Uranium mining progress in Namibia

4 October 2016

Swakop Uranium's Husab mine in Namibia’s Erongo region will start next month, CEO Zheng Keping said on 28 September. The mine will make Namibia the third biggest uranium producer in the world when in full operation, producing 15m tonnes of ore a year, with a nameplate capacity of 50t/y. The operation includes a processing plant. “Production will start in late October,” Keping said. Swakop Uranium is as a subsidiary of China’s CGNPC Uranium Resources Co, with the government-owned mining company Epangelo holding a 10% stake.

Keping said his company worked on some ventures with both the Rössing Uranium and Langer Heinrich mines, which are situated close by. “Before we had our own acid plant, we got acid from Rössing,” he noted. “Rössing has been operating for over 40 years, while Langer Heinrich has been in operation for 10 years,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australia-based Bannerman Resources has approved an extension of its Etango heap leach demonstration plant programme after receiving "excellent" results from the fifth phase of the project, which is also in the Erongo uranium mining region. The plant was commissioned in March 2015. The five phases completed to date have demonstrated or simulated the heap leaching and solution recycling aspects of the processing operation, validating assumptions made in the project's definitive feasibility study (DFS).

The fifth phase, which began in July, showed uranium extraction averaging 93.6%, similar to previous phases. As well as providing further confirmation of the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Etango, the phase has shown the "clear potential" of processing more coarsely ground material and further optimising reagent use, which could both contribute to further reductions in capital and operating costs. In light of the findings, Bannerman announced an extension into a sixth phase, which is already under way and will be completed by the end of November.

Based on the DFS, production is expected to be 7-9m lbs U3O8 a year (2,690-3,460 tU) for the first five years and 6-8m lbs U3O8 a year thereafter over a minimum mine life of 16 years. The project has measured and indicated resources of 57,330 tU at ore grades of up to 0.019%, with inferred resources of 24,630 tU up to 0.16%.

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