Optimisation studies begin at Namibian uranium mine

07 December 2018

Paladin Energy is embarking on two studies to optimise its Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia in preparation for a restart decision. The company will also examine the potential recovery of vanadium as a by-product at the mine, which is currently under care and maintenance (C&M).

Langer Heinrich (Image: Paladin)

The optimisation study programme will comprise a concept study - which has already begun - followed by a prefeasibility study. The studies will focus on resolving current operational issues to improve the stability and reliability of the mine and processing facility, to increase productivity and reduce risk; and capitalising on technological developments that can release further value by lowering production costs and improving throughput. Such developments also include the potential recovery of by-product vanadium.

Vanadium - used in high-strength steel and also in some battery applications - is found alongside uranium in certain ores, and has historically been produced as a by-product in some operations. Increasing demand, coupled with production cuts, have seen vanadium prices increase by more than 150% over the past year, offering some uranium producers a possible route to improve economics at a time of low uranium prices.

Langer Heinrich has been on C&M since August, following a decision made by the company in May citing the sustained low uranium spot price.

Paladin Chief Executive Officer Scott Sullivan said "multiple processing options" for the mine would be considered in the prefeasibility study, which is to be completed in 2019. Priority would be given to initiatives to strengthen Paladin's plan for a rapid, reliable restart of Langer Heinrich once the uranium price has improved, he said.

"We want to position Langer Heinrich to be among the first significant global producers to return to production once the uranium price recovers to acceptable and sustainable levels, which it is moving towards currently," Sullivan said. "It is expected to have a relatively low cash cost of production based on current plans and relatively low capital expenditure needed to restart from C&M and we want to improve our production strategy even further through the Optimisation Studies."

The mine produced 1.02 million pounds U308 (394 tU) in the first six months of 2018, and 1308 tU in 2017.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News