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Mkuju River uranium mine, Tanzania


Uranium and radioactive mineralization in Tanzania was identified in the pre-independence era, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the commercial interest to explore became evident and the investors started arriving for discussions with the government authorities (6).

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) opened its doors to issue prospecting licences (PL) in 2005. Subsequently, 70 prospecting / exploration licences have been issued to companies and individuals. Among those companies several are subsidiaries of same foreign company registered under different names. Mantra Resources Tanzania Limited – MTRL was reported  (2017)  to be developing and making final preparations for the Mkuju River uranium mining, milling and processing project to begin soon (2018) (Similarly, also Magnis Resources Ltd (ex Uranex Ltd) is making final preparations in the Bahi-Manyoni-Area in central Tanzania). However, announced its wishdrawal in July 2017 (7). 

Uranium exploration activities by MRTL began in the Mkuju River escarpment in 2005 and the permitting process was registered on 2009. Since 2005 a number of concerns have surfaced. One of them is the location of the mine partially within the Selous Game Reserve, a World Heritage Site under the care of the Tanzanian Government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO. Besides, there are fears of the ecological damage and a bleak future to the wildlife in the reserve (6) (5) (4) (2).

In spite of protests from local and International NGOs in July 2012 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee approved Tanzania’s request to modify the boundary of the game reserve by 0.8 per cent to pave the way for the Mkuju River Project. Consequently, in August 2012 the Tanzania’s Minister of Environment approved and issued the Environmental Impact Assessment EIA certificate. But, despite this there are number of concerns from the local community, civil society and experts about negative impact of uranium exploration on environment and population due to the radioactivity of the (chemical) waste. In fact, uranium mining activities can cause diseases such as leukemia or cancer will show up only 15 to 20 years after exposure, and affected people will have to deal with deteriorating health conditions and premature deaths, even impacts on following generations are possible. The land mined cannot be used anymore for agriculture or any other purpose for the benefit of local communities. In addition, adjacent areas will inevitably also be contaminated, be it in the short or in the long run, if there are no comprehensive reclamation measures. Moreover, it exists the risk of land grabbing, lack of awareness on the impacts of uranium mining on the human health, violation of human rights and international safety regulations (2).

On another hand, with regard to corporate social responsibility, field visits reveal so far that this company has been installed solar power in a boarding secondary school in a neighboring village. They have also provided the village dispensary with four hospital beds. In addition, they promised to dig water wells for the village but the promise is yet to be fulfilled. With regard to employment policy, those who had worked with Mantra Resources report that it takes a long time for local individuals to be employed in the company and in most of the cases, they are hired as cheap laborers. Moreover, compared with tourism activities, where many people can get a chance to participate and to derive some profit from, jobs in the mine will be limited in number and time without long-lasting social and economic security. Field observations and survey conducted by WISE and CESOPE revealed that local people and NGOs in the surrounding project area were not consulted or involved in and not well informed (ignored) about the whole process since the stage of exploration. Sometimes people were deliberately misinformed: in the beginning of exploration activities villagers were made to believe that groundworks were part of construction of new antenna masts for mobile phone network. Local politicians in respective areas denied ongoing exploration and intimidated NGOs’ concerns on the issue (2).

Tanzanian government, like in other African countries, welcomed uranium mining as a solution to poverty and economic development, but the capacities to handle side effects like pollution or health risks in terms of laws and regulations, skilled staff, know-how, financial power and institutional factors are low. The communities are determined to fight for their rights and engage government in stopping the activities of uranium extraction in order to sustainably maintain their communities and livelihoods (2).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Mkuju River uranium mine, Tanzania
State or province:Ruvuma region
Location of conflict:Namtumbo District
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Uranium

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to MRTL, they predict extracting up to 3.7 million pounds of uranium per year by mining 4.5 million tons of ore for 12 years (1).

During the life of the mine, the Mkuju River project is expected to attract US 1 billion dollars in foreign investments and generate about US 630 million dollars to direct and indirect cash flows. (5)

The project cost is estimated to be US$ 510 millions; it is in records that some of the benefits are job creation as there will be 1,200 – 1,500 job opportunities during construction and 450 for the operation phase. The first production target will start two years after the start of construction activities, as per current design it will use sulphuric acid produced at site (250 tons/day) and lime (10.7 kg/ton of tailings) sourced from within the power requirement will be 9.35MW generated using heavy fuel oil (6).

Russia's Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), which has recently won a licence to build the east African country's first uranium mine, disputes with the Tanzania Revenue Authority $206 million tax claim, of which $196 million was supposed to have been paid as capital gains tax and $9.8 million as stamp duty (6).

In July 2017 it was reported (7) that Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, suspends Mkuju River uranium project in Tanzania for at least three years due to depressed uranium market. Rosatom hoped to start construction and mining uranium at Mkuju River project by 2013, but the demand for uranium doesn’t seem to restore earlier than 2020. So, the project will remain suspended until then. The other reason for putting off the project is the major overhaul of Tanzania’s mining industry commissioned by the local authorities in March of this year. The Tanzanian parliament has approved three bills at once, which aims at providing the state with a greater share of revenue from the country’s natural resources. According to a report, royalties on the export of precious metals and copper will be increased from 4 to 6%, and from 5 to 6% for uranium. The bills also provide the state the right to revise contracts in the field of mining and energy.

