Uranium miners dying from cancers, unexplained illnesses in Namibia

Uranium miners dying from cancers, unexplained illnesses in Namibia

Rio’s Rössing mine is the longest-running and one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world.

Namibian miners who worked in uranium mines in the 1970s are dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses, a study based on questionnaires of current and former workers at Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON:RIO) Rössing mine has shown.

The report, produced by Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute, states that the victims used to dig uranium ore for the British and US militaries bombs production and their and civil nuclear power programs.

According to The Guardian, all of the workers interviewed in the study, which is expected to be published this week, claimed they have been exposed to high dust levels despite increased safety levels since the 1970s.

"Two current workers are on sick leave since 2000 and 2003. One worked as a laboratory technician for 24 years and claims to have proof he was radiated," says the report summary quoted by The Guardian.

Former workers spoke of their diagnosis of cancer, other illnesses and the lack of treatment received.

"Yes, I have cancer now. In the beginning they [Rio Tinto] did not want to give money for the treatment but later when they referred me to a doctor for an operation they gave me money for treatment," the worker said.

"Doctors were told not to inform us with our results or tell our illness. They only supply you with medications when you are totally finished up or about to die," said another.

Located 70km north-east of Swakopmund in Namibia, the Rössing mine is the world’s fifth largest uranium producer, accounting for about 7% of the world's uranium oxide output.