Uranium Exploration in Africa by Country (Associated Press)

December 26, 2007 1:18 PM ET

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) - Rising interest in nuclear power and high uranium prices have led to new uranium exploration and mining across southern Africa, home to the uranium-rich Karoo Basin. Here's a glance at some of the countries attracting attention.


Though it is believed to hold 7 percent of the world's uranium deposits, South Africa's uranium production has been dropping. Faced with domestic energy shortages, the South African government earlier this year proposed expanding uranium mining and processing throughout the country and constructing new nuclear power plants. Under the policy, South Africa, which gave up its nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, would only grant mining rights to foreign companies if there is enough uranium to meet local power demands. In 2007, Uranium One Ltd., of Canada, opened a new mine in South Africa.


Namibia produced 3,067 metric tons of uranium in 2006 -- the sixth-highest total in the world -- according to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group. Namibia's Rossing open pit mine is the third largest uranium mine in the world, and accounted for 7.8 percent of world production in 2006. Langer Heinrich mine began production in 2006.


In northwestern Zambia, Equinox Ltd. is hoping to mine uranium along with copper in the Lumwana mine. In southern Zambia, several companies are searching for uranium deposits. The Zambian government is completing new uranium mining regulations.


Botswana is now seeing uranium exploration by foreign mining companies like Bannerman Resources Limited and Uramin Inc.


The government has allowed Australia's Paladin Resources to develop the Kayelekera uranium mine in northern Malawi, a move that prompted protests and legal action from some human rights advocates, over environmental and safety concerns and tax revenue concerns. Malawi has not previously been a uranium producer.


Reports of illegal mining and environmental concerns dog the uranium industry in Congo. The country has long been a uranium producer; its Shinkolobwe mine was the source for some of the uranium that went into the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Japan during World War II. Local diggers have continued working in Shinkolobwe mine despite a presidential decree again ordering it shut several years ago. In November, a government official suspected of ordering up to 17 tons of radioactive waste dumped in a river in the southeast of the country was arrested.


The search for uranium on the continent goes beyond southern Africa. Niger is Africa's biggest producer of uranium, and the fourth largest uranium producer in the world, trailing only Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan. The country produced 3,434 metric tons of uranium in 2006.

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