The Phosphorus Negotiation Game – SDGs in Action

agricultural field © Patrick_Wall_CIMMYT

Cooperating countries: Namibia, Uganda and Austria

Coordinating institution: Danube University Krems, Dr. Nils Haneklaus,

Partner institutions: University of Namibia, Kyambogo University (Uganda)

Project duration: 1 June 2021 - 31 May 2023


Researchers from MIT in the US developed the “Mercury Game” at the beginning of the 2000s. In their own words “The Mercury Game is a negotiation simulation designed to teach people about the role of science in international environmental policy making”. The development of the game was a success and it is now, among many things, a fixed part of the Harvard Law Schools Program on Negotiation. DUK is actively working on sus-tainable phosphate rock production. Some phosphate rocks contain considerable amounts of accompanying toxic (e.g. cadmium) or radiotoxic (e.g. uranium) elements. Uranium concentrations in phosphate rocks can exceed concentrations found in tradi-tional uranium mines. Whether or not uranium should be recovered from phosphates is actively discussed in the scientific community. Recovering uranium can:

  1. increase radiation exposure of workers,
  2. be a proliferation risk and
  3. increase fertilizer and thus food prices.

Not recovering uranium can: (a) pollute groundwater/crops and (b) increase radiation exposure among farmers and the general public. This Gordian Knot will not be cut by research alone. The importance of Phosphorous (P) mining and processing requires awareness among larger groups of society. The “PGame”, that we want to develop and test in this project will build on MIT’s Mercury Game as well as the PI’s (DUK) experience in University Debating and phosphate rock processing. Namibia and Uganda both have considerable amounts of phosphate rocks and researchers from these countries will complement the team with expertise in food security and toxicology (UNAM) as well as environmental science and pollution of water bodies (KYU).