Uranium sector improving

YELLOW FEVER The targets of the Paris climate accord cannot be met without nuclear power generation, which means that the uranium demand is expected to rise

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BIG DIGGER The large China-owned Rössing and Husab uranium mines are depleting their reserves, however new uranium exploration activities in Namibia are yielding promising results

21st February 2020

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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The Namibian uranium sector is under pressure, but Namibian Uranium Institute executive director Dr Gabi Schneider believes that it is improving.

“The sector is negatively impacted on by the low uranium price, but as the world builds new nuclear power plants, and with the realisation that the targets of the Paris climate accord cannot be met without nuclear power generation, it is expected that the price will recover in the not too distant future,” she tells Mining Weekly.

The mining sector’s overall contribution to Namibia’s economy has diminished in the past decade, with uranium’s contribution diminishing as well. In 2018, mining contributed 14% to Namibia’s gross domestic product (GDP), of which uranium mining contributed about 1.5%. By comparison, the mining sector’s contribution to Namibia’s GDP in 2008 was 17.2%, with uranium mining contributing about 5.9%.

GDP figures for 2019 have not yet been made available.

Schneider says, despite the global downturn in mining in the past decade, the Namibian uranium sector is still very active and, therefore, faring well.

“With only two uranium mines remaining in operation – China National Nuclear Corporation’s Rössing mine and China General Nuclear Power Corporation’s Husab mine – their orebodies are certainly depleting. However, there is very active exploration for uranium in Namibia to ensure that new reserves are added to the inventory,” she says.

Schneider notes that uranium exploration was rather active after the high uranium price in 2006 and 2007, but was somewhat curtailed following the tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Japan, in 2011.

Despite this setback, uranium exploration continued in Namibia. Currently, Australian uranium exploration companies Marenica Energy and Reptile Mineral Resources & Exploration are actively drilling.

Meanwhile, Australian uranium exploration company Bannerman Resources is refining its beneficiation process at its Etango uranium project – one of the world’s largest undeveloped uranium projects –in Namibia’s Erongo province.

The project is expected to have a minimum mine life of 16 years, with significant expansion potential through the conversion of the existing inferred resource, as well as the deposit being open at depth and along strike.

Moreover, a fairly recent project in the south of Namibia, where Headspring Investments is drilling a resource, is potentially amenable for on-site leaching.

Schneider says that Namibia is well positioned to be ready to supply uranium to the market swiftly, once demand increases and, consequently, uranium prices increase. Once the uranium price has recovered to a range that enables Namibian projects to become economic, the country’s production will definitely increase, she says, adding that Namibia has the potential to produce about 10% of the world’s uranium.

With countries such as Kazakhstan and Canada curtailing their uranium production, and demand growing in countries such as China, she believes that demand will outstrip supply soon.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor




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