The entire African continent suffers from environmental problems, and Namibia is no exception. Namibia is a large country rich in natural resources, but their extraction does not benefit the population. Incorrect processing and disposal of waste negatively affects the state of air, water and soil. Improper extraction of minerals, their storage and disposal lead to water pollution. The study will focus on the Rössing uranium mine, as uranium is one of the most toxic substances and its mining significantly worsens the standard of living of the population.
Namibia is one of the largest world leaders in uranium mining. The country is able to provide up to 10% of the production of the entire world reserve annually (Ashipala, 2021). Uranium mining in Namibia is a well-established but expensive process. To reduce the cost of production, organizations are trying to save on the recycling process. The Rössing uranium mine in Namibia is one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world (Ashipala, 2021). It is located in the Namib Desert near the city of Arandis, 70 kilometers from the coastal city of Swakopmund in the Erongo region (Ashipala, 2021). The Rössing mine has been the center of international criticism and protests by anti-nuclear groups in Europe. The negative impact of uranium mining in Namibia is of concern to many environmentalists. The highly acidic dams found in Namibia’s uranium mines are serious public health treat. The use of water contaminated with uranium leads to the development of environmental diseases among the local population.
Size of Region
The Erongo region is one of the 14 regions of Namibia, with Swakopmund as its capital. This region is one of the most prosperous in the country, all centers of attraction are connected by high-quality asphalt roads. The main source of income and employment for the population is mining operations. The capital of the region is also famous for its fisheries and the main resort of the region. Erongo is a developed area with good local infrastructure, schools, hospitals and shops.
Since Erongo region is rich in minerals and tourist attractions, the standard of living is above the national average. The climate is arid, with little rainfall, the inhabitants of Erongo face the water shortage that is common throughout the African continent. It is a densely populated area with over 140,000 people (Bohm & Sullivan, 2021). Due to the localization of the uranium factory in the Erongo region, the inhabitants of the region are facing environmental problems.
The main focus is air, water and soil pollution in Erongo area caused by the activities of the Rössing uranium mine. Uranium mining produces the main element used in the production of nuclear energy. Emissions of element residues into groundwater and wastewater pollute them with radioactive elements. If safety rules are neglected during the disposal of radioactive waste, soil contamination occurs. The general activity of large uranium factories produces harmful emissions into the atmosphere. The measured ratio of uranium radionuclide isotopes in the region’s groundwater indicates that this is not natural uranium (Mathuthu et al., 2021). The parameters of the radiation hazard of seeping waters exceed the recommended values and pose a radiation hazard to humans and the environment (Mathuthu et al., 2021). A suggested line of research to improve living standards in the region is to optimize waste disposal and increase control over the activities of the uranium plant to avoid uranium getting into the water and soil.
Poorly regulated uranium mining, improper disposal of radioactive waste by Rössing uranium mine led to environmental diseases among the population of the Erongo region. Concentrations of radionuclides and toxic heavy metals have negative impacts on human health and the environment. The main hazard is long-term exposure to radioactive elements in soil and water. The values exceeded the world average of excess lifetime risk of cancer due to exposure to radionuclides and the likelihood of increased incidence of other environmental diseases among residents of the mining towns (Zivuku, 2020). The main initiative aimed at resolving these problems is based on enhanced control over the disposal of radioactive waste and preventing uranium from entering sewage and groundwater.
The main goal of the proposed initiative is to improve the quality of life of the people of the Erongo mining region. Firstly, it is proposed to conduct a study of wastewater and groundwater, as well as soil in the area of the Rössing uranium mine. Identification of the current dangerous situation will help contact the local authorities with a request to assist in solving the issue. The impact of uranium on the human body is dangerously delayed onset of symptoms associated with annually increasing concentrations. Control over the disposal of nuclear waste and leaks in mines will reduce this negative impact on the health of the inhabitants of the region.
For a clear implementation of the initiative, a clear plan with developed steps is needed. Firstly, it is necessary to measure the current level of radioactive elements in soil and water in order to have well-founded indicators of the need for changes. The local authorities and Rössing uranium mine management should then be approached to clearly address the current issue. A jointly developed plan for the control and safety of waste disposal must be implemented with the support of the authorities. After implementation, it is necessary to measure possible improvements to understand the benefits to the lives of the local population from the proposed initiative.
The implementation of the proposed initiative requires sustainable soft skills to overcome emerging challenges. Public relations skills are needed to raise awareness of the existing problem. Leadership will be required to be able to convince the authorities of the need for change. Finally, high interpersonal skills are required to correctly address the proposed initiative. With the soft skills development, it is easier to prove the positive effects of the proposed initiative and speed up the implementation process.
The process of cleansing the land, wastewater and groundwater can take many decades. Achieving the visual effect of improving the health of a population that has been exposed to radiation is also a time-consuming process. It is proposed to use new indicators of the uranium content in the surrounding area of the Rössing uranium mine to evaluate the results. Comparison of performance after the implementation of the control and wise disposal initiative should be done with the initial performance obtained before the experiment. It is assumed that the result of the intervention will be the reduction of radionuclides in soil and water to acceptable recommended values.
Soil and water contamination in the Rössing uranium mine in Erongo has a negative impact on the health of the local population. To resolve this situation, it is proposed to strengthen control to prevent the penetration of uranium into the water and change the conditions for the disposal of nuclear waste. To convey the need for the initiative, it is supposed to appeal to overestimated data on the content of radionuclides in the surrounding region. Measurement of a positive result will be carried out by comparing the uranium content before and after the experiment. In the long term, it is expected to improve the health of the population, reduce the environmental diseases and the risk of cancer among the locals.
Ashipala, S. N. (2021). International diplomacy and big business in Namibia: the case of the Rossing Uranium mine [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of the Free State.
Bohm, S., & Sullivan, S. (Eds.) (2021). Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis. London: Open Book Publishers.
Mathuthu, M., Uushona, V., & Indongo, V. (2021). Radiological safety of groundwater around a uranium mine in Namibia. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, 122(1), 1-15.
Zivuku, M. (2020). Radionuclides and heavy metals concentrations in particulate matter around uranium and gold mining towns of Erongo region, Namibia [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. North-West University, South Africa.