mean that the project's risks are hidden. The UK has inadequately implemented the post financial crash 2013 Directive 34/EU on company reporting, so most mining companies like Berkeley avoid necessary non-financial reporting. The prospects for the project depend on political20 and legal developments in Spain.

This article was originally written for London Mining Network's forthcoming report "AIM-traded mining companies and human rights", lead author Miles Litvinoff.


1. For background information on the proposed mine see: EJOLT, Uranium mining: Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry, report no. 15, 2014,; European Parliament parliamentary questions, 'Commissioner Cañete's approval of a proposed uranium mine', Dec. 2015,, and 'Retortillo uranium mine – breach of Community law', Apr. 2017,, 'Spaniards to protest against Berkeley's Retortillo-Santidad uranium mine', Oct. 2016,, and 'Mayor organizes massive protest against Berkeley's uranium mine in Spain', Nov. 2017, WWF, 'WWF denounces to the European Commission the largest uranium mine in Europe in the heart of a protected area', Feb. 2017, World Nuclear News, 'European approval for Salamanca offtake agreement', Mar. 2017, Ecologistas en acción, 'Crece el apoyo internacional contra la minería de uranio en Salamanca' ('International support against uranium mining in Salamanca grows'), Sept. 2017,

2. Proyecto cipríber, Diagnóstico de la Situacion Inicial, Mar. 2015,


4. The relationship between the Parliament, Commission and Euratom is constitutionally uncertain.

5. Green light for a controversial uranium mine,

6. European Commission DG Energy, Southern and western Spain – former uranium installations and national monitoring, technical report,,,, 4.4.3 et al.

7. UN General Assembly, 'Calling of an International Conference on Freedom of Information', Resolution 59, 1946, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966,, Art. 19; UN Economic Commission for Europe, Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention), 1998,

8. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948,, Art. 25; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966,, Art. 12.

9. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948,, Art. 25; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966,, Art. 11.

10. An emerging human right: UN Environment, 'Human rights and the environment', n.d. (2015),; D. Shelton, Professor of Law, Notre Dame University, 'Human rights, health and environmental protection: Linkages in law and practice', background paper for the World Health Organization, n.d.,

11. Berkeley Energia, company website, including, and 2017 Annual Report,, 'Spaniards to protest against Berkeley's Retortillo-Santidad uranium mine', Oct. 2016,

12. Telegraph, 'Uranium miner Berkeley Energia wins £93m backing from Oman', Aug. 2017, Linaburg-Maduell Transparency Index,

13. IAEA, In Situ Leach Uranium Mining: An Overview of Operations, 2016,; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources, 2009, IAEA stipulates stating separately and internalised: direct costs of mining, transporting and processing the uranium ore; costs of associated environmental and waste management during and after mining; costs of maintaining non-operating production units; in the case of ongoing projects, non-amortized capital costs; capital cost of providing new production units, including the cost of financing; indirect management costs , taxes and royalties; future exploration and development costs wherever required for further ore delineation to the stage where it is ready to be mined.








Paladin Energy puts second African uranium mine into care-and-maintenance

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Western Australia-based uranium mining company Paladin Energy announced on May 25 that it is winding down operations at the Langer Heinrich mine (LHM) in Namibia and placing it into care-and-maintenance.1

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the decision to mothball LHM is that Paladin claims it is the lowest cost open-pit uranium mine in the world.2 Moreover, the company wasn't even paying to mine ore ‒ mining ceased in November 2016 and since then medium-grade ore stockpiles have been processed.3 Alex Molyneux describes LHM as "world-class"2 … so evidently a low-cost, "world-class" mine can't even turn a profit processing mined stockpiles.

The cost of production was US$23.11/lb U3O8 in December 2017, and the average realized sale price in the second half of 2017 was $21.82.4

Paladin was faced with a choice between continuing to process medium-grade ore stockpiles (which would be exhausted in mid-2019) then shifting to low-grade stockpiles, resuming mining, or putting the mine into care-and-maintenance.

Anticipating the decision to mothball LHM, Paladin Energy CEO Alex Molyneux said in late-April: "The uranium market has failed to recover since the Fukushima incident in 2011, with the average spot price so far in 2018 the lowest in 15 years. It's deeply distressing to have to consider suspending operations at LHM because of the consequences for our employees, and the broader community. However, as there has yet to be a sustainable recovery in the uranium market, and with the aim of preserving maximum long-term value for all stakeholders, it is clearly prudent to consider these difficult actions."5

Paladin hopes to resume mining at LHM following "normalization" of the uranium market, which it anticipates in the next few years.2 But with no operating mines, Paladin may not survive for long enough to witness a market upswing. The only other mine operated by Paladin ‒ the Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi ‒ was put into care-and-maintenance in July 2014.6 Paladin also owns a number of projects it describes as 'nonproducing assets', such as uranium projects in Australian states that ban uranium mining.

