Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

Tim Gibbons, Issues affecting uranium mining in the 21st century, Proceedings of the 2024 Resource Operators Conference, University of Wollongong - Mining Engineering, February 2024, 374-392.


Immediately after World War 2 following the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan by the United States of America (USA), there was a race between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), China, the United Kingdom (UK), France, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa to develop nuclear weapons as had been achieved by the USA via the Manhattan Project. This resulted in the USSR developing a gulag named Wismut at Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) in the south-east of the recently annexed East Germany. Similarly, the USA began mining high grade uranium ore using convict labour in Colorado. France and Czechoslovakia (also annexed by the USSR) followed suit, as did Canada and Australia who willingly supplied both the USA and the UK in the 1960s and 1970s with uranium for nuclear weapons. Nobody had any idea about the consequences to uranium miners’ health at the time. The major issue is lung cancer due to radon gas exposure which has a 25 to 30 year gestation period. Kelly-Reif (2023), a USA epidemiologist, has recently reported the current status of lung cancer deaths from seven cohorts in the USA, Canada, Germany, France and the Czech Republic. The total is 7,754 lung cancer deaths. This figure does not include South Africa, Australia, China, India, Pakistan and Niger where very significant uranium mining has also taken place. In Australia, there has been negligible follow-up of uranium miners’ health which is why it was not included in the PUMA study.