JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) –TSX- and JSE-listed First Uranium on Friday reported that gold production and construction of its future gold and uranium plant models continued unabated at its Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) tailings recovery, in South Africa.
The company said in a statement that it has, however, temporarily suspended work in preparation of the new tailings storage facility (TSF), which was designed to accommodate future tailings deposition capacity requirements.
First Uranium added that after regulators granted the company authority to proceed with the new TSF, the authorisation was withdrawn, pending further discussions with the company.
“First Uranium takes seriously the near-term issues facing the company regarding environmental authorisation of its TSF. The company continues to act in accordance with widely accepted mining practices in the regulators’ jurisdiction and is optimistic that the withdrawal will be lifted,” the company stated.
Having the approval to proceed with a new tailings deposition site was vital to ensuring the significant economic benefit for the region that was expected to stem from MWS and to the future stability of about 5 000 jobs at MWS and neighbouring companies, First Uranium stated.
This new TSF has been designed to significantly reduce the environmental impact of mining in the area and to improve the site’s visual appeal as the new TSF was planned to have a more environmentally benign impact than the existing tailings sites as a significant amount of certain metals and minerals present in the existing tailings, such as uranium, pyrite and sulphur were to be removed during reprocessing of these tailings.
The TSF would also offer a reduced risk of erosion, as the side slopes would be built at a lower gradient and gradually vegetated as the facility was built, and as the contours would be more rounded to blend in with the surrounding natural landscape. Furthermore, it would provide systems that would recycle and reuse the water used to transport the tailings to the new site wherever possible.
The TSF was also designed to be built on impermeable soils, unlike the porous dolomites, which host much of the historical tailings.
The older tailings deposits, that the TSF was replacing, were to be rehabilitated once the tailings from each such deposit are reprocessed.
First Uranium stated that while it engaged in appropriate discussions with public officials to address any and all queries that have arisen regarding the TSF, the company continued to remain focused on its operations at both MWS and the Ezulwini Mine.
“First Uranium remains confident that this interruption in the development of the TSF will not diminish the company’s ability to execute its mine plans at both of its gold and uranium assets,” explained First Uranium president and CEO Gordon Miller.
“As with the development of all mines, there are operational issues to overcome. However, we anticipate that this development with the new tailings storage facility will, in hindsight, be characterised as one example in a series of challenges that, once overcome, have brought two exceptional assets into full, long-life production.”