Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Although uranium mineralisation had been detected in the Rössing Mountains in the Namib Desert in 1928, extensive exploration for uranium did not get under way until the late 1960s. The major discovery was the Rössing deposit, located to the north-east of Walvis Bay; other discoveries were made in the same area of west-central Namibia, notably the Trekkopje and Langer Heinrich deposits.
UraMin Inc., a UK/South African company, was granted exploration licences for Trekkopje and the surrounding area in November 2006, and aims to bring a new production facility into production as soon as possible. The Langer Heinrich deposit was acquired by an Australian company, Paladin Resources Ltd., in August 2002. Since then the company has constructed a new mining and processing facility, with a nominal production capacity of 1 000 tU per annum. The processing plant came into operation in December 2006 and is scheduled to reach its designed production rate by mid-2007.
A large open-pit mine operated by Rössing Uranium Ltd (68.58% owned by Rio Tinto Zinc, 3% by the Government of Namibia, 15% by the Government of Iran, 10% by the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and the balance by individual shareholders) has been in production since 1976; output in 2005 was 3 147 tonnes, with cumulative production amounting to almost 85 000 tonnes. The 2005 output level represented 79% of the 4 000 tU/yr nominal capacity of Rössing's processing plant. Although Rössing Uranium had intended to close down its operations in 2007, a rise in the price of uranium led to a change of plan. The company is now investing US$ 120 million to extend the mine's life by ten years, and the facility might stay in operation beyond 2016/2017.
Together, the Rössing and Langer Heinrich mines would confirm Namibia's position as the top uranium producer in Africa.
The Valencia deposit, lying in the vicinity of the Rössing and Langer Heinrich deposits, was declared uneconomic by Goldfields Namibia, following feasibility studies undertaken in the 1980s. In late-2005 the Canadian company Forsys Metals Corporation acquired the project and now plans to develop an open pit mine by late-2009. At end-March 2007 the results of an environmental impact assessment were awaited.
Namibia is currently the 5th largest uranium producer in the world. Its reasonably assured reserves (at up to US$ 80/kgU) are now put at 151 321 tonnes and are equivalent to nearly 6% of the global total. RAR recoverable at US$ 80-130/kgU are over 31 000 tonnes; Inferred Resources have also been increased and now exceed 123 000 tonnes (in situ), of which almost 100 000 tU would be recoverable at up to US$ 130/kgU.