Frost & Sullivan’s mining report states that Namibia is currently the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer and Africa’s largest uranium exporter, with uranium production in the country expected to quadruple in the near term, owing to increased exploration and expansion activities taking place in the Erongo region.
“About four new uranium mines in the Erongo region are expected to become operational by 2014,” adds Frost & Sullivan mining research analyst Christy Tawii.
Rio Tinto has invested about $285- million in the expansion of the Rössing Uranium Reserve Development project and the construction of a heap-leach processing facility.
China Guandong Nuclear Power Corporation subsidiary Taurus Minerals’ Husab uranium mine expansion project, which Frost & Sullivan says is worth about $1.6-billion, is the highest- value project in Namibia’s uranium mining industry, accounting for 32% of total capital expenditure (capex) invested in the country.
Multinational mining business Areva’s Trekkopje uranium mine, which is expected to start production by 2013, accounts for 19% of the total capex invested in uranium projects in Namibia.
Seven pre-feasibility and three construction stage projects will increase Namibia’s projected uranium production to about 12 000 tons of uranium in 2013
Once fully operational the Trekkopje mine will process 100,000 tonnes of crushed ore per day, with an expected output of 3 000 tonnes of yellow cake per year. The plan is for the ore to be processed using an on-off heap leach methodology, whereby the spent ore is removed from the pad on completion of the leaching cycle. The leach pad facility will extend over 3 kilometers in length and 810 meters wide, making it one of the biggest alkali heap leach operations in the world. Full-scale production at Trekkopje Mine is planned for the last quarter of 2013.
“A total of ten expansion projects, valued at $5-billion, are planned for the uranium mining sector in Namibia and will account for 58% of the total value of uranium projects in Southern Africa,” says Tawii.
Other companies undertaking expansion projects in Namibia’s mining industry include Australian international uranium miner Marencia Energy’s uranium project, uranium exploration company Deep Yellow and uranium development company Bannerman Resources, among others, whose projects, have a combined value of $4.2-billion.
Frost – Namibia expanding the production of uranium oxide to 12,000 tonnes by the end of 2013, predicts Frost & Sullivan. Rossing Uranium and Langer Heinrich uranium mines are anticipated to increase their production capacity. Langer Heinrich’s Phase 2 and 3 expansion projects are designed to expand the company’s uranium production output to 2,500 tonnes by 2015. Rossing Uranium is pursuing a joint venture with Husab uranium mine, in order to diversify the footprint of their operations in the country.
However, in 2011, growth in the country’s mining sector was curtailed by lower production outputs at the country’s two largest mines, Rossing and Namdeb. Production output declined as a result of production stoppages linked to labour dispute issues, logistical constraints and floods that tormented the Southern African region. Nevertheless, exploration projects in the country’s uranium, gold, lead, zinc and iron ore sectors continue to increase. The country’s uranium mining sector is estimated to be the single largest sector in Namibia’s mining industry by 2020, due to the rising exploration expenditures and new development projects. Currently, construction and development projects in the uranium mining sector account for the bulk of the capital expenditure in Namibia’s mining industry.
A total of 25 current expansion projects, valued at $8.65 billion, are planned for the uranium mining sector in the Southern African region. These include1 3 prefeasibility, 2 bankable feasibility and 10 construction stage projects. Southern Africa’s uranium production is projected to increase to approximately 21,260 tonnes of uranium, in 2016, from the 6,628 tonnes produced in 2010.
The uranium company, however, said the “bottleneck issues have now been rectified to [required] specification.”
Yellow cake production for the first three months ending March was 1,05 million pounds, which is below the quarterly target of 1,150 million pounds.
Nevertheless, the plant’s throughput steadily increased with the average ore feed grade being reduced by 17 percent to 850 parts per million (ppm), nearing the third stage design of 800 ppm.
Mining throughput increased with the ore body mined increasing to nearly 2 million tonnes at the end of March from 1,5 million tonnes mined in the last quarter of 2011.