"Follow the Yellow Cake Road": Historical Geographies of Namibian Uranium from the Rössing Mine

Christopher Hill, Saima Ashipala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

“Follow the Yellowcake Road,” a World in Action documentary broadcast in the UK on 10 March 1980, provided an insight into illegal uranium supplies from South African-occupied Namibia to Britain. Focusing on the secret logistics of uranium flight, haulage, and shipment routes, the documentary invites the viewer to think critically about the underlying geographies of nuclear energy and weapons, as well as about the role of African uranium in international politics and infrastructures of “becoming nuclear.” Just as the documentary enabled an alternative spatial imaginary by mapping the movement of “yellowcake” across borders, we also seek to re-interpret the historical geographies of Namibia’s Rössing mine, the largest uranium mine in the world at the time of opening in 1976. In the article, we explore the development and operation of Rössing through a series of spatial lenses, from the local environmental politics that surrounded the mine to the global strategies of Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ), the multinational that brought the mine into production. By outlining these historical geographies, we shed light on spatial configurations between Namibian uranium mining and nuclear power more widely.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Social Research
Volume49
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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