Paladin was placed into the hands of administrators in July 2017 as it was unable to pay EDF a US$277 million debt.6 In January 2018, Paladin's administrator KPMG noted that an Independent Expert's Report found that the company's net debt materially exceeds the value of its assets, its shares have nil value, and if Paladin was placed into liquidation there would be no return to shareholders.7 The company was restructured, with Deutsche Bank now the largest shareholder, and relisted on the Australian Securities Exchange in February 2018.2

Perhaps LHM will be sold for a song, either before or after Paladin goes bankrupt. A subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has held a 25% stake in LHM since January 2014. Last year, the CNNC subsidiary considered exercising its contractual right to buy Paladin's 75% stake in LHM, but chose not to exercise that right following an independent valuation of US$162 million for Paladin's stake.8

Uranium production at Paladin Energy's uranium mines in Africa (tonnes uranium):













Langer Heinrich




















Combined % world production












Source: Data compiled by World Nuclear Association data,

* Based on estimated world production of 60,000 tU.

Mine-site rehabilitation

Paladin hopes to restart both LHM and Kayelekera. But in 2016, Paladin's CEO Alexander Molyneux said that "it has never been a worse time for uranium miners"9 and the situation has not improved since then ‒ uranium prices have fallen further still, and the long-term contract price recently fell below US$30/lb for the first time since May 2005.10

Sooner or later, both the LHM and Kayelekera mine-sites will need to be rehabilitated. Yet it is extremely doubtful whether Paladin has set aside adequate funds for rehabilitation. Paladin's 2017 Annual Report lists a 'rehabilitation provision' of US$86.93 million to cover both LHM and Kayelekera.11

One problem is that the funds might not be available for rehabilitation if Paladin goes bankrupt. A second problem is that even if the funds are available, they are unlikely to be sufficient. For comparison, Energy Resources of Australia's provision for rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine in Australia ‒ also an open-pit uranium mine ‒ is US$403 million (A$526 million).12 That figure is understood to be additional to US$346 million (A$452 million) already spent on water and rehabilitation activities since 201213 ‒ thus total rehabilitation costs could amount to US$749 million (A$978 million) … and the current cost estimates could easily increase as they have in the past.

Rehabilitation of LHM and Kayelekera could be cheaper than rehabilitation of Ranger for several reasons, such as the relative size of the mine-sites. However it stretches credulity to believe that the cost of rehabilitating both LHM and Kayelekera would be an order of magnitude lower than the cost of rehabilitating one mine in Australia.

Paladin was required to lodge a US$10 million Environmental Performance Bond with Malawian banks and presumably that money can be tapped to rehabilitate Kayelekera.14 But US$10 million won't scratch the surface. According to a Malawian NGO, the Kayelekera rehabilitation cost is estimated at US$100 million.15

Paladin has ignored repeated requests to provide information on the estimated cost of rehabilitating Kayelekera, but the figure will be multiples of the US$10 million bond and it is extremely unlikely that Paladin's provision of US$86.93 million for the rehabilitation of both LHM and Kayelekera is adequate.

If Paladin goes bankrupt, it seems likely that most of the costs associated with the rehabilitation of LHM and Kayelekera will be borne by the Namibian and Malawian governments (with a small fraction of the cost for Kayelekera coming from the bond) ‒ or the mine-sites will not be rehabilitated at all. Even if Paladin is able to honor its US$86.93 million provision, additional costs necessary for rehabilitation will likely come from the Malawian and Namibian governments, or rehabilitation will be sub-standard.

Australia's responsibility

The problem of inadequate provisioning for rehabilitation is most acute for Kayelekera ‒ it is a smaller deposit than LHM and more expensive to mine (Paladin has said that a uranium price of about US$75 per pound would be required for Kayelekera to become economically viable16). Thus the prospects for a restart of Kayelekera (and the accumulation of funds for rehabilitation) are especially grim.

Is it reasonable for Australia, a relatively wealthy country, to leave it to the overstretched, under-resourced government of an impoverished nation to clean up the mess left behind by an Australian mining company? Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.17 According to a 2013 U.N. report, more than half of the population live below the poverty line.17

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should intervene to sort out the situation at Kayelekera and to prevent a repetition of this looming fiasco. The conservative Minister's eyes might glaze over in response to a moral argument about the importance of Australia being a good global citizen. But there is also a hard-headed commercial argument for intervention to ensure that the Kayelekera mine-site is rehabilitated.

