Uranium Makes a Comeback

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia is set to become Africa’s biggest uranium producer with the envisaged new uranium mine at Trekkopje near Arandis. The new mine will bring to three the country’s uranium mines and move it upwards as the largest producer on the continent. Prices have since 2000 gone up from N$42 per pound of uranium oxide to N$222 in January 2006, hence the accruing economic benefits that would come the country’s way when all is set and done. Lack of alternatives for the world to generate electricity over the past 15 to 20 years have left countries with no choice but to look at uranium again. Chief Technical Adviser of Nampower, Reiner Jagau said yesterday, “Uranium is on its way back.” The resurgent interest is in the ability of nuclear plants to generate large amounts of stable electricity at little environmental cost. It is highly likely that the world will see a number of new nuclear reactors all over this decade due to the fact that electricity can be generated from uranium, with no carbon emissions compared to other sources of generation such as coal and diesel. The outlook of the uranium industry is said to be extremely bullish with demand forecast to outstrip supply in at least the coming decade, considering the prices. It is predicted that in post 2006, the continued pricing will be as a result of a recognized shortage, which supports the production of uranium from new mines to accommodate the increasing demand. Namibia’s Langer Heinrich Mine will start production in September, while another mine is envisaged at Trekkopje near Arandis. The country will also start sooner or later to look at the mineral as a source of generation, according to Jagau. He said uranium is a supply alternative and the country cannot just throw it out of the window. While a smaller plant, Pebble Bed Module would be suitable for Namibia because it does not have the load at the moment, Jagau said the new module, which only exists in South Africa, is still not bankable yet. Although nuclear reactors are viewed with suspicion especially in developing countries, Namibia has a safe political environment and a stable economy, attributes that support such a plant. When the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine and the third mine, Trekkopje in Arandis start production, Namibia will become the leading producer of Uranium in Africa. Director of Mines in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Asser Mubhika told New Era yesterday that Namibia’s position in not only the world, but also as Africa’s largest producer of uranium would shift up-wards. It would become Africa’s largest uranium producer and also shift upwards from its ranking as the seventh world’s largest uranium producer. At the moment, in Africa, Namibia comes second to Niger, which produces nine percent of the world’s uranium, followed by South Africa, with a production of two percent. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium’s Chairperson, Charles Kauraisa said the Langer Heinrich Mine as well as other mines in the offing were a significant development for Namibia. “As RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing, we look at Namibia as becoming a fairly major producer of uranium in Africa as well as internationally,” Kauraisa said. He added that once the country reaches the 10 percent target or uranium production it would mean that Namibia would become a significant supplier of the product, thus contributing to the production of cleaner energy for electricity production. This is apart from the jobs that will be created and also the increase in the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP. The country has eight uranium deposits mainly in the Namib Desert along the coastal areas of the Erongo region. Mubhika said the ministry receives many applications for prospecting as well as mining, while many were also doing prospecting. Although the director could not give information on companies that are prospecting, other sources have it that companies performing uranium prospection and/or exploration include: Extract Resources, Forsys Metal Corporation, Westport Resources Namibia Pty Ltd, Galahad Gold, Paladdin Resources, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Ltd, Uramin Inc, Namura Resources (Proprietary) Ltd, Xemplar Energy Corporation, Australian United Gold Ltd and Bannerman Resources Ltd. Some of the deposits are at Trekkopje, Klein Trekkopje, Engo Valley, Valencia, Klein Spitzkoppe, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing and Langer Heinrich. UraMin Inc has acquired mineral rights on deposits in Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique and has applications pending for mineral rights in South Africa to explore its existing projects, develop those for which favourable feasibility studies are completed and acquire and progress further uranium deposits at various stages of development. In Namibia, the group has applied for renewal of its mineral license to the Trekkopje Property, which consists of the Trekkopje and the Klein Trekkopje uranium deposits. UraMin Inc. owns 100 percent of Gulf Western Trading Namibia (Pty) Ltd, which in turn owns the Trekkopje deposit. Gulf Western Trading is currently in the process of being re-registered as UraMin Namibia (Pty) Ltd. Low global uranium prices rendered the deposits uneconomical to mine and it was not until the 1990s that ore reserve estimations were conducted. The Trekkopje site lies some 70 km northeast of Swakopmund, covering an area of about 30,368 ha. The RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium mine lies 35 km south of the property and the newly developed Langer Heinrich Uranium mine lies approximately 80 km to the east-south-east within the Namib-Naukluft Park.