Uranium mining

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is planning to establish a new fund to help deal with the legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining and processing in across Central Asia.

The European Commission requested for the new fund, which will be named ‘Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia’.

An initial €8m was provided by the European Commission, with additional funding still under consideration.

According to EBRD, the fund will be used to finance projects aimed at rehabilitating high-priority sites in Central Asian countries where it will operate, including Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Most mines in Central Asia were closed due to radioactive contamination that took place in the region, which served as an important source of uranium.

"This new fund is recognition of the urgent need to act over uranium mines and deposits in Central Asia."

Contaminated material from the mining industry was being placed in waste dumps and tailing sites, leading to the closures without any major precautions taken.

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EBRD said that the accumulated amount of material in the region will harm both the environment and health of the population.

Many of the uranium legacy sites are located along the tributaries to the Syr Darya River, which runs through the Fergana Valley, the agricultural centre of the region shared by the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

EBRD director of nuclear safety Vince Novak said: "This new fund is a recognition of the urgent need to act in regards to the uranium mines and deposits in Central Asia, and of the expertise and know-how the EBRD has accumulated in the area of nuclear decommissioning.

"We welcome the initiative by the European Commission and at the same time invite other donors to join this highly important effort."

Image: Dealing with the legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Photo: courtesy of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.