It does Australian companies investing in mining ventures abroad no good whatsoever to leave Kayelekera unrehabilitated, a permanent reminder of the untrustworthiness and unfulfilled promises of an Australian miner and the indifference of the Australian government. Australia is set to become the biggest international miner on the African continent according to the Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group.18 But Australian companies can't expect to be welcomed if problems such as Kayelekera remain resolved.

Broader problems

Paladin exploited Malawi's poverty to secure numerous reductions and exemptions from payments normally required by foreign investors. United Nations' Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter noted in a 2013 report that "revenue losses from special incentives given to Australian mining company Paladin Energy, which manages the Kayelekera uranium mine, are estimated to amount to at least US$205 million (MWK 67 billion) and could be up to US$281 million (MWK 92 billion) over the 13-year lifespan of the mine."17

Paladin's environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of numerous critical reports.19 The WISE-Uranium website has a 'Hall of Infamy' page dedicated to the company.20

Standards at Kayelekera fall a long way short of Australian standards ‒ and efforts to force Australian mining companies to meet Australian standards when operating abroad have been strongly resisted. Paladin's Kayelekera project would not be approved in Australia due to major flaws in the assessment and design proposals, independent consultants concluded.21 The consultants' report covered baseline environmental studies, tailings management, water management, rehabilitation, failure to commit to respecting domestic laws, use of intimidation and threatening tactics against local civil society, improper community consultation and payments to local leaders, and destruction of cultural heritage.

Sadly, these are familiar problems. Julie Bishop told the Africa Down Under mining conference in Western Australia in September 2017 that many Australian mining projects in Africa are outposts of good governance.18 The Australian government "encourages the people of Africa to see us as an open-cut mine for lessons-learned, for skills, for innovation and, I would like to think, inspiration," Bishop said.18

Such claims sit uneasily with the highly critical findings arising from a detailed investigation by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists (ICIJ).22 The ICIJ noted in its 2015 report that since 2004, more than 380 people have died in mining accidents or in off-site skirmishes connected to Australian mining companies in Africa.23 There have been six deaths at Kayelekera19 and at least one death at LHM.24

The ICIJ report further stated: "Multiple Australian mining companies are accused of negligence, unfair dismissal, violence and environmental law-breaking across Africa, according to legal filings and community petitions gathered from South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana."23


1. Paladin Energy, 25 May 2018, 'LHM Confirmation of Care & Maintenance',

2. Charlotte McLeod, 25 May 2018, 'Paladin Energy Pulls Plug on Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine',

3. World Nuclear Association, 26 April 2018, 'Namibian mine prepares for care and maintenance decision',

4. Mariaan Webb, 28 Feb 2018, 'Paladin posts loss as Langer Heinrich sales volumes fall, costs increase',

5. Mining Technology, 30 April 2018, 'Paladin begins consultations to place LHM mine on care and maintenance',

6. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy goes bust',

7. Matthew Woods for and on behalf of Paladin Energy, 2 Jan 2018, 'Directions Hearing and DOCA Update',

8. World Nuclear Association, 21 Aug 2017, 'CNNC decides against Langer Heinrich buyout',

9. Geert De Clercq, 3 Oct 2016, 'Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound',


11. Paladin Energy, Annual Report 2017, p.132,

12. ERA, 'Annual Report 2017',

13. ERA, 5 June 2018, 'ERA releases Closure Plan for Ranger mine',

14. Paladin, 14 Feb 2018, 'Reviewed Pro Forma Balance Sheet',

15. William Nyirenda / Citizens for Justice, 2 April 2014, 'Paladin lies to Malawi Government on its Kayelekera uranium mine',

16. Sarah-Jane Tasker, 8 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy alerts ASX to spill at Malawi uranium mine',

17. United Nations, 22 July 2013, 'End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Malawi 12 to 22 July 2013',

18. Eric Bagshaw, 10 September 2017, 'The Australian companies mining $40 billion out of Africa', Sydney Morning Herald,

19. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy's social and environmental record in Africa',

20. WISE-Uranium, 'Paladin Energy Ltd Hall of Infamy',

21. Dr Gavin M. Mudd and Howard D. Smith, November 2006, 'Comments on the Proposed Kayelekera Uranium Project Environmental Impact Assessment Report',



24. Adam Hartman, 31 Oct 2018, 'Langer Heinrich worker dies',

Pro-uranium government in power in Greenland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Niels Henrik Hooge

After general elections were held in Greenland on April 24, a new coalition government has come into power. It consists of four political parties, of which three have historically been pro-uranium and one has deferred to the new government's pro-uranium position. Together, they control 16 of the Parliament's 31 seats.

