Namibian U mine expansion cleared

30 April 2008

The first phase of Rössing Uranium's planned expansion of its Namibian mine has received environmental clearance from the country's Ministry of Environment and Tourism.


Rössing (Image: Rio Tinto)
The first of Rössing's two-phase expansion plans comprises three projects: the building of a sulphuric acid plant at the Rössing mine site, construction of a radiometric ore sorting plant and the mining of a small satellite orebody one kilometer east of the current open pit. The ministerial approval is based on a social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) for the projects submitted in March.


Of the three projects, the acid plant is of major importance to Rössing Uranium. The company has been importing sulphuric acid - used in the leaching process to extract uranium from mined ore - since an old acid plant closed in 2000. The new plant has a proposed capacity of 1200 tonnes of acid per day and will also generate about 10 MWe of electricity that could be used at the mine site. Rossing Uranium anticipates the new plant to lead to "substantial cost savings" from the lower costs of sulphuric acid and electricity, reduced risk of shortages and the health, safety and environmental advantages of reduced acid transport and handling.


In granting its approval, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism stipulated that regular environmental monitoring should be conducted as the project progresses, and that stakeholders must be "properly consulted" prior to the commencement of the project. In its media release, Rossing has confirmed its commitment to such measures.


The second phase of the expansion plan involves a total of six projects covering the extension of mining activities in the existing open pit and new mining activities over a larger area; increasing disposal capacity for both waste rock and tailings; establishing an acid heap leaching facility; and sulphur handling in the port of Walvis Bay. A separate SEIA for this work is currently at the draft scoping report stage.


If all the expansion projects go ahead, Rössing hopes to extend operations to at least 2026 and could see production increase from its current 3000 tonnes of uranium oxide per year to over 4000 tonnes per year. Rössing ranked as the world's third most productive uranium mine in 2006.