1. Kazakhstan’s annual uranium production has doubled since 2008, according to preliminary uranium production results released by national atomic company Kazatomprom. The 17,803 tU produced by Kazakhstan in 2010 was nearly 30% up on the 14,020 tU produced in 2009 and double the amount produced in 2008.
In the field of uranium conversion, Kazatomprom notes the signature of a memorandum of understanding with Canada’s Cameco covering the development of a refinery at its Ulba Metallurgical Plant subsidiary and expansion of uranium conversion capacity at the Springfields plant in the UK, where Cameco has a toll-processing agreement. Meanwhile, it is moving forward with plans to take a stake in the Ural Electrochemical Plant enrichment facility in Russia, and expects to complete a deal to acquire shares in the plant during the coming year. An agreement signed with France’s Areva in October 2010 saw the establishment of a 51% Kazatomprom-owned joint venture to build a 400 tonne per year fuel fabrication line at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant, due to start operation in 2014.
2010 also saw the completion of a certification process allowing Kazatomprom to produce fuel pellets for use in Areva designed reactors around the world, as well as separate certifications enabling it to supply fuel pellets to Japanese and Chinese plants.
Kazatomprom says it plans to implement “several investment projects” worth over 341 billion Tenge ($2.3 billion) over the next five years.
2. Increased resource figures for the Etango uranium project in Namibia and plans to aggressively pursue its development featured in the quarterly report of emerging uranium company Bannerman Resources
The final quarter of 2010 saw estimates for measured and indicated resources increase by 5% to 149 million pounds U3O8 (57,312 tU) and inferred resources increase by over 200% to 64 million pounds U3O8 (24,617 tU). The company also completed an update to its feasibility study, which provides for at least 20 years of production at an average of 5-7 million pounds U3O8 (1900-2700 tU) per year.
Etango, formerly known as Goanikontes, is about 30 km south west of the existing Rössing uranium mine. Approximately 70% of the Etango deposits are less than 200 m below the surface. The alaskite ore is similar to that found at Rössing and is very easy to leach. Mining would be by open pit methods, ultimately creating a pit 6 km long, 1 km wide and 400 m deep at its deepest part, and recovery would be by a simple heap leaching process. Bannerman estimates the initial capital cost at $638 million, with a life of mine operating cost estimated at $42 per pound U3O8.
Recently identified satellite deposits at Ondjamba and Hyena, along with the inferred resources already identified within the Etango deposit, could offer the scope for further mine extensions.
The Namibian Etango mine should produce 1900-2700 tons of uranium per year. They are eyeing production in 2013.
Namibia’s two operating uranium mines, Rössing and Langer Heinrich, are already capable of supplying up to 10% of the world’s uranium requirements. A third mine, at Trekkopje, is due to start up in 2012. Several more projects are in development, including the Husab mine
Husab was known as Rössing South until Extract renamed the project late last year to avoid confusion with Rio Tinto’s existing Rössing uranium mine, six kilometres to the north. Extract boasts that Husab would become the world’s second-largest uranium mine after Canada’s McArthur River.
Next steps will include the publication of a definitive feasibility study for the project, which is scheduled for commissioning in 2014. JORC and NI 43-101-compliant resource estimates for zone 1 and 2 of the project, released in August 2010, show indicated resources of 241 million tonnes 257 million pounds of U308 of uranium at an average grade of 480 parts per million (ppm) U3O8, and Extract says there is extensive potential for further uranium discoveries in the region. It describes Husab as the fifth largest uranium-only deposit in the world and proposes an open-pit mine and conventional acid leach process plant producing around 15 million pounds (7500 tons) of uranium per year.
The Husab mine (what used to be Rossing South) is targeting 2014 for about 5000 tons/year and then increasing to 7500 tons/year