THE Rössing Uranium Mine says it has reached a milestone with one of two modules in its leaching process that has been successfully brought back into service this week.
This follows the failure of one of the 12 leach tanks in early December, which caused a leachate spill, that was subsequently fully contained onsite and without any impact on the environment.
“The mine will be recommencing its operations, albeit at a reduced rate, over the next couple of days. The processing plant is expected to be brought back to normal operations during the current quarter”, said Rossing’s Managing Director, Werner Duvenhage on Friday via a statement.
Duvenhage explained that a process of rigorous inspections, repairs, reviews and approvals were followed before final approval from Rössing’s Board of Directors was received to restart operations. The services of various specialists were used during the inspection, repair and review process. Rössing commissioned a full investigation into the leach tank incident at the mine to determine the cause.
Said Duvenhage: “Initial findings indicate that the tank failure was due to localised external corrosion of the tank. The tank has since been safely removed and other tanks checked.” He added that following an expanded inspection of the processing plant, a number of improvement opportunities were identified, which are now further investigated and where feasible and plans were put in place to implement these improvements. The Rössing MD continued that lessons learned from the failed tank incident are now also applied broadly in the operation. During the extended period of production shut down, Rössing used the opportunity for scheduled repairs elsewhere in the plan. The leach tank failure will have an impact on the company’s production targets and its financial results in 2014. The company’s management team is currently reviewing the 2014 plans.
“The cost of the full restoration work is currently being estimated. Apart from minor first aid administered at the scene, no employees sustained injuries during the incident. All spilled material was washed down with hoses into the holding tank from where it is to be recycled in the processing plant. Nobody was exposed to elevated exposure levels”, remarked Duvenhage.
“Rössing remains at all times committed to the health and safety of the employees and the community and the protection of the environment. The area where the tank failed has been made safe.
Rössing is working closely with the relevant regulatory authorities in Namibia in the management of the incident”, concluded Duvenhage.
By Edgar Brandt