By Desie Heita
Although faced with unreliable supply of energy and the challenge of fresh water supplies, the new owners of Trekkopje Uranium Mine are positive the mine would be on stream by the scheduled date.
The uranium mine, owned by UraMin until the N$14 billion buyout by French state-owned company Areva in September last year, is expected to go into production by the end of 2009, producing eight million tonnes a year.
Situated in Erongo Region, the mine is currently in the “soft start” phase of production, with the mining contractor already on site. Last week, the Ministry of Mines and Energy converted Trekkopje’s EPL into a mining license
Yet, due to the energy crisis in southern Africa, NamPower can only supply the mine with 80 percent of the required 80-plus megawatts for production.
Further, the mine will require about 20 million cubic metres of water a year in an area that consumes 12 million cubic metres a year and is already home to two uranium mines – Rossing Uranium and Langer Heinrich.
Discussions are underway with NamPower to “reinforce the infrastructure with a grid connect, possibly at Omburu sub-station,” Iain McPherson, Managing Director of UraMin Namibia, told New Era. UraMin may fund the strengthening of the infrastructure but the two will have to work out an agreement on the ownership and management of the electrical assets as UraMin wants to concentrate on the mining business and leave the energy generation business to NamPower.
In addition, the mine would implement various supplementary measures, such as investing in an on-site diesel generator, to keep production at maximum. There will also be a lot of stockpiling, said McPherson.
Trekkopje Uranium Mine has already clinched an agreement to sell 35 percent of its annual production to the state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), in a composite deal with the Chinese priced at N$85 billion.
The desalination process, started earlier by UraMin and NamPower to ensure a stable supply of freshwater to the mine, is also on course.
“It is coming on nicely. We have received the permit to start with beach work,” said McPherson.
NamWater and UraMin are constructing a seawater intake to extract seawater from the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a desalination plant, after which the fresh water will be pumped in a three-kilometre pipeline to the mine. The desalination plant will produce 45 million cubic metres of water a year.
NamWater’s clients will consume half of the water.
Seeing that the mine is to operate in an environment sensitive area, UraMin has received the environmental clearance certificate from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.