Spring flowers in bloom near Laingsburg in the Karoo. File picture: Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg - Uranium mining in the Karoo, if approved, will start almost immediately, possibly within this year.

This is the opinion of Stefan Kramer of the Southern African Faith Communities Environmental Institute (SAFCEI).

Today is the last day people can submit objections to the proposed uranium mining in the Karoo for the environmental impact assessment public consultation process.

Read: 'Significant resources in the Karoo'

Kramer said uranium mining would start almost immediately because the exploration phase had been finalised.

A world-class deposit had been found there, he said, so work could start straight away. The controversial shale gas mining (fracking) in the Karoo is still about 10 years away because the exploration phase has not even started.

The Karoo has long been known to harbour substantial sedimentary uranium deposits. An Australian company with Russian funding was planning to get the radioactive mineral out of the ground on a major scale, he said. The company has “quietly” accumulated over 750 000 hectares of Karoo properties and concessions around Beaufort West and plans to set up a large central processing plant just outside that town.

“There is a deafening silence in the public domain regarding uranium mining in the Karoo.The uranium industry is convinced it can mine the resource at a profit,” he said.

SAFCEI has a team of lawyers and scientists from the Legal Resource Centre and from the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide ready to serve substantive papers to the company to refute the application.

“We will eventually probably have to challenge the mining licences in the courts,” he said.

Kramer said that since they started an awareness campaign, there had been a steady stream of objections submitted.

The Department of Mineral Affairs will make a decision on this during the course of this year.

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THE STAR