Preliminary thoughts on the valorisation of ‘green uranium’ in Africa

Sullivan, S (2013) Preliminary thoughts on the valorisation of ‘green uranium’ in Africa. In: Environmental Politics and Change in Southern Africa, 19 June 2013, University of London, UK.


Two of Africa's premier eco-tourism destinations, Namibia and Tanzania, are now poised to become two of the world's leading suppliers of uranium. This would perhaps be unremarkable if it were not for the ways in which uranium extraction is entwined with biodiversity conservation in both countries. In July 2012, UNESCO granted the Government of Tanzania permission to excise part of the Selous Game Reserve (a designated world heritage site) for uranium mining. In Namibia, exclusive prospecting licenses have been granted inside Namib-Naukluft and Dorob National Parks and may affect communal area conservancies. Newly extracted uranium is also proposed to be 'green', in part through suggesting biodiversity offsets as a method for mitigating mining impacts. In this paper, I highlight four ways in which uranium extraction in Africa is becoming systemically entwined with conservation and 'green' practice, drawing on Namibia and Tanzania as key and consolidating examples. These are, 1. through the paradoxical locating of uranium mines in National Parks and other protected areas; 2. through the uptake of biodiversity offsetting discourse and technologies to apparently 'offset' extractive impacts; 3. through additional strategies of mimesis that enable mining corporations to appear increasingly to resemble conservation organisations; and 4. through the invoking, internationally, of uranium-derived nuclear power as a low- or even zero-carbon energy source. This paper is a work in progress on which I am collaborating with anthropologist Prof. Jim Igoe. Nonetheless, we are arriving at a tentative conclusion that notes that the systemic and empowered entraining of mineral extraction with conservation and 'green' discourse enhances extractive possibilities through occluding the contradictions between the two activities. The conservation possibilities for those charged with protecting biodiversity thus are limited, even as these activities are valorised as 'green'. I also include some comments regarding the polysemic and productive meanings of 'valorisation' in this case.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Part of the University of London ‘Southern Africa: History, Culture and Society Seminar Series’.

Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2018 14:59
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