Paladin to restart Langer Heinrich uranium mine

19 July 2022

Western Australia-based Paladin Energy Limited has decided to return the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia to production in the first quarter of 2024. The company said the decision to resume operation of the mine, which was suspended in 2018 due to low uranium prices, is supported by a strong uranium market.

The Langer Heinrich mine (Image: Paladin)

Langer Heinrich is located in the Namib Desert 80 kilometres east of the major seaport of Walvis Bay and 40 km south-east of Namibia's - and the world's - longest running open pit uranium mine, China National Uranium Corporation's Rössing. Production commenced in 2007 with a capacity of 2.7 million pounds U3O8 (1039 tU) per year. This was subsequently expanded to 3.7 million pounds in 2009 and 5.2 million pounds in 2012, but following the continued decline in uranium prices, a mining curtailment strategy was introduced in November 2016 and in May 2018 the mine was transitioned to full care and maintenance. The mine produced more than 43.3 million pounds U3O8 over its ten years of previous operations.

"The decision to restart production at the Langer Heinrich mine is supported by strong uranium market fundamentals and continued progress on uranium marketing activities, including the execution of a binding contract for the previously announced Tender Award," Paladin said.

The company noted the capital cost to restart production at Langer Heinrich has increased from the previous estimate of USD87 million to USD118 million, "primarily driven by recent inflationary pressures across the project supply chain, brought forward power and water infrastructure works and increased owners team costs".

Paladin owns 75% of Langer Heinrich Mauritius Holdings Limited, the holding company of Langer Heinrich Uranium (Pty) Ltd that holds 100% of the Langer Heinrich tenements. The remaining 25% is owned by CNNC Overseas Uranium Holdings Limited.

Paladin said it has committed to provide 100% project funding, if required, via priority loans to be repaid in priority to all outstanding shareholder loans. It added that CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd "are yet to finalise their funding decision".

"The significant and detailed planning for the recommencement of activities at the Langer Heinrich mine has provided a detailed scope of the key work activities and critical path items for the successful commencement of production," Paladin said. "Current work packages include the completion of detailed engineering and design for process upgrades, purchase of project materials and equipment and the commencement of plant refurbishment and upgrade works."

Paladin has appointed South Africa-based engineering firm ADP Group to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services. The ADP Group will work alongside Paladin's team as a delivery partner, with responsibilities including: detailed design and engineering; tendering for the procurement of equipment and materials; project management and administration of contracts; provision of systems and computer software; and managing project commissioning and project handover.

"With the strength of the company’s uranium offtakes and the continuing strong uranium market fundamentals, Paladin has made the decision to return the globally significant Langer Heinrich uranium mine to production," said Paladin CEO, Ian Purdy. "The Langer Heinrich mine remains a low-risk, robust, long-life operation that is poised to take advantage of the improving uranium market conditions and deliver sustainable value creation for all our stakeholders."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News