The former government, consisting of Siumut, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) and Partii Naleraq, had agreed to disagree on the uranium question and not make a decision on the controversial Kvanefjeld uranium / rare earths mining project, instead waiting for the outcome of the elections.

By returning to the government policies that led to the abolishment of the so-called uranium ban in 2013, it is now expected that the Kvanefjeld mining project will move forward after being stalled for almost two years. It is currently undergoing an EIA procedure. At least in the mid-term, it is the only viable uranium project on the agenda in Greenland. According to the owner, the Australian mining company Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. (GMEL), Kvanefjeld contains the second largest uranium deposit in the world. Only the deposit at the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia is bigger. However, the Ilimaussaq-complex, of which Kvanefjeld is a part, is not yet fully explored.

In the latter part of 2016, the Danish Broadcasting Cooperation gained access to the draft of the Kvanefjeld EIA report under Greenland's Act on Transparency of Public Administration. Later, Greenland's biggest media outlet, Sermitsiaq/AG, and The URANI NAAMIK / NO TO URANIUM Society in Narsaq also applied. GMEL intervened and the government suspended access and decided to make it permanent.

However, in March 2017, a group of Greenlandic and Danish NGOs published the draft EIA together with an analysis of the draft by the Dutch expert Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen. From his analysis, it was clear that the mining project would not meet Greenland's Mineral Resources Act's environmental and climate requirements.

In spite of the shift in government policies, Greenland's population is still split down the middle on the uranium question. At the recent opening of the Parliament's spring session, there were demonstrations in the capital, Nuuk, and in Narsaq, near Kvanefjeld. One of the speakers at the demonstration in Nuuk was Sara Olsvig, leader of IA, the biggest opposition party and the only political party that wants to bring back the uranium ban. The demonstrators and IA demand a referendum on uranium mining, before operations start at Kvanefjeld. A promise of a referendum was given by the then government in 2013, when the uranium ban was lifted.

More information (including the 2017 van Leeuwen report):

A journey to the heart of the anti-nuclear resistance in Australia: Rad Tour 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Ray Acheson ‒ Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Looking at a map of South Australia's nuclear landscape, the land is scarred. Uranium mines and weapon test sites, coupled with indications of where the government is currently proposing to site nuclear waste dumps, leave their marks across the desert. But amidst the devastation these poisonous activities have left on the land and its people, there is fierce resistance and boundless hope.

Friends of the Earth Australia has been running Radioactive Exposure Tours for the past thirty years. Designed to bring people from around Australia to meet local activists at various nuclear sites, the Rad Tour provides a unique opportunity to learn about the land, the people, and the nuclear industry in the most up-front and personal way.

This year's tour featured visits to uranium mines, bomb test legacy sites, and proposed radioactive waste dumps on Arabunna, Adnyamathanha, and Kokatha land in South Australia, and introduced urban-based activists to those directly confronting the nuclear industry out in country. It brought together about 30 people including campaigners from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Reaching Critical Will, environmental activists with Friends of the Earth Australia and other organisations, and interested students and others looking to learn about the land, the people, and the industries operating out in the desert.

The journey of ten days takes us to many places and introduces us to many people, but can be loosely grouped into three tragic themes: bombing, mining, and dumping. Each of these aspects of the nuclear chain is stained with racism, militarism, and capitalism. Each represents a piece of a dirty, dangerous, but ultimately dying nuclear industry. And each has been and continues to be met with fierce resistance from local communities, including Traditional Owners of the land.

Testing the bomb

The first two days of the trip are spent driving from Melbourne to Adelaide to Port Augusta. We pick up activists along the way, before finally heading out to the desert. Our first big stop on the Tour is a confrontation with the atomic bomb.

The UK government conducted twelve nuclear weapon tests in Australia.1 Nine took place in South Australia, at Emu Field and Maralinga. All of the tests used plutonium ‒ some of which may have been produced from uranium mined at Radium Hill in South Australia. The UK and Australia also conducted hundreds of so-called 'minor trials' to test the effects of fire and non-nuclear explosions on atomic bombs, which spread plutonium far and wide.

