Will Uranium Mining Be a Natural Resource or Curse to Tanzania?


Dr. Shaaban Fundi

Will Uranium Mining Be a Natural Resource or Curse to Tanzania?

Tanzania will soon be joining African countries like Namibia, Niger, and Malawi as uranium exporters if proposed uranium mining projects are approved by the government. Short term benefits of uranium mining include job opportunities for thousands of Tanzanians and tax income for the Tanzanian government. These benefits cannot be ignored. However, the long-term health and environmental consequences associated with uranium and all other mining activities also need to be seriously evaluated.

One important environmental consequence of uranium mining is that the process uses enormous amounts of water. A recent estimate by a mining company in Namibia, Canadian Forsys Metal Company, suggested that its mining operation utilizes 1 million liters of water per day. One of the proposed areas for Uranium mining in Tanzania is in Manyoni District in Singida region. Water is already a scarce commodity in this region and it would be very unwise to let one company consume so much water at the expense of current inhabitants.

In addition to using enormous amount of water, uranium mining relies on open-pit operations which leave huge craters once mining activities have ceased. The soils in the remaining craters are usually contaminated with radioactive materials and therefore the soil become useless for many years in the future.Furthermore, radioactive dust particles can travel by wind to larger areas and affect the health of communities surrounding the mining areas. It has been documented that exposure to even relatively low levels of radiation over a long period of time can be extremely harmful to the health of workers and communities living around uranium mines. What plans are currently in place to ensure that the workers and people already living in these areas are protected and will be taken care of if this radioactive contamination should occur?

Current estimates suggest that Tanzania has about 53.9 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits and at the current price of $41 per pound, these deposits are worth an estimated $2.2 billion. Despite the estimated large sum of dollars, Tanzania has no control over uranium pricing variability on the world market. Demand and supply does. Yet very few countries can actually use uranium for energy generation and bomb creation due to its high cost of operation, need for skilled personnel, and international restrictions on development of nuclear programs. If global demand for uranium were to decrease, the estimated value of these deposits would also decrease. Thus, it is unclear how much revenue uranium mining would really bring to Tanzania.

Furthermore, the Tanzania Mining Act of 1998 gives a disproportionate amount of revenue benefits to mining companies. This has meant that the average Tanzanian citizen has seen limited benefit from current mining projects while the vast majority of profits go to mining companies based in other countries.  Take gold, for example. Tanzania is the fourth largest producer of gold in sub-Saharan Africa behind Ghana and South Africa. Yet Tanzanians have failed to benefit from the gold mining ventures in the country. What assurances do Tanzanians have that it will be different for the proposed uranium mining ventures? Given the serious environmental and health impact associated with uranium mining, Tanzania needs a Mining Act that will address the health and environmental concern of its citizens and that will ensure local communities also profit from mining activities. Without a comprehensive legislative framework to deal with all the implications of uranium mining, Tanzania opens itself up to abuse by companies who pursue an agenda of short-term profits and pay very little attention to the long-term health and environmental consequences for the host country and its citizens. Tanzania needs to develop a legislative framework and monitoring program to ensure these companies will protect the welfare of their workers and the environment before allowing mining to start. These tasks require a high level of technical competence and strong political will.

The decision whether or not to proceed with uranium mining in Tanzania should be discussed thoroughly with all stakeholders including the mining companies, the government and the local people residing in the proposed mining areas and in the transit routes. The locals should be told about the potential benefits and consequence of the proposed mining including the increased risk for developing cancer associated with living or working in uranium mining areas. Who will be responsible for their health once they start to develop cancer related illnesses? The water issues also need to be looked at carefully. How can the community and the uranium mines share the water resources so that there is enough water for everyone? How can the community share in the revenue generated by the uranium mines? And finally, who will be responsible to remediate the contaminated soils in the crater that will remain after mining operation ceases? These issues need to be decided before the Tanzanian government approves uranium mining in the country.

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15 thoughts on “Will Uranium Mining Be a Natural Resource or Curse to Tanzania?

  1. Ashley Smith

    Uranium mining will be a curse to tanzania since it uses up most of the water that is already very scarce. It will also hurt the community because the Uranium mining leaves craters inside of the ground which would put radioactive dust particles in full affect. And people that are around this can become very ill or suffer from death.

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  2. Julian Mokgoatsana

    Uranium mining in Tanzania could prove to be detrimental to the region because of the long term health and environmental effects of mining. The unknown supply and demand of the uranium also provides uncertainty to how this will benefit the people economically when there is no definite way of knowing the demand of the product and the inability to control the mining and the profit received.

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  3. Savon Harris

    Tanzania will do better with out the uranium mining. The only thing that Tanzania will get out of it is money which they will have to spend to help regain their enviorment. Tanzania will lose water, land, and many people may become sick to due to the mining. The money is not worth it.

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  4. Miriam Jackson

    I think that uranium is both a curse and a blessing. It’s a belssing because it will give them income and proft. But on the other hand, it adds toxics to the environment and people might get hurt from other governments or powers try to get contorl of it.

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  5. KEZIA NJAUW

    Uranium mining has both disadvantages and advantages just like most occurrences in society. It has a great impact but then again there are downfalls. Water is essential to a human’s life, and considering the fact that uranium mining takes so much water away, it’s rather unnecessary.

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  6. Robert johnson

    Uranium mining isnt good for tanzania.. Although they might have increases in income, it is not worth it. The people and land being damaged is more serious. The people will soon not have money or land to live on.

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  7. Dechard " Do The Fundi Fundi "

    well it says uranium mining uses enormous amounts of water, and that is a bad thing to be loosing a lot of water. It will hurt the community because the Uranium mining leaves craters inside of the ground which is also bad.

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  8. Hannah Wells

    I think that the uranium mining is very harmful to the environment. It causes more suffering and damage to the environment then it does to help.

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  9. Nicole Michael

    Uranium mining could be very damaging to Tanzania due to the enduring health and environmental effects of it. The estranged supply and need for the uranium also gives doubt to how this will help the citizens when there is an unsure way of knowing the need for it and the failure to command the mining and the income received.

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  10. Lorena Cruz

    i Learned that Uranium is very Dangerous to Tanzania and to everyone. It effects the environment and our health. I have to say that this article was very informative and that Uranium can have so many Harms to everything and everyone.

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  11. Jose Manuel

    Tanzania should not be mining Uranium because it uses an extreme amount of water and can also cause different types of cancer. The profit would go to the companies and not to the people of Tanzania. They have to make a decision, and it has to be the right one.

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  12. Pingback: Uranium Mining Still Crucial, Despite Japan | Uranium Mining

  13. Ashton Bennett

    Curse. Uranium is far to dangerous and the estimated 2.2 billion is nothing compared to the coast for mining and health hazards that will occur in the wrong run. Plus the amount of water need d for the production is tremendous and is completely ridiculous that mining it is even being considered. And 3rd African countries have a very very poor track record when it comes to keeping their profets from mining in their own pockets. Over all mining the Uranium will just leave Tanzania in another heap of problems.

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  14. Hayley Gillespie

    I believe it is a curse. Mining the uranium will cause so much danger! I don’t think it is worth it. It also needs a lot of water in order to get it so I really think it is a waste.

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