Working in a Uranium Mine In Namibia

Brian Fleischer
May 29, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Rössing Uranium Mining Site in Namibia. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Namibian economy is heavily dependent on the extraction and processing of natural resources such as minerals. Namibia is the fourth-largest exporter of nonfuel minerals in Africa, the world's fifth-largest producer of uranium, and the producer of large quantities of lead, zinc, tin, silver, and tungsten.

The Health Implications of Working in Rössing Uranium Mine

Amidst the alarming rates of unemployment in Namibia, working in Uranium mines offers job stability and security. However, working in these Uranium mines poses health problems for workers. One particular health challenge is the exposure to dust and the respiratory complications that come with it. Some by products of uranium decay chain such as Radon is a threat to the health of people. The gas is known to cause lung cancer and other forms of lung diseases. One of the main Uranium mining companies in Namibia is Rössing. Rössing Uranium Ltd was formed in 1970 and has nominal capacity of 4000 tU/yr and to the end of 2011 had supplied 101,123 tU. [1] Fig 1 shows the Rössing Uranium mining site.

Greg Dopkin and David Clark in their critical review of the working conditions of Rössing, revealed that the cumulative exposure to radiation increased the workers risk for cancer. Their book Past Exposure is an exposé of the incoherency between what the company made the public know about the health consequences and environmental dangers associated with the occupation and what the company actually knew from their internal surveys. [2] Research conducted under the auspices of the Labour Resource and Research Institute revealed that mine owners argued to deny the health risks associated with uranium mining because workers at mines are ever exposed to low level radiation doses. However, they failed to recognize that the negative impact of working in such mines on workers health is evident only after several years of exposure. Workers of Rössing argue that since they do not possess the proof of the cumulative effects of the negative consequences of working in the mine, the company does not pay any attention to their plight. It is the wish of the workers for companies like Rossling to take an interest in the well being if their workers even after they have left the company. [2]

© Brian Fleischer. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] T. V. Warikandwa, A. Nhemachena and O. Mtapuri, eds. Transnational Land Grabs and Restitution in the Age of the (De-)Militarised New Scramble for Africa," (Langaa RPCIG, 2017).

[2] H. Shidondola-Mote, "Uranium Mining in Namibia: The Mystery Behind Low Level Radiation," Labor Resource and Research Institute, February 2009.