A study has found that Namibian miners who worked at Rio Tinto‘s Rössing mine are dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses.
The miners were digging uranium ore that was used by the UK and US militaries in the 1970s to build bombs and civil nuclear power.
According to the Guardian, one man told researchers working with Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute: "People get sick. We are seeing it in people that have worked for Rössing for a long time. They just go back and die after working at Rössing."
The study was based on questionnaires of the existing and former miners at the Rössing mine.
All of the participants of the study said that they knew some of the miners who are suffering from a disease or unknown illness linked to their work at the mine, due to high levels of dust.
A summary of the paper seen by the Guardian states that: "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."
A Rio Tinto spokesman told the newspaper: "The company keeps detailed records of the health status of its workforce from the day of employment to the day they leave the company. It therefore does not need to speculate on health issues of its employees."
Located 70km north-east of Swakopmund in Namibia, the Rössing mine is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and accounts for about 7% of the world’s uranium oxide production.
Image: The Rössing mine is the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world. Photo: courtesy of Rio Tinto.