Paladin announces PFS for Langer Heinrich restart

27 February 2019

Paladin Energy Limited has announced a pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the restart of the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia after identifying options to reduce operating costs and maintain cost competitiveness.

Langer Heinrich (Image: Paladin)

A recently completed concept study found multiple options to reduce operating costs, improve uranium process reliability and potentially recover a saleable vanadium product, Paladin said yesterday. This has generated a conceptual plan that "puts Paladin in a strong position to restart Langer Heinrich when there is a sustained recovery in uranium prices", the company said. The mine, which was placed on care and maintenance in August 2018, could be back in full production as early as mid-2021, it said.

According to the concept study, initial capital funding requirements for a restart are expected to be about USD100 million, made up of USD24 million for repairs and improvement to plant, USD4 million for tailings facility construction and USD22 million for "back-end" upgrade work, plus working capital of USD50 million.

The PFS will be the next step in further refining and verifying the restart plan and will focus on improvements to ensure maximum value, the company said. The study will improve mineral resource definition through additional drilling, and will also develop and confirm processing and operational improvement options to reduce operating cost and improve operability.

Work will begin on the PFS in March. The first stage, which will comprise the examination of a rapid, low-risk restart for Langer Heinrich, is to be completed in the first quarter of fiscal 2020. The second stage, which will be a more detailed study for process upgrades, is to be completed in the third quarter of that year. The PFS is expected to cost USD6.2 million to complete.

Paladin CEO Scott Sullivan said the concept study found Langer Heinrich could be restarted relatively quickly in response to strengthening uranium prices.

"The study identified improvements to resolve known processing issues we have encountered in the project's life to date and also to make well considered, low-cost investments in the rapid restart option," he said. "This includes some necessary repairs and equipment replacement, scheduled tailings dam construction, additional surge capacity to increase process stability, process control system upgrade and deployment of a comprehensive management operating system."

Sullivan said the PFS would also examine Langer Heinrich's capacity to produce a saleable vanadium product as a way of increasing the project's long-term value. "As a co-product credit this would effectively lower Langer Heinrich's cost of uranium production," he said.

Langer Heinrich is an open-pit mine which began operations in 2006. It produced 1294 tU in 2017, its last full year of operations, and 394 tU in the first six months of 2018 before being placed on care and maintenance. Estimated mineral resources as of June 2018 were 41,022 tU3O8 (34,787 tU) of measured and indicated resources and 4073 tU3O8 of inferred resources, with stockpiles of 12,915 tU3O8.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News