THE ATTEMPTED THEFT AT ROSSING

In September 2009, two employees of the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia and a member of the Namibian Defense Forces were arrested trying to sell 170kg (approx. 374lbs) of natural uranium concentrate to an undercover police agent. A Rossing employee and a contractor working in Rossing’s Final Product Recovery (FPR) area orchestrated the theft. Namibian police initiated the illicit purchase and targeted Rossing employees, offering large amounts of money (reportedly several thousands of dollars per kilogram) with the goal of determining whether yellowcake could be smuggled out of the mine. The two employees exploited their knowledge of vulnerability gaps within the FPR and elsewhere at the mine to carry out the theft. External access to the FPR was thought to be controlled with generally adequate physical security, but employees with access were largely unmonitored and had free reign of all areas of the FPR. The employees removed yellowcake from a damaged finished product drum as controls on damaged drums was not as strictly regulated as on regular drums. The damaged drum was then moved to an enclosed area with in the FPR where there was no closed circuit TV (CCTV) supervision.

Once in the unmonitored area, the UOC was scooped into individual plastic bags and transferred to a trash dumpster for removal. The employees then circumvented a number of controls on waste removal from the FPR. A hauling truck took the dumpster to Rossing’s dump site. Neither of the employees was authorized to drive the truck, and the truck should never have entered or exited the FPR without a security escort. The truck was also driven outside of its normal schedule. Once the bags of yellowcake were put into Rossing’s dump site, the material was largely unprotected as the dump is normally only used for disposing of non-radioactive waste. Namibian police stated that another 250kg (approx. 551lbs), which the company could not account for, may also have been stolen. According to Wikileaks, other employees who worked on the same FPR shift were not directly implicated, but there were concerns as others on shift would have had to witness some of the activities. Since the employees were caught three weeks after the material was removed, the CCTV recordings from the day of the theft had already been overwritten. In the aftermath, Rossing management conducted a security audit, revealing 54 security findings which Rossing addressed with a security improvement action plan. All upgrades were in place by mid-2010.