Risks and vulnerability in uranium mining: A synthesis of local perspectives in the Great Karoo region of South Africa
Author: Moshood Issah and Ikechukwu Umejesi
Publication: The Extractive Industries and Society, volume 5 (2018) 284–293
The exploration and exploitation of uranium deposits in South Africa dates back to the 1970s. At the time, uranium was mined as a derivative of gold and diamonds. However, due to international opposition to the Apartheid regime’s nuclear weapons programme, along with the boycott and divestment from South Africa movement of the 1980s, the development of large scale uranium mining was halted. Since the emergence of the new democratic state, however, there has been renewed interest in the large-scale exploration and exploitation of uranium deposits, especially in the Great Karoo. The economic viability of uranium mining in the Great Karoo was established in 2006, following the completion of an exploration phase. While this was welcomed by the government and interested mining companies, other stakeholders, such as farmers and environmental groups, hold different views on the project. How do different stakeholders view the risk and vulnerability associated with the uranium mining project in the Great Karoo? What are the specific narratives of each of the stakeholders, and how do these narratives resonate with the ‘sustainability/economic growth’ debate? These are the questions that this study attempts to answer. The analysis is anchored in the cultural theory of risk perception.