One of the tests at Emu Field in 1953 resulted in a radioactive cloud spreading over 250 kilometres northwest of the test site. This "Black Mist" is held responsible for a sudden outbreak of sickness and death amongst Aboriginal communities.2 A Royal Commission in 1983–1984 found that the test had been conducted under wind conditions known to produce "unacceptable levels" of fallout and did not take into account the existence of people down wind of the test site. The Commission reported that regard for Aboriginal safety was characterised by "ignorance, incompetence and cynicism".3

The government has so far conducted four "clean ups" of Maralinga over the years.4 Each one finds that the previous effort was insufficient. The latest "clean up" in the mid-1990s found plutonium buried in shallow, unlined pits ‒ and much of that plutonium remains in that condition today. Nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson told the ABC: "What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn't be adopted on white-fellas land."5

While our Tour didn't take us to the Emu Field or Maralinga sites this time, we did visit people and lands affected by the testing in Woomera, a small town about 450 km north of Adelaide. Established as a base for a missile and rocket testing program, it is full of the ghosts of both people and weapons.

On our first night at Woomera we were joined by Avon Hudson, a nuclear weapon test whistleblower who as a Royal Australian Air Force serviceperson was assigned to work at Maralinga during the time of the 'minor trials'.

Avon gave testimony to the Royal Commission investigating UK nuclear weapon testing in the 1980s after disclosing classified information to the media starting in the 1970s. His stories, told to us around the campfire and while visiting various sites in Woomera, were full of pain. He described how those serving in the Australian military were not given information or protection against the nuclear tests, how the radioactive fallout affected Aboriginal and other local communities, and how the radioactive racism by the government continues to leave a lasting mark on current and future generations.

We visited the Woomera Cemetery, where a disturbing number of babies and children are buried. Journalist Bryan Littlely notes that the cemetery "contains 23 graves for stillborn babies born in the hospital between December 1953 and September 1968, and a further 46 graves for other children who died around that period."6 While there has not yet been enough research to definitely prove a causal link between the weapons testing and the high numbers of stillbirths and early childhood deaths in the region, more than 100 South Australians joined a class action lawsuit against the British Ministry of Defense in 2010, demanding answers to the cause of death of their babies.7 However, "the case was not allowed to proceed8 because it was deemed impossible to prove radiation caused their illness."9

While it has so far escaped having to answer for the deaths in Woomera, the UK government did pay A$13.5 million in compensation to the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners in 1995. But other known victims of British testing, including members of the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, have not been compensated.

Responding to the UK court's decision against the survivors, then Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wrote in a letter to the UK parliament in 2013: "Of the British and Australian veterans who were involved in the testing, and the Aboriginal people in the area at the time of the blasts, only 29 Aboriginal people have ever received compensation from the Australian Government and veterans continue to struggle to obtain the medical support they need despite experiencing unusually high rates of cancer and other ill effects associated with exposure to radiation."9

One of those who never received compensation or an apology was Yami Lester, Yunkunytjatjara elder and activist, who was blinded by the Emu Field nuclear weapon test in 1953 when he was ten years old. He was a key player in the Royal Commission, and went on to be a powerful advocate for land rights and against nuclear waste dumps. We didn't get to meet Yami on this Tour, because he passed away in July 2017, just two weeks after the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.10

Yami's daughters Karina and Rose Lester played an important role in raising support for the Treaty in Australia and participating in its negotiation in New York. Working with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Karina delivered a statement on behalf of more than 30 indigenous groups from around the world at the negotiations, successfully advocating for provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation, as well as a recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on indigenous populations.

Several of us from ICAN, the civil society coalition that advocated for years for the nuclear ban treaty, were on this year's Rad Tour. We joined to connect with and learn from those resisting other pieces of the chain of nuclear violence, and to sit on country that has been so harmed time and again.

Digging up the poison

After two days of learning about the effects of British atomic testing and visiting disturbing sites in Woomera, we headed further into the radioactive nightmare to visit a quintessential site related to the starting point of the nuclear violence chain: the Olympic Dam uranium mine near Roxby Downs.11

As of April 2018, two uranium mines are operating in South Australia: Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile. These mines produced and exported 5,493 tonnes of uranium oxide in 2016 ‒ 63% of Australia's total production that year.12 The only other operating uranium mine in Australia is Ranger in the Northern Territory, where mining has ceased but stockpiled ore is being processed until the mine's final closure a few years from now.

After days spent camping on the red earth of this region, it was devastating to see the massive Olympic Dam mine displacing the ground, burrowing into it with machines and metal, bringing poison up from the depths. We went on a tour conducted by BHP, the mine's operator. We were not allowed to take photos, or leave the vehicle we were on.

In addition to the uranium ore, Olympic Dam has generated over 150 million tonnes of uranium tailings ‒ radioactive sludge that is left over after extracting the uranium-bearing minerals from the ore. Friends of the Earth describes it as a "toxic, acidic soup of radionuclides and heavy metals."13 The tailings, and the processes used in extraction, risk the safety of workers and local communities. In the mid-1990s it was revealed that about three billion litres had seeped from the tailings dams over two years.14 Between 2003 and 2012, BHP reported 31 radiation leaks at the mine. On our tour, we were not permitted to see the tailings dams.

