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Investigation of the groundwater evolution, interaction and potential radionuclide pollution from the unlined uranium tailings at Langerheinrich mine, Namibia

Groundwater is a very scarce and sensitive resource in many parts of the World especially in Africa and in arid areas such as Western Namibia. The Western Namibia hosts the Erongo region which named the Uranium Province world class deposits of uranium and high exploration and mining in the area. The majority of the Erongo region in Namibia depends on groundwater from the Swakop River compartment, hence, is important to understand the mining effects to this precious resource. The safe guarding of groundwater pollution from various sources including mining is vital.
The extensive exploration and mining activities in the area raised environmental concerns especially threat to the huge ground water resources and the Aquatic systems in the proximity and hydraulically connected to the Swakopmund and Khan catchments. The study looked the impact of uranium mining in the area specifically focusing on the impact of the unlined uranium tailing dams at Langerheinrich uranium mine on the Gawib River a tributary of the Swakop River. The study reviewed the previous work on the Langerheinrich Uranium Mine that is related to groundwater pollution including the Environmental Impact Assessments carried out by the consultants for the mine. Ten water samples were obtained for the purpose of this study, the samples consists of the groundwater samples, recycled water and the fresh water supply to the mine.
The hydrochemistry, stable isotopes and tritium results show that there is contamination from the unlined uranium tailings into the Gawib shallow aquifer system. This could spread to deeper aquifer systems mainly through major structures such as fractures and faults in the area. The contamination plume will also spread downstream to the Gawib River towards the Swakop River unless serious mitigation measures are put in place. There is also a very high risk of the plume to reach the Atlantic Ocean by seasonal flash floods that occurs in the area approximately every after few years.
Keywords: Uranium Province, Langerheinrich uranium mine, Groundwater, Pollution, unlined tailings and Gawib River
Date January 2016
CreatorsShaduka, Ignatius Shikondjeleni
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish

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