New Lease of Life for Rössing

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK THANKS to a massive financial injection of more than N$700 million by Rio Tinto, the production capacity and life span of RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium mine outside Swakopmund has been extended for at least another 10 years. This was announced in a press release by the managing director of the company, Michael Leech, the first Namibian to be appointed to the position. “This ends a long period of uncertainty for RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium and all its stakeholders. The company had been engaged in the preparation of a comprehensive investment proposal over the past three years to extend the production life of the mine through to approximately 2016,” the managing director said. According to Leech, the Life-of-Mine project involves a total capital expenditure of a whopping US$112 million to the mine, which started production in 1976. “About half of the costs will be for additional shovels, haul trucks and other support mining equipment. The rest of the finances will be used for the refurbishment of the processing plant to enable the company to return to full production capacity of 4 000 tonnes per year within the next two years,” the press release partially reads. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium currently employs 833 workers, 96 percent of whom are Namibian and around 350 contractors. “The LoME project is to be rolled out during next year and the year thereafter. An approximate 150 additional workers will be employed by the company, one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world, and through the production of uranium oxide serves the world energy industry at 7,7 percent of the total world production,” Leech said of the company, which is part of the Rio Tinto Group of Companies, holding 68,6 percent of Rossing’s equity. Rossing’s current customers include central Europe, North America, Japan and South East Asia. In a financial overview to the media, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing indicated that it has suffered losses in 2003 and 2004 amounting to N$215 million. “Despite an upward trend in spot prices during 2003 and 2004, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing came under pressure due to the strong South African Rand against the US dollar. The outlook has much improved in 2005 with a weaker South African Rand against the US dollar,” Leech said.