Anti-uranium mining lobby celebrates victory in the Karoo

Cape Town – Anti-uranium mining lobbyists celebrated the announcement on Wednesday by Australian Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited that it is downsizing its mining application by almost 90%.

In a prospecting rights applications update on Wednesday, Tasman said it has “withdrawn all its mining rights applications lodged in the Western and Northern Cape and lodged new Mining Rights applications in the Western Cape limited to areas that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.

“Overall, the area covered by Tasman’s new and existing mining right and prospecting right applications in the Western and Eastern Cape will reduce by almost 300 000 ha to approximately 465 000 ha,” it said.

“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,” Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This is a wonderful victory for most people of the Karoo, the region’s environment, and indeed for the South African nation,” said Safcei CEO Ani Tsondru.

“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.”

Job creation in the Karoo

Tasman is punting job creation as necessitating the success of its new application.

“The Central Karoo region is plagued by high levels of poverty and unemployment in the face of declining agricultural activity. Currently very few opportunities for additional economic development exist,” it said in the report.

“Tasman believes that uranium mining has a significant role to play in improving the economic outlook of the region, not only from an employment perspective, but also in the economic activity that is generated by associated business activities that extend beyond mining itself.

“Tasman’s view is supported by local government, which has identified mining as a potential key economic driver for the region and as such Tasman remains committed to the responsible development of the Karoo projects.”

However, Safcei said uranium mining would have generated fewer than 250 jobs. “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,” the group said.

Karoo a high-cost and high-risk location

“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,” said Dr Stefan Cramer, Safcei’s science advisor.

“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.

“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.”

Tasman decided to reduce its application after the promulgation of amendments to the National Environmental Management Act impacted its application, it said.

In addition, its new application was informed by comments received from interested and affected parties and recommendations from further specialist studies.

Two areas permanently relieved of uranium mining are Prince Albert and Laingsburg, where Tasman said it has decided to discontinue proposed mining and prospecting activities.

Tasman said its first public consultation meeting since this reapplication will occur on July 22 in Beaufort West.

The below graphs that were contained in Tasman's update reveal the change in its application:

Graph: Mining Right applications submitted in 2015

Graph: Southern Block - application withdrawn

Graph: Mining right applications (red), prospecting Right applications (green) and existing renewed; prospecting rights (blue) - June/July 2016

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