Uranium mine remediation progresses in Central Asia

5 May 2020

Remediation of legacy uranium mines in Central Asia is making progress (Credit: EBRD)Efforts to overcome the legacy of uranium mining in Central Asia are making progress despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced.

In Tajikistan, work on the preparation and eventual delivery of remediation can begin now that a framework agreement with the EBRD has entered into force. The document provides the legal basis for the implementation of projects in the country.

A contract for remediation works in Shekaftar in the Kyrgyz Republic has also been signed.

The Shekaftar mining complex includes three closed mines and eight mining-waste disposal areas that contain about 700,000 cubic metres of waste from mining operations. Radioactive waste-rock dumps, scattered around the village and next to a school, pose a risk to public health.

The first remediation works at Shekaftar will focus on the closure of six shafts and the relocation of five waste-rock dumps to an existing dump at a more remote location, EBRD said.

Central Asia was an important source of uranium for the former Soviet Union for over fifty years, which led to a large amount of radioactively-contaminated material being placed in mining waste dumps and tailing sites. Although most mines were closed by 1995, very little remediation was undertaken.

The EBRD established the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA) in 2015 at the initiative of the European Commission, to assist the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in remediating some of the most dangerous sites left by uranium production in these countries during the Soviet era.

In November 2018, the European Union pledged and additional €10 million ($11.3m) to the fund.

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