Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zambia enacts uranium mining law

Zambia has enacted a law for mining, storage and export of uranium which bars the diversion of the mineral for use in making nuclear weapons or devices, mines minister Kalombo Mwansa said on Monday.

Mwansa said he had signed a law to pave the way for uranium mining in the country following the discovery of huge uranium deposits in several parts of the mineral-rich southern Africa country.

"The law is now in place to facilitate operations for uranium mining and the mining companies are now free to apply for authority to conduct their activities," Mwansa told Reuters.

Mwansa said the signing of the law to allow uranium mining and exports was a milestone in the development of Zambia's mining industry, which has been dominated by copper and cobalt production.

"Uranium mining adds another dimension to our plans to diversify from copper into other minerals and it will allow us to consider using uranium as a source of energy in the long term," Mwansa said.

The law, which covers the prospecting, mining and milling of uranium ores and other radioactive minerals ores, gives all powers in the mines minister to issue licences for mining and exports of uranium as a safeguard to ensure the mineral is exported to the right consumers.

It also makes it mandatory for mining companies and exporters of uranium to provide documentation on the source of uranium concentrate or radioactive materials and to prove the authenticity of importers under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines.

Foreign firms seeking to export uranium would have to apply for export licences from the Radiation Protection Authority under the ministry of health to ensure their operations did not pose environmental and health hazards to the country.

"A person (or mining firms) shall not acquire, sell or export uranium or any radioactive mineral except with the terms and conditions of an approval granted by the minister," the law says.

The legislation also imposes strict management plans for natural water and that coming from mining activities and other waste products of mining firms to avert major damage to the environment and health of miners and others.

Mining firms will be required to initiate radiation protection management plans, waste management plans and quantitative radiological hazard and safety assessments plans before obtaining a mining licence, the law states.