Environment Management at Husab

Source: 2019-10-28

Swakop Uranium (Pty) Ltd holds the Mining Licence (ML) 171 and Environmental Clearance Certificates (ECCs) for the Husab Uranium Mine, for its associated linear infrastructure and Exclusive Prospecting Licenses. The Husab Mine is situated in the northern most part of the Namib Naukluft National Park (NNNP), about 12 km south-east of Arandis. Exploration activities commenced in 2006 in EPL3138 & EPL3419. Construction started in 2012, after the official issuing of the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ECC clearance for the Husab Mine and Linear Infrastructure. Mining started in March 2014 and the commissioning of the processing plant commenced in December 2016. The Environmental Team has been involved since day one with exploration and mining activities, as stringent baseline conditions and commitments need to be met in line with the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) requirements. The EMP is a legal binding document (‘contract’) with the Government of Namibia and all compliance, bio-physical and biodiversity monitoring strategies/programmes have been approved. Where legislation is lacking, best practise is incorporated into these plans. As Husab Mine operates in the NNNP, we do not hold complete jurisdiction over sites and therefore all requirements as stipulated in the permit conditions are to be adhered too. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain good relations with all stakeholders.

Environmental management is often not well understood and comprises multiple entities. Environmental Management is the control of the mining activities to avoid or minimise the potential impact on the natural environment. The Husab Mine is still in its beginning phases since development commenced in 2012, therefore baselines are still being determined to accurately define areas of concern. The Environmental Team acts as the link between the authorities and Swakop Uranium Management. The Role of the Section is to provide guidance and advice on new projects, activities, EMP commitments and Legal Requirements. Mine Closure is also incorporated at the design stages to ensure the site footprint and potential influence is kept to an absolute minimum.

The EMP is broken down into different Sections, which incorporate all the management commitments, management plans and mitigations measures that need to be adhered too for Life of Mine (LOM), and can be broken down into the following;

1.       Legal Requirements/Framework

2.       Overarching Objectives, Scope and Overview

3.       Stakeholder Consultation and Communication

4.       Safety & Security Management

5.       Biodiversity (Fauna & Flora) Management

6.       Surface & Stormwater Management

7.       Groundwater Management

8.       Air Quality Management

9.       Soil Management

10.   Visual Aspect Management

11.   Waste Management (Mineralised and Non-mineralised)

12.   Noise Management

13.   Socio-Economic Aspect Management

14.   Radiation Exposure Management

15.   Archaeological Resources Management

16.   Linear Infrastructure Management

17.   Overall Responsibilities

18.   Monitoring Plan (with specific requirements)

19.   Monitoring, Auditing and Reporting requirements

SU strive for the following;

1.       No pollution (of air, ground and water)

2.       Impact on the natural environment is minimised

3.       Uranium ore is mined and processed in a sustainable way

4.       The people living in the environment are healthy (employees and third parties)

Some of the Environmental Section Key Activities:

1.       Environmental Radiation Monitoring

·         Soil sampling of heavy metals and radionuclides, to monitor changes to the natural soil conditions and potential pathways concerns. Commenced in 2016 and is done every 2x years.

·         Radionuclides are tested annually in the groundwater boreholes.

·         Metals are tested quarterly of the fall out dust and monthly of the PM10 filter.

·         Assist the Radiation Section where possible e.g. radiation waste disposal etc.


2.       Biodiversity Monitoring and Land Use Management

·         Currently developing a long term Ecological Monitoring and Research Program with Gobabeb/NERMU (5x year research) and are assisting SU with the restoration trials.

Focus: Hartmann’s mountain zebra; gerbils as eco engineers; vegetation health monitoring; Husab sand lizard; Welwitschia mirabilis; etc.

·         Site Clearance & Disturbance Process

·         Topsoil Stockpile Monitoring

·         Flora Database; Flora Relocation and Monitoring trails; Alien and Invasive Fauna and Flora Monitoring; Effects of fallout dust and fine dust on plant health; Monthly Welwitschia Leaf Growth Monitoring; & WW relocations monitoring

·         Groundwater and Surface Water Monitoring;  & Rain Gauge Network

·         Monthly NamPower/Namib Nature Foundation Powerline Monitoring; Fauna Movement Monitoring (Camtraps); Alien (Domestic) and Invasive Fauna Monitoring; Fauna Data Base (Animal Sightings Register); & Rescue and Relocation of Fauna.

