Press release: Is uranium mining in the Karoo over before it even began?

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PRESS RELEASE: Is uranium mining in the Karoo over before it even began? Mining application areas are down to 12% of original application. The beginning of the end?

Cape Town/Graaff-Reinet, July 6, 2016

Today, the Karoo uranium mining developers Australian Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited and the South African Lukisa JVCo have announced the withdrawal of their joint application for mining rights to 570,000 hectares of Central Karoo farmlands in the Western Cape.

"Tasman has therefore withdrawn all its mining rights applications lodged in the Western and Northern Cape and lodged new Mining Rights applications in the Western Cape limited to areas that are located within the original Eastern and Quaggasfontein Blocks.” (Cited from the Update to the IAPs on 6 July 2016)

In essence, this announcement indicates that the current mining rights application is cut down to 12% of the original application. For this 12% (or 73,000 ha) a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is to start all over again.

“This is a wonderful victory for most people of the Karoo, the region’s environment, and indeed for the South African nation”, says Ani Tsondru, the CEO of SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute in Cape Town. “While the economics to mine Karoo uranium were questionable from the outset, the current large-scale withdrawal puts a stop to most plans of this disruptive industry, whose impacts would have been felt far beyond the Karoo.”

Uranium mining would never have generated much more than the meagre 250 jobs the company were promising, promises made without underpinning details and guarantees. This development means many more jobs will be saved in agriculture and tourism. Already the Renewable Energy industry employs more and more people, especially in the Karoo.

It is now the duty of the landowners – often the mining companies which have now claimed to have withdrawn - and Government to clean up the legacy of past uranium mining still endangering the Karoo. High-grade uranium ores are still scattered across the Karoo with very little safeguards. SAFCEI has brought this to the attention of the regulator. However, to date nothing has been done to prosecute the responsible parties and to clean up the radioactive hotspots.

Equally, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will finally have to fulfil its mandate to protect South Africans from harmful radiation and exposure to radioactive materials. There is still dangerous nuclear waste dumped in one mining site outside Beaufort-West.

“Today is a good day for the Karoo in that the threat of uranium mining taking place over vast areas has for the time being been contained to a much more limited area. The current decision sets back the exploitation of Karoo uranium by many years, even if others might wish to restart the process. The Karoo quite simply cannot support mining, as the lack of water and infrastructure makes the Karoo a high-cost and high-risk location for extractive industries.” says Dr. Stefan Cramer, SAFCEIs Science Advisor.

“The same arguments against uranium mining have also been raised against shale gas developments. Lack of water and infrastructure make the Karoo a high-cost and high-risk location for extractive industries. Yet, Renewable Energies are becoming more feasible year by year.”

The decision to downscale the uranium mining application area could and should open the door for a serious debate about truly sustainable development options for the Karoo.

SAFCEI celebrates this victory as part of its continued struggle to end South Africa’s nuclear ambitions before they cause irreparable damage. As reported, we have taken the Government to court over the questionable legality and lack of public participation in the nuclear deal with Russia. Nuclear industries are the dead-end of a fossil fuel world. There are better options for South Africa. Signed: Ani Tsondru, action CEO                                                                           Dr. Stefan Cramer, Science Advisor

Update to IAP - 6 July 2016

Background for Journalists: SAFCEI is a multi-faith environment initiative, launched in 2005. It was registered as both a Public Benefit and Non-Profit Organisation (a Section 21 Company) in early 2006. SAFCEI enjoys a broad spectrum of membership, including African Traditional Healers, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Quaker, and a wide range of Christian denominations. As a multi-faith organisation SAFCEI is committed to supporting faith leaders and their communities in Southern Africa to increase awareness, understanding and action-taking on eco-justice, sustainable living and climate change issues. SAFCEI emphasizes the spiritual, moral and ethical imperative to care for the Earth and the community of all life. The organisation encourages ethical leadership in a world wounded by rampant exploitation and pursues and speaks out on issues of eco-justice, promoting and encouraging action.

Dr. Stefan Cramer is a hydrogeologist from Germany. His mission is to assist communities across the Karoo to deal with the double development problems related to shale gas development and uranium mining. He is based currently in the Karoo in Graaff-Reinet. For more info call 072 2908 306 or mail to

Visit us on Facebook at Stop Uranium Mining in the Karoo

*Image: Alberto Otero Garcia from Barcelona, Spain; Wikimedia Commons