Australia-based Marenica Energy said that an upgraded scoping study of its Marenica uranium project in the Erongo region of Namibia shows that it could be a significant, cost-competitive uranium project.
According to the study, conducted by SRK Consulting, the Marenica project could produce 3.5 million pounds of uranium (1345 tU) annually at an operating cost of $38 per pound via heap leach operation. The mine would have a 13-year life based on the existing defined indicated and inferred mineral resource.
|Drilling activities at the Marenica project (Image: Marenica Energy)
Marenica Energy said that this is a significant increase on its earlier expectations as a result of the decision to develop a bulk open pit and heap leach operation with a lower cut-off grade of 50 parts per million (ppm), rather than as a continuous agitated leach circuit fed by higher-grade ore.
SRK has updated the mineral resource estimate for the Marenica project. The measured and indicated resources of the project now total 138 million pounds U3O8 (53,080 tU). The project is 30 km north of Areva's Trekkopje project, and earlier this year Areva bought a 10.4% stake in it.
The mining optimisation study defines a potentially minable 270 million tonnes of low-grade oxide ore, to be processed as run of mine heap leach material. Marenica Energy said that the mineralization is upgraded through a combination of screening and scrubbing, with some 50% of the run of mine ore discarded as waste prior to processing.
The development of a heap leach operation at the Marenica project – including the crushing, screening and process facility - would have an estimated capital cost if $260 million, according to the scoping study.
Using a long term uranium price of $65 per pound, the study indicates that the Marenica project could pay back the initial project capital in five years.
Marenica CEO John Young said, "This mine is expected to support an operation with a greater production profile than was originally believed possible in an agitated leach circuit. We believe the option presented in this study represents an achievable, realistic view given the size of the resource at Marenica."
He added that the company believes that infill drilling should expand the resource base to further boost the project's economics.
Marenica Energy said, "Upon sufficient indicated resource being delineated a definitive feasibility study will commence. The project described in the scoping study will require mining and environmental permits and a site-wide environmental and social impact statement (ESIS). Preliminary work required for the ESIS, such as baseline water sampling, meteorological and dust monitoring, will begin in November 2010."
The company added, "Management believes that construction and commissioning of the plant would take place in 2013 and 2014."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News