Rössing operations suspended in Namibian lockdown

30 March 2020

CNNC Rössing Uranium has announced the suspension of normal mining operations at the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia from 28 March because of a partial lockdown of the Erongo region in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Elsewhere, uranium miners continue to address issues arising from the global pandemic.

Rössing (Image: Rio Tinto)

The Namibian government on 27 March announced the lockdown of the Erongo and Khomas regions until 16 April. The lockdown is to be extended to the whole country later on, the government said.

"As a responsible business CNNC Rössing Uranium is supporting the Government and the people of Namibia in their initiatives to contain the spread of the virus," the company said on 27 March. "As from 28 March 2020 the Rössing Uranium mine will discontinue normal mining operations and enter a period of minimal mining operations. As a safety measure critical maintenance work will continue."

Rio Tinto sold Rössing, the world's longest-running open pit uranium mine, to China National Uranium Corporation Limited in 2018.

According to World Nuclear Association, Namibia in 2018 produced 5524 tU - around 10% of total world production - from three mines: Husab (3028 tU), Rössing (2102 tU) and Langer Heinrich (394 tU). Langer Heinrich has been under care-and-maintenance since August 2018.

Recent weeks have seen uranium producers around the world react to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, Cameco on 24 March announced a four-week suspension of production at its Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan, with Orano Canada Inc likewise suspending production at its McClean Lake uranium mill, where ore from Cigar Lake is processed. Kazakh uranium producer Kazatomprom has said its uranium inventory will enable it to meet its commitments should mine production or the ability to physically deliver material be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but on 16 March said it would not hesitate to take actions  including pre-emptive suspensions of one or more operations, if necessary.

ERA suspends Ranger work movements

Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) today said it has placed a temporary suspension on in-bound workers from Darwin to it Ranger uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory until further measures have been implemented to ensure it can fully meet requirements under a government ruling to protect those in remote communities and prevent the spread of the virus. The government determination, implemented under the 2015 Biosecurity Act, aims to protect vulnerable citizens in remote communities as part of a broad programme of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the Ranger mine operation area is within a designated remote Local Government Area covered by access restrictions under the determination.

ERA said it is working through the implementation of additional controls and protocols to fully comply with all Government requirements in consultation with regulators, health authorities and local community stakeholders while continuing to assess the impact of these controls on its ability to maintain a level of operational capability and progress its rehabilitation programme. This is likely to take several days, the company said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News