EBRD sees progress with uranium remediation

05 May 2020

Work to remediate legacy uranium mining sites can begin in Tajikistan now that the country's framework agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has entered into force. The bank has also announced the signature of a contract for remediation work at the Shekaftar site in Kyrgyzstan.

The ERA was set up to assist with the remediation of legacy uranium production (Image: EBRD)

Central Asia was an important uranium-producing region in the former Soviet Union from the mid-1940s, particularly in the mountainous areas above the Syr Darya river and the Ferghana valley, where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan intersect. Most of the uranium mining and ore processing activities in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had ceased by the mid-1990s, leaving a large accumulation of largely unremediated radioactive contaminated material at mines, tailing sites and other facilities. The EBRD in 2015 established the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA), at the request of the European Commission, to tackle this legacy.

Framework agreements between the EBRD and the individual countries form the legal basis for ERA operations. Entry into force of the agreement with Tajikistan means that ERA projects may now be implemented there.

The EBRD also said that a contract for remediation works in Shekaftar in Kyrgyzstan, which ratified its framework agreement with the bank in 2017.

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. Dumps of waste rock, which is radioactive, are located around the village and next to a school, posing a risk to public health, the EBRD said. The first remediation works 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.

The ERA is supported by contributions from the European Commission, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States of America, Norway and Lithuania.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News