Desert Pipeline on Track


By Fifi Rhodes SWAKOPMUND Construction of the 80-kilometre water pipeline in the desert to supply Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine that opens next month is well on course. And NamWater hopes to deliver its first water to the mine in the Namib Nauklauft Park at the end of the month. The 80-kilometer pipeline, built at a cost of N$82 million, is supported by a base station and three booster stations along the way that will pump water into three separate reservoirs each storing 2 500 cubic meters of water. The water would be utilised for the production of uranium and human consumption. Taking the media on a familiarization tour of the site, NamWater officials said that after completion of the project the coastal water consumption will go up to 12 million cubic meters per annum. Namibia’s second uranium producer, the Langer Heinrich mine will need 1.5 million cubic meters of water per annum from the Omdel Basin to set its operations in motion. The fishing town of Walvis Bay is the biggest consumer with 4,5 million cubic meters per annum followed by Swakopmund with 2,7 million cubic meters. Henties Bay and Arandis use about 400 000 cubic meters each while RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing mine uses about 3 million cubic meters per annum. Underground reserves in the Kuiseb River hold about 7 million cubic meters per annum and 9 million cubic meters are projected for the Omaruru Delta. “These figures prompted NamWater to drill sixteen additional boreholes which are not yet connected to the main supply line to Swakopmund’s main reservoir. If any new mining activity is going to take place in the future NamWater will seriously be looking into the establishment of a desalination plant as an alternative,” said Erwin Shiluama, NamWater’s manager for Water Supply to the Erongo Region. At the moment, close to 40 boreholes in the Omdel Basin are operational while water is extracted from close to 60 boreholes in the Kuiseb River. Six teams and close to 200 people worked on the installation of pipes and the building of booster stations while a total of 14 323 pipes were laid over the last three months. The ductile iron cast pipes fitted with graphite on the inside were especially imported from China because of their durability in desert conditions. The pipeline is top of the range and it can handle high pressure, as it is durable. “Traditionally we used asbestos, plastic or glass fibre but because of the conditions and the situation we are in this is the best way to go,” said Andre Genis, the Senior Manager for Engineering Services at NamWater and overseer of the project. The pipes with a diameter of 300 millimeters can deliver 200 cubic meters of water per hour to the mine. The reservoir that will have a lid is built from steel imported from South Africa. The inside of the wall will be lined with special plastic to keep the water fresh for a long time and avoid it having a zinc taste. Genis also mentioned that along the way, the company erected thrust blocks so that when the pumps are started up, the pipes can withstand the water pressure and not move around or break out of their position. A 20-meter pipe bridge especially for the pipeline is being built over the Swakop River and it is in its final stages of completion. Special ramps at some points are built to make it friendly for animals to cross along the grass planes. The main control room will be in Swakopmund where the monitoring of the reservoirs will be done.