Rössing Expansion Plans Get Govt Nod

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By Charles Tjatindi WALVIS BAY The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has approved expansion plans by the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium mine, as part of its wider business plan. These include building a sulphur burning sulphuric acid plant at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Mine site, the building of a radiometric ore sorting plant and the mining of a small satellite ore body known as SK4 about one kilometre to the east of the current open pit. In a letter addressed to the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Mine management and signed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, the ministry confirmed approval of the envisaged project, and gave the go-ahead. The ministry’s clearance is based on a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) study report submitted to it last month. While clearing the mine’s plans, the ministry states in its letter that regular monitoring and evaluation of the mine’s activities would be necessary once the mine expands to these sites, to minimise any possible harm to the fragile and sensitive environment. The ministry also stressed the importance of keeping the relevant stakeholders informed about the implementation of the expansion programme. In a media statement, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium noted that it commits itself to such measures as imposed by the ministry. It singled out the building of the acid plant as important to the mine, as it will replace an older plant that was closed down in 2000. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing aims to expand its operations to at least 2026 and has designed various projects to achieve this. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Mine’s metallurgical process uses sulphuric acid leaching to extract the uranium from the ore. An onsite pyrite burning acid plant was in use until 1997, after which it was converted to burn sulphur imported through Walvis Bay. It was mothballed in 2000 when prices of imported acid became unfavourable against production costs. Since 2000, the mine has been importing its sulphuric acid through the Port of Walvis Bay and railing it to the mine site. Public concerns were raised at the time, when sulphur spillage next to the railway line was found. Current economic evaluations show that value may be gained by establishing a new sulphuric acid production plant at the mine, while continuing to import additional acid when required. The existing on-site acid storage facilities will be upgraded and will be utilised to store the acid produced, while offloading and handling facilities at the mine will be installed or upgraded to deal with the envisaged developments. For the ore sorter, a pre-screening plant and a production ore sorting plant comprising four screening units and two ore sorter clusters will become necessary, the report states. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing has operated the open pit uranium mine in the Erongo region since 1976. Although of considerable extent, the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing ore body is of a low grade and consequently large volumes of rock have to be mined and processed to extract the powdered uranium concentrate that is the final product. As a result of an increase in uranium prices on the international market in recent years, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing is now able to consider the possible financial benefits from an expansion of its operations. The previous mine plan predicted an operational period ending in 2016. According to this plan, a sustainability assessment was undertaken and approved in 2005. RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing is now looking at a mine plan beyond 2016 and consequently the associated social and environmental issues are being reviewed. In terms of the Namibian Constitution and related environmental legislation, in particular the Environmental Assessment Policy (MET 1995) and the Minerals Act (No. 33 of 1992), the proposed expansion activities would require authorisation from the responsible authorities before they can be undertaken. Meanwhile, RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing has notified all its stakeholders of the latest developments and invited them to forward any inquiries on the expansion programme to its offices.