As for the project, it has been on the advanced stage of development for some time now, with a key mining license granted back in April 2013. The operator of the project, Uranium One, has current activities at Mkuju River focused on licensing and permitting matters, and value engineering opportunities to optimize the capital and operating costs for open-pit operation. There are still many unresolved issues and problems this project faces, and it can be said that Mkuju River uranium project is going to have a tough time.

Project area:3,250 (2)
Level of Investment:510,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:201,640 (2)
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Mantra Tanzania Ltd (MTRL) from Australia - The project is owned by Mantra Tanzania Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mantra Resources Pty Ltd. (formerly Mantra Resources Ltd.), an Australian registered corporation in which Uranium One has a minority interest
Uranium One Inc. from Canada
Atomredmetzoloto Uranium Holding Co. (ARMZ) from Russian Federation
Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) from Russian Federation
Magnis Resources Ltd (ex Uranex Ltd) from Australia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WISE WORLD INFORMATION SERVICE ON ENERGY
Civil Education is the Solution to Poverty and Environmental Management (CESOPE)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Other Environmental impactsThe mine will produce 60 million tons of radioactive and poisonous waste during its 10-year lifespan (3)
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:A report published by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung recommends the Tanzanian government should develop an adequate regulatory framework and policy with regard to uranium mining and strengthen its capacity to enforce such regulations; ensure that legal procedures and international standards are adhered to and that civil and human rights are respected; make sure that levels and limits of radiation are determined by independent scientists before the companies start mining uranium in the area.
Indispensable dialogue and consent between all the interested and affected parties and awareness
campaign should be organized.
Highly valuable areas like natural reserves and areas of special importance for food security must be excluded from uranium mining.
• Perspectives:
The Selous Game Reserve area could be further developed into a tourist attraction spot.
• Measures for storage of radioactive waste are required;
• Uranium should be included in the (draft) guideline of the European Union on Responsible sourcing of
minerals originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas (guideline towards an integrated EU
• Involved stakeholders, multinational companies and nuclear energy consuming countries should
recognize and take their responsibility and fulfill criteria of corporate accountability;
• The whole fuel chain of nuclear power should be more transparent and more monitored.
• Nuclear energy (with all its negative consequences as e.g. uranium mining) should be abandoned. (2)
A proper cooperation among different authorities is required, and a system of inspections and monitoring of uranium exploration and/or mining sites must be available. Education programmes dealing with uranium exploration and mining aimed at the general public should be developed and presented jointly by the industry, government and non-government organizations. A high degree of cooperation between all stakeholders will be required for any education programme to succeed. Mining should be conducted in such a manner that the environment is not damaged to the extent that large areas of land are permanently removed from future beneficial use. Therefore it is very important to conduct an assessment of the environment to assess the potential impacts of a mining operation (Environmental Impact Assessment) and the development process has to be undertaken to keep environmental degradation as low as reasonably achievable (6)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

In 2009, the Government of Tanzania produced the Mineral Policy of Tanzania. The policy statements that are also relevant to the mining of uranium are:

1) Recognizing the fact that the establishment of medium and large scale mining will cause relocation of individuals and disruption of their livelihoods, the government decided to determine effective relocation, compensation and resettlement schemes;

2) Recognizing that mining activities can contribute significantly in the development of local communities, the government’s policy is to strengthen the relationship between mining companies and surrounding communities and the public in general;

3) In order to increase public awareness on mining activities, the government will provide them with accurate and timely information about all matters of concern regarding the mineral sector;

4) Since mining activities cause adverse effects to safety and occupational health of mine workers, environmental land degradation, pollution and social disruption of local communities around the mining sites, the government will strengthen management, occupational health and environment safety. A number of Acts of Parliament and their regulations have been enacted to reflect the above-summarized Tanzanian Mineral Policy. These acts are:

1) The 2010 Mining Act with its 2010 Mining (Radioactive Minerals) Regulations (URT 2010);

2) The 2003 Atomic Energy Act with the 2011 Atomic Energy (Radiation Safety in the Mining and Processing of

Radioactive Ores) Regulations (URT 2011);

3) The 2004 Environmental Management Act with its Environmental (Registration of Environmental Experts)

2005 Regulations and the 2005 Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit Regulations (URT 2004);

4) The 2003 Occupational Health and Safety Act with its Mining (Safe Working and Occupation Health) 2010 Regulations (URT 2003; URT 2010).

5) Other Acts that have some relevance to uranium mining in the country include the Land Act (1999) and the Village Land Act (1999). (2) (6)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(6)Uranium Mining. Impact on Health & Environment, Published by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Dar es Salaam April 2014

Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency


(3)Mantra to start uranium mining, pubblished on East African Businnes week on 08/16/2015, accesed on 02/06/2017

Russia May Start Industrial-Scale Uranium Mining in Tanzania in 2018, pubblished on Sputniknews on 04/28/2016 accesed on 02/06/2017

(2)WISE, RADIATING AFRICA, The Menace of Uranium Mining. Case Studies on Cameroon, Mali and Tanzania, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2014, accesed on 02/02/2017

(5)Alvar Mwakyusa, Tanzania: Mkuju Uranium Mining Plan Remains Intact, pubblished on Tanzania Daily News on 01/08/2017, accesed on 02/06/2017

(4)Tanzania to Extract Uranium in Africa's Largest Conservancy, pubblished on the East African on 01/18/2017, accessed on 02/06/2017

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(7) Russian state corporation suspends $1.2 billion uranium project in Tanzania. Vladimir Basov | Jul. 7, 2017

Meta information

Contributor:Carla Petricca
Last update18/08/2019