Uranium Mining in Africa: Gathering Momentum
and Exploration, Madagascar
4 May 2012 | Four countries in Africa - Namibia, Niger, Malawi and South Africa - presently produce some 10 000 tons of uranium, which is almost one fifth of the global uranium production. With interest in uranium resources growing globally, Africa is emerging as major hub of related activities.
“The renewed interest in uranium exploration and production has created new challenges for African countries” said Mr Hari Tulsidas of the IAEA Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials Section. “Many countries do not yet have an appropriate legislative frameworks to regulate the exploration and production of uranium resources”, he added.
Skilled human resources to effectively monitor and regulate these activities and to protect people, the environment as well as national interests, are also required. Countries also want to assume full control over these precious resources.
The African Member States have consequently approached the IAEA for assistance in uranium exploration, production and development of suitable regulations.
Regional Training Course on Uranium Geology and Exploration
Against this background, a recent training course in Antananarivo, Madagascar, covered geological models for uranium mineralization, exploration criteria and financial aspects of uranium markets, as well as related health, safety and environmental issues and stakeholder relations.
Over 40 participants from 20 African Member States participated in this course which included 20 lectures and round table discussions. The course was hosted by the Madagascar Office des Mines Nationales et des Industries Stratégiques (OMNIS).
“It is necessary that the experts from Madagascar and rest of Africa gain a deep understanding of their uranium resources, but it is even more important that the public should also be well informed about the footprint of uranium mining that could be easily managed” said Ms Rajo Daniella Randriafeno, Minister of Mines, Madagascar, inaugurating the workshop.
“We see a net social benefit in developing our uranium resources”, said a participant from Tanzania. This was echoed by many other participants.
New insights gained in the geology and formation of uranium resources after years of tedious research in other parts of the world could be applied to the Africa region to rapidly advance the exploration projects.
“Increased attention is required for monitoring the environment” said a participant from Malawi, who is associated with regulating the emerging uranium industry there.
“It is expected that this and similar training courses add to capacity building in the Africa region and help national organizations like OMNIS cover a lot of ground in upgrading themselves”, remarked Mr B Rasoanaivo, General Manager of OMNIS, whose laboratories support the increasing mineral, uranium and hydrocarbon development activities of Madagascar.
Madagascar was one of the earliest producers of uranium in the region during 1950s and 60s, but production dwindled after the country gained independence from France. Uranium exploration here and in many other countries of the region slackened after the mid-eighties up until 2005 when uranium markets were at a low. Today, companies are again active in the region, seeking to find and develop new resources of uranium.
The Africa regional training course was organised under the IAEA Technical Cooperation (TC) Project RAF/3/007 “Strengthening Regional Capabilities for Uranium Mining, Milling and Regulation of Related Activities”. The TC project addresses common regional priority needs in uranium mining, milling and regulation. Using the available infrastructure and expertise, including regional designated centres and specialized teams, it enhances regional and technical cooperation among participating Member States.
The three-year project, which will end in 2012, included training courses and workshops in Mozambique, Ghana, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda, Gabon and Morocco. The next training course on uranium extraction from phosphates and REE ores is planned for 17–21 June in Cairo, Egypt.