The mine is also a drain on natural resources. It uses around 37 million litres of water from the Great Artesian Basin every single day. This is the largest and deepest artesian basin ‒ a confined aquifer containing groundwater ‒ in the world. It provides the only source of fresh water through much of inland Australia. The government and various industries use it, but Olympic Dam has been increasing its use since its founding. While the BHP tour guides showing us around the mine assure us that they are responsibly using the water and that it can continue to rely on the basin for at least the next 85 years of the mine's anticipated lifespan, environmental activists have serious and legitimate questions about the sustainability of this level of water usage.15

After our trip to the mine, we visited the Mound Springs near Lake Eyre, in Arabunna country. These are natural springs sustained by the underlying Great Artesian Basin. We were accompanied by Kokatha Traditional Owner Glen Wingfield, who, while not Arabunna, has spent his life visiting the springs. He lamented the depletion of the springs, explaining that it gets sadder to visit each time because the water levels are down more and more each and every time. Studies have shown that the pressure in the Great Artesian Basin has declined due to increased extraction.16 As the water table drops, springs have started drying up across South Australia as well as Queensland.

Uranium mining companies, and federal and state governments, typically ignore the concerns of Traditional Owners, use divide-and-rule tactics to split local communities, provide false or misleading information, and even use legal threats ‒ all to ensure that the uranium industry gets its way. When it comes to Olympic Dam, this racism is enshrined in legislation. WMC Resources Limited, which started the uranium mine, was granted legal privileges under the South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act. This legislation overrides the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environment Protect Act, the Water Resources Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.17 The current mine owner, BHP, has refused to relinquish these legal privileges.

The problems of uranium mining, however, are not just local. Australia's uranium is exported around the world. It was in the Fukushima reactors that suffered a meltdown in 2011. It is converted into high-level nuclear waste in power reactors across the globe. Australia's uranium exports have produced over 176 tonnes of plutonium ‒ enough to build over 17,600 nuclear weapons.

On the tour of Olympic Dam, it wasn't clear the BHP guides knew where their uranium was going. "Europe," said one. "I think maybe China," said another. It's a sad fact that BHP's customers include nuclear weapons states as well as countries refusing to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Aboriginal communities and environmental activists have long resisted the mine, from before it was even constructed. The night after we visited Olympic Dam, Glen Wingfield told us about his family's consistent activism against the mine ‒ as well as his brief time spent working there. Conditions at the mine were awful for workers, he argues, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Traditional Owners were not consulted before the mine's construction, and have fiercely opposed it. They have been joined by others concerned about the mine's environmental impacts. In 2016, the Desert Liberation Front organised a "party at the gates of hell," following a protest in 2012 that saw hundreds travel from around the country to shut down the main road into the mine for four hours.18 Protests have also been held outside BHP's Melbourne headquarters, and resource and environment ministers' offices.19

While BHP anticipates the mine will operate for another 85 years, opposition to its operation will continue. And while that opposition has not yet seen the closure of the mine, it likely did play a role in BHP's decision not to go ahead with its planned mega-expansion of the mine in 2012. For now, at least, the gates of hell have not been enlarged.

Dumping radioactive waste

From the gates of hell we travelled to what might be described as the gates of paradise. For now.

The federal government of Australia wants to build a facility to store and dispose of radioactive waste in South Australia, either at Wallerberdina Station near Hawker or on farming land in Kimba.20 Wallerberdina Station is located in the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia, 540 million years old. Approaching from the north on our drive down from Lake Eyre can only be described as breathtaking. The red dirt, the brown and green bush, and the ever-changing purples, blues, and reds of the mountains themselves are some of the most complex and stunning scenes one can likely see in the world.

Most people might find it shocking that the federal government would want to put a nuclear waste dump smack in the middle of this landscape. But after visiting other sites on the Rad Tour, it was only yet another disappointment ‒ and another point of resistance.

What is known is that the Wallerberdina site is of great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Adnyamathanha people.21 It borders the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, which is a crucial location for biodiversity in the Flinders Ranges. Its unique ecosystem provides a refuge for many native species of flora and fauna, contains many archaeological sites as well as the first registered Aboriginal Songline of its type in Australia, and is home to Pungka Pudanha, a natural spring and sacred woman's site.

In case that isn't enough, the area is a known floodplain. Our travels around the proposed site contained ample evidence of previous floods that sent massive trees rushing down the plain, smashing into each other and into various bridges and other built objects. The last big flood occurred in 2006.

The Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners were not consulted before their land was nominated for consideration by the government for the waste dump. "Through this area are registered cultural heritage sites and places of huge importance to our family, our history and our future," wrote Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in a 2015 statement.22 "We don't want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything)."

We met Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners Vivianne and Regina McKenzie, and Tony Clark, at the proposed site. They invited us into the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area to view the floodplains and swim in the beautiful Pungka Pudanha. We'd just been camping at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park only a few kilometres away. It is impossible to understand the government's rationale for wanting to build a toxic waste dump on this land so cherished by its Traditional Owners, local communities, and tourists alike.

The McKenzies have been working tirelessly to prevent the proposed dump from being established, as have other local activists. Fortunately, they have some serious recent successes to inspire them.

In 2015, the federal government announced a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste from around the world to South Australia as a commercial enterprise. But Traditional Owners began protesting immediately, arguing that the so-called consultations were not accessible and that misinformation was rife.23 In 2016, a Citizen's Jury, established by then Premier Jay Weatherill and made up of 350 people, deliberated over evidence and information. In November that year, two-thirds of the Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the plan to import or store high-level waste.24 They cited lack of Aboriginal consent, unsubstantiated economic assumptions and projections, and lack of confidence in the governmental proposal's validity.

Other battles against proposed nuclear waste dumps have been fought and won in South Australia. From 1998 to 2004, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia, successfully campaigned against a proposed national nuclear waste dump near Woomera.25 In an open letter in 2004, the Kungkas wrote: "People said that you can't win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up."26

Connected communities

The attempts by the Australian government and the nuclear industry to impose a waste dump in the Flinders Ranges, just like their attempts to impose waste dumps and uranium mines elsewhere in the country, or their refusal to compensate victims and survivors of nuclear testing, are all mired with racism. They are rooted in a fundamental dismissal and devaluation of the lives and experiences of indigenous Australians, and of communities they consider "remote" ‒ both in their proximity to cities but more importantly, to power.

The industry and government's motivations for imposing nuclear violence on these people and this land are militarism and capitalism. Profit over people. Weapons over wellbeing. Their capacity for compassion and duty of care has been constrained by chronic short-termism ‒ a total failure to protect future generations. The poison they pull out of the earth, process, sell, allow others to make bombs with, and bury back in the earth, wounds us all now and into the future.

But nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law. New actors are challenging the possession of nuclear weapons in new ways, and nuclear-armed states are facing a challenge like never before. The nuclear energy industry ‒ and thus the demand for uranium ‒ is declining. Power plants are being shuttered; corporations are facing financial troubles. Dirty and dangerous, the nuclear industry is dying.

This is in no small part due to the relentless resistance against it.

This resistance was fierce throughout all of the country we visited, from Woomera up to Lake Eyre, from Roxby Downs to the Flinders Ranges. We listened to stories of those living on this land, we heard their histories, witnessed their actions, and supported their plans.

And, we were able to share something special with many of them: ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize.

Awarded in 2017, the Prize recognizes ICAN's efforts to highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and to work with governments to negotiate and adopt the nuclear weapon ban treaty. But the Prize is not just for those advocates directly involved in that aspect of the campaign's work. It's a recognition of all the efforts of anti-nuclear activists through the long history of the atomic age, activists who have put their bodies on the line in defence of the earth and human health, in protection of our planet, in opposition to governments that pull poison out of the ground and drop it on human beings and animals around the world.

Sharing the Nobel Prize with the resisters in South Australia was a deep joy. It seemed to bring inspiration and invigoration to many who have fought for so long against impossible odds in difficult places against powerful corporations and governments. It was a humbling reminder of the collective effort of all our advocacy and activism across time and space. We're all connected, and we cannot do this alone. Movements are made of people, reaching out across borders, across struggles, to cultivate solidarity and strength in one another. Resistance is fertile.

Information on previous Rad Tours is posted at




























Sweden bans uranium mining

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charly Hultén ‒ WISE Sweden

All mining of uranium in Sweden will soon be outlawed. The ban also applies to processing of residual uranium in existing tailings, and processing of uranium unearthed in conjunction with extraction of other minerals, e.g. iron, base metals and rare earth elements. Unless Parliament says otherwise, the law will take effect on August 1.

The current Red-Green coalition government, with the support of the Left Party, tabled the proposal in March. But the parties are outnumbered by a four-party non-socialist 'Alliance', plus a pro-nuclear nationalist party, and the prospects of getting the bill through Parliament appeared slim. Then, the rural-based Center Party broke ranks with the Alliance and declared their support for the uranium ban. Spokeswoman Helena Lindahl defended the party's decision: "It's clear to us that 'the renewables society' is on the doorstep, and nuclear energy has no place in it. Which means no place for uranium mining, a hazardous business, either. All things considered, we see no future in it."

