Kayelekera production back on track

16th May 2012 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

PERTH (miningweekly.com) - Uranium miner Paladin Energy on Wednesday told shareholders that striking employees at its Kayelekera operation, in Malawi, would return to work after a meeting with the Local Staff Association (LSA) and government officials.

Workers at the Kayelekera operation downed tools at the end of last week after the company refused their demand of a 66% wage increase. This was after the Malawian government delinked its currency from the US dollar, devaluing it by around 50%.

The miner said on Wednesday that the LSA would now present an agreed-upon proposal to the striking workers, with a recommendation to return to work. It was expected that the LSA’s recommendation would be accepted.

Under the terms of the agreement, employees would drop the demand for a 66% wage increase to compensate for the 50% devaluation of the Kwacha and the pegging of local salaries to the US dollar.

The uranium miner has also undertaken that there would be no job losses in respect of the current industrial action, and has agreed to review local salaries in six months’ time in light of the devaluation of the Kwacha.

Paladin said that full production at Kayelekera would like resume from the start of the night shift on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the uranium miner, also, on Wednesday reported record production for the nine months to March. During the period under review, Paladin produced more than 4.8-million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8), a 14% increase on the previous corresponding period.

The Langer Heinrich operation accounted for more than three-million pounds of this production, with the March quarter production up 12% to over one-million pounds U3O8.

Paladin noted that the staged ramp-up of the Stage 3 production at Langer Heinrich was continuing, with yearly production at the operation expected to increase from 3.7-million pounds U3O8 to 5.2-million pounds of U3O8.

The results of the feasibility study for the Stage 4 expansion has been deferred to the end of the calendar year, as a result of the additional capabilities being presented by the Stage 3 equipment, the miner said. Stage 4 was targeting conventional production of 8.7-million pounds a year and 1.3-million pounds a year production from processing low-grade material.

During the nine months under review, the Kayelekera operation produced 1.75-million pounds of U3O8, a 9% increase on the previous corresponding period. During the three months to March, the operation increased production by 15%, to reach 725 000 lb.

Sales revenue for the nine months under review increased by 16% from $207.2-million to $240-million, mainly as a result of higher sales volumes. During the nine months to March, Paladin sold 4.45-million pounds U3O8.