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Company awarded JV contract for largest Namibian uranium project

17th May 2013

By: Gia Costella

  

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Engineering, procurement and construction management services provider to the mining and minerals industry Tenova Bateman’s sub-Saharan Africa division was awarded a joint venture (JV) contract with engineering, consulting and project management service provider AMEC.

The JV comprises a reimbursable contract for the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) of the metallurgical uranium plant for Namibian mining company Swakop Uranium’s Husab project, in Namibia.

The contract was awarded in November by Swakop Uranium, which is jointly owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power (90%) and the NamibianState-owned mining company, Epangelo (10%).

Tenova Bateman Sub-Saharan Africa’s scope of work involves providing services related to engineering assistance, procurement, construction management and site supervision. Tenova Bateman Sub-Saharan Africa MD Tollie Nel tells Mining Weekly that the project is scheduled for handover to Swakop Uranium in October 2015.

“Situated in the Erongo region of west-central Namibia, the Husab project is regarded as the most important uranium discovery in recent years. It is the largest granite-hosted uranium deposit in Namibia and is currently the third-largest uranium-only deposit in the world,” he states.

Swakop Uranium is developing and constructing the mine, with the Husab deposit providing the potential to produce 15-million pounds of uranium oxide a year, more than the current total uranium production of Namibia.

Elevating Namibia to second place in the world ranking of uranium producers, the project is also set to become the third-largest uranium mine in the world.

Construction is expected to take about 34 months, with the mine expected to go into first production towards the end of 2015.

“The project is on schedule, with the design and detailed engineering phase in progress. As this is the period of the project that is most sensitive to schedule overruns, we are providing support for AMEC in the form of engineering resources to ensure that deliverables arrive according to schedule.

“Orders for most of the major procurement items, such as the mills, have been placed. The team is on site, terracing and levelling the site following the ground-breaking ceremony on April 18, which was attended by the management of China Guangdong Nuclear Powery,” explains Nel.

He adds that, to date, the project has achieved an exemplary safety record of zero lost-time incidents during more than 150 000 hours worked.

“As the Husab project is located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, environmental issues are high priority, with tight regulations to reduce the impact on the surrounding environment,” says Nel.

He notes that one of the aims of the project is to employ local labour and use local companies, given the high unemployment rate in Namibia.

“It can be impractical for a project of this size, as there are few Namibian companies that can handle the larger contracts. The route that will probably be taken to meet the local-content requirements, while still meeting project schedule and costs, is to subcontract smaller packages to local companies under the management of a major contractor, where possible.

“Based on the definitive feasibility study for the project, Husab is being developed as a low-risk, large-scale load-and-haul openpit mine, feeding ore to a conventional agitated acid leach processing plant, based on a proven flow sheet,” explains Nel.

The reserve estimations show that it has a potential mine life of more than 20 years, with uranium reserves of at least 280-million tons.

“Given the potential of the Husab project, Swakop Uranium is poised to become a substantial contributor to the Namibian economy and its local communities. The project will create more than 4 000 temporary jobs during construction and about 2 000 permanent operational job opportunities, including those of contractors,” says Nel.

Swakop Uranium was established in 2006 to focus on the potential of the uranium oxide-rich provinces of Namibia and produce uranium oxide as a source of fuel conversion for low-cost, environmentally friendly nuclear power.

Outlook

Nel notes that working in Namibia is relatively easy, given the country’s good logistics infra- structure and its investor-friendly government.

“The major challenge facing the mining industry in Namibia is the environmental sensitivity, which sees government needing to balance national growth and employment level increases through the stimulation of industry, including mining, with the protection of the country’s natural heritage and con- siderable biodiversity,” he says.

Nel adds that the outlook for mining in Namibia is buoyant.

“The country is becoming a major player in the uranium mining industry. It also has considerable gold, copper, phosphate and recently discovered iron-ore deposits in the north of the country.

“As a result, the country is proving to be a strong focus for investors worldwide,” he says, adding that the same applies to Tenova Bateman Sub-Saharan Africa going forward, given the company’s history of successful projects in the country, its geographical closeness to Namibia and the wealth of mining opportunities the country presents.

Edited by Megan van Wyngaardt
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

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