·         During the research for the EIA’s the different migration routes, habitats, feeding areas etc. were determined and the engineers incorporates various measures in the construction phase to mitigate the negative impact that the mining and related activities will have on wildlife, take note of the following;

o   Relevant power lines were equipped with appropriate bird deterrent measures to limit bird kills.

o   Monitoring power lines for bird kills on a monthly basis.                

o   The use of light will be kept to a minimum and where it is required, yellow lighting will be used (zebra lighting in processing plant for example).

o   Vertebrates will be kept away from the area around the lights with appropriate fencing.

o   All water dams will be fenced off and/or netted to prevent access by larger fauna.

o   Dams will be equipped with measures to allow fauna that fall into the water to get out.

o   During construction, operation and decommissioning, barriers will be used to keep animals away from hazardous excavations and infrastructure.           

o   The bridge is equipped with barrier railings to prevent animals from falling or jumping off the sides.

o   All drainage lines are kept open, as and where required.

o   Overland pipelines will have under- or overpasses for animals.

o   Strict speed control measures will be implemented for any vehicles driving within the NNNP and Dorob National Park (DNP) boundaries.

o   Minimise night time traffic on major access roads where possible.

o   Investigate and report on all animal deaths caused by vehicles or mining.

o   Dust control measures will be implemented.

o   Minimise mine construction footprint size.          

o   Implement an alien/invasive/weed management programme.    

o   Pollution prevention measures will be implemented.      

o   Educate all workers on the sensitivity of the mine site and surrounds and on species of conservation importance.                

o   Fencing is required for security and safety purposes.

o   Implement an efficient waste management system. 

·         An on-site nursery will be set up to assist with restoration trails.


3.       Air Quality Monitoring

·         Monthly Fall Out Dust Bucket Monitoring of 33 strategically placed sites.

·         Quarterly Chemical Analysis (i.e. metal analysis of Uranium and Thorium) of fall our dust.

·         Alpha Quartz Analysis (i.e. silica analysis of alpha quartz) ad hoc.

·         Passive Sampling Monitoring (PSD) at 14 sites 3x per year (SO2/NO2 & VOC), which has expanded in 2019 and some sites have changed.

·         Acid Mist sampling to monitor and track potential impacts from the TSF and Acid Plant

·         Monthly PM10 Filter analysis for MiniVol Sampler 

·         Real-time PM10 and PM2.5 monitoring by the Grimm Aerosol Environ Check 365 Sampler

·         Monthly metals analysis (uranium & thorium) of the GRIMM 365 filter


4.       Groundwater & Surface Water Monitoring

·         Monthly groundwater quality monitoring  or Early pollution detection of approximately 12 boreholes or as required - Internal

·         Monthly Groundwater Level and Variance Monitoring (+-60 boreholes) - Internal

·         Quarterly Groundwater Monitoring and Sampling (Quarterly & bi-annually) – SLR External

·         Pit Dewatering Monitoring - Internal

·         Ad hoc monitoring of surface water; stormwater etc.


5.       Weather (Meteorological Monitoring)

·         3x Real Time Stations: north Pit 1, south Pit 2 & EPL (Davies & Campbell)

·         Daily Weather Recording Log (ML & EPL)

·         This information is very useful and is incorporated into the air quality monitoring program.


6.       Heritage & Archaeological Chance Find Management

·         The establishment and communication of “NO-GO” areas – identified as sensitive during the EIA studies.

·         Identification and demarcation of sites within areas with Swakop Uranium activities.

·         Implementation of the Chance Find procedure (i.e. all finds are reported, recorded and relocated where permitted).

·         Inspections of identified archaeological site & external annual audits.

·         Specific fixed point photography monitoring for disturbance tracking.


7.       Noise and Vibration Monitoring

·         Conducted at strategic points to monitor mining air blasts (dB & mm/s) from the Husab Mine.

·         4x Sites on the Mining Perimeter; 3x Sites in the EPL/third party Areas.


8.       Hazardous Materials Management

·         Hazardous materials at the Husab Mine could potentially have significant impacts on the environment (soils, air, surface water and groundwater) if accidentally spilled or released. Therefore management hereof is very important.

·         Each area, contractor, supervisor and team leader shall ensure requirements are adhered too in their area of responsibility (training, MSDS, correct storage (bunding, drips trays 110% of largest volume therein), correct transport & handling, spill kits & response, adequate clean-up, spill recording, incident reporting, correct facilities & disposal). Waste management is therefore also very specific.

·         Design requirements compliance is very important and environmental input is needed to ensure the vision can be met for the purpose of the facility.

·         In essence, most of the monitoring that is conducted is in order to be able to acquire data to monitor trends and determine indicators for areas of concern due to operational activities.

·         Bioremediation facility proposed in 2019 to limit the volumes of hazardous waste leaving the mien site.


9.       Compliance Monitoring

·         Is achieved through effective inspections, audits, reporting, incident management, contractor management, legal permit management and ongoing interaction with end users.