Some 138 prospecting licences have been issued for the exploration of uranium and, according to minerals minister, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, such activity is taking place “across the length and breadth of Botswana”.
The areas covered by the licenses are in the districts of southern, north east, south east, Ngamiland, Kweneng, Kgalagadi, Gantsi and central.
This information came in response to a question posed by Mahalapye East MP, Botlogile Tshireletso.
Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals. Projections are that current economic uranium resources will last for over 100 years at current consumption rates. About 5.5 million tonnes of uranium ore reserves are considered economically viable. Uranium is mined in several ways: open pit, underground, in-situ leaching and boreholing.
The main use of uranium in civilian sector is to fuel commercial nuclear power plants. In the military, its main application is in high-density penetrators that can enable destruction of heavy-armoured targets. Its production is exported under strict International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards against use in nuclear weapons.
About 25 percent of uranium is mined in Canada. The other important uranium-mining countries are Australia , Kazakhstan , Niger , Russia and Namibia .
From all indications, Botswana could soon join that club.
Mining Weekly suggests that Botswana is destined to become “a second Namibia ” where uranium mining is vibrant. Other analyses are that Botswana will out-compete Namibia .
Whatever the case may be, countries that surround Botswana hold about 15 percent of the world’s current uranium resources.
At a resource conference held in Gaborone last year, Dr. Andrew Tunks, the CEO of an Australian company that is exploring for uranium in Letlhakane said that the area where they are exploring would “certainly be one of the largest places of contained uranium anywhere.”
Exploration for uranium comes with its risks. Tshireletso wanted to know whether there are any precautionary measures in place to ensure the safety of those conducting the exploration and the communities where the exploration is being conducted.
“Until they are mined and exposed, uranium minerals do not pose any hazard to prospectors or communities. However, as a precaution, employees of companies exploring for radioactive minerals are provided with protective clothing and trained on the handling of any material which may be radioactive. In addition, all radioactive material or equipment using radioactive substances are clearly labeled. Furthermore, signs warning of radiation hazard are put up at appropriate localities where radioactive materials may exist or be stored to warn people about the dangers of such material,” Kedikilwe said.