Building the Namibian Uranium Brand

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"The sector is also attracting its share of opportunists. . ."

Wotan Swieger is chairman of the newly constituted Namibia Atomic Energy Board, an initiative by government and Chamber of Mines to align the Namibian uranium industry with best practices worldwide.

Says Swieger: "The uranium rush started about two years ago and at the time Rössing was the only producer. Being owned by Rio Tinto, it had always kept to international standards. But with so many new entrants the automatic acceptance of the Namibian uranium brand was potentially in trouble.

"First, a uranium stewardship committee was formed within the chamber and today we have the Uranium Institute, which is run independently from the chamber. My second role—as chairman of the Namibia Atomic Energy Board—is a cabinet-appointed position. All of our work falls under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

Namibia currently produces around 10% of the world's uranium and has proven reserves of 14% of the world total, with new explorations steadily adding to the total. Namibia is the world's fourth largest producer, after Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia, though the gap to the top three is still substantial. There's a moratorium on new uranium prospecting licenses, but 66 exploration and prospecting licenses have already been issued.

The sector is also attracting its share of opportunists: last year it was reported that one of the uranium prospecting licensees plagiarized another company's application, even including budget estimates from the other project in a different area.

"We want to build up Namibian Uranium as a brand. We'll provide safe and responsible management of uranium, develop minimum standards for environmental and occupational health and environmental management, conduct research and provide quality control. If anyone steps out of line, the brand could be destroyed," says Swieger, who is a qualified medical doctor.

Adjacent to the Atomic Institute, a new medical facility that includes medi-vac services is being built that will serve the mines and the broader Swakopmund community. Under the Namibia's Atomic Energy and Radiation Protection Act, and with the guidance of the Atomic Board, a regulator will be appointed soon.

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