The main arguments put forward by proponents of the ban concern the environmental impacts of uranium exploitation and the risks that radioactive pollution poses to human health. A third concern is the acute anxiety communities in uranium-rich regions of the country, from north to south, have experienced from time to time ever since the 1970s. Interest in Swedish uranium rises and falls with fluctuations in world market prices for the metal.

Uranium will now be stricken from the list of concession minerals in the Minerals Act, which means that no permits to prospect for, to explore or exploit uranium deposits can be issued. Relevant passages in the Environmental Code will also be altered accordingly. The inclusion of exploratory activities in the ban comes as a great relief to these communities, who have had to maintain a preparedness to organize 24/7 on-site vigils and, on occasion, non-violent obstruction, to keep concession-holders from breaking ground.

Local governments in Sweden have the right of veto when it comes to land use, including exploitation of mineral resources. But, prospecting and exploration fall under the auspices of the Mining Inspectorate, a non-elected national institution founded in 1637 to promote the country's then-fledgling metallurgic industry. The Inspectorate has on several occasions granted concessions to international prospectors, despite unanimous opposition on the part of County and local government. Furthermore, local government's right to veto mining, while set out in law, has no foundation in the Swedish constitution. Protesters have been painfully aware that it would take no more than a vote of parliament to do away with that protection.

100% imports

Sweden has quite a lot of uranium, reputedly 80 % of EU reserves, and 15% of uranium deposits worldwide. Yet, all of the uranium fuel for Sweden's shrinking nuclear energy park is imported, principally from Canada and Australia. This fact figures in the debate around the ban – perhaps surprisingly, both pro and con:

  • Environmentalists are well aware that mining operations abroad are just as destructive there as they would be here at home. What is more, the impacts are borne by politically and economically disadvantaged groups. This, they reason, is yet another reason to phase out our country's reliance on nuclear energy. ASAP!
  • Some die-hard advocates of nuclear energy point to the same exploitation of landscapes and peoples abroad and find it "immoral" for us to let others suffer the consequences of mining. We should, they argue, exploit our own resources. Therefore, they oppose the ban.

Bitter experience

As in many other countries, Sweden's commitment to nuclear energy was a child of the Cold War, closely intertwined with plans through the 1950s and '60s to develop a 'nuclear defense capacity'. Those plans, long held secret, came to an abrupt halt with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968.

To ensure national self-sufficiency, an open-pit uranium mine was opened in Billingen, an alum shale ridge in south-central Sweden. Operations were short-lived; mining started in 1965 and ceased in 1969. Whether it was ever profitable is a matter of debate.

But the real 'bottom line' is this: In those four years of operation, the mine and processing plant produced a total of 215 tons of uranium. And 1,500,000 tons of radioactive tailings.

The tailings were stashed in a natural depression near the processing plant, an area of about 25 hectares, which subsequently turned into a man-made lake. Unfortunately, the effects of precipitation had been grossly underestimated. In 1990, a program to mitigate leaching from the depot got under way. The program was termed successful; radioactivity in and around the 'lake' had been brought under hazard thresholds in 2006. In 2007 the program had cost SEK 250 million. Further improvements, from 2008 to the near-present, have cost an additional 200 million, at least. (That translates into approximately €50 million / US$56 million in historical prices for the period as a whole). This past January the area was declared an 'environmental risk area'. The area remains polluted, but mitigation efforts will cease. It will continue to be monitored, and uses of the area restricted.

Sources (all in Swedish):

‒ Government Bill 2017/18:212, Förbud mot utvinning av uran.

‒ Lars Olof Höglund: Kunskapsläge om miljökonsekvenser av prospektering, utvinning och bearbetning av mineraltillgångar av uran [What is known about the environmental consequences of prospecting, mining and processing of uranium ores]. Kemakta AR 2010-07 (2010).

‒ Regeringen. "Regeringen vill förbjuda utvinning av uran i Sverige", 1 March 2018. (Press release)

‒ Skaraborgs Allehanda: Deponi i Ranstad skyddas. 11 January 2018.

‒ Sveriges Radio/Ekot: Stöd för förbud mot uranbrytning. 19 April 2018.

‒ SWECO. Underlag för beslut om miljöriskområde för lakresthögen vid Ranstad [Supporting documentation for decision to declare the tailings at Ranstad an environmental risk area], Study commissioned by the County of Västra Götaland. 2016-11-23, revised 2017-05-10.