Namibia sustained a competitive fifth place in the global uranium supply market during 2014, even though the country’s two uranium-mining companies recorded production declines and losses in revenue due to tough conditions in the uranium market.
Namibia’s two uranium mines, Rössing Uranium and Langer Heinrich Mine, supplied 5.8 percent of the world’s uranium oxide mining output, of which Rössing Uranium confirmed producing 2.3 percent of the output because of massive decreases, at about 36 percent, in its production for the year.
As a result, Rössing Uranium – owned by Rio Tinto Uranium and the Namibian government – announced a net loss after tax of N$91 million, from a net profit of N$32 million in 2013, when it posted its annual financial statements on Monday.
Langer Heinrich Mine, owned by Australia’s Paladin Energy, posted that its March 2015 quarterly production of 1 234 325 pounds of uranium oxide was 10 percent lower than the preceding quarter, mainly due to repair and maintenance work. Its production for the year at March 2015 was at 3 701 pounds of uranium oxide.
The world’s top 10 uranium-producing countries during 2014 were Kazakhstan – who contributed 40.64 percent of the global uranium production, Canada – producing 15.77 percent; Australia at 9.12 percent, Niger at 7.99 percent, Namibia at 5.8 percent, Russia at 5.35 percent, Uzbekistan at 4.29 percent, the USA at 3.13 percent, Ukraine at 1.71 percent and South Africa 0.03 percent. The remaining 6.17 percent of world production came from other countries.
The figures are carried in Rössing Uranium’s just-released annual report.
It was not a good year for uranium mines across the world, with uranium prices weakening. Annual average uranium prices have been on a steep descent plummeting from US$60 per pound since in late 2009 to 2010 period level below the US$30 per pound threshold in mid-2014.
There was an over supply of uranium in a market where utilities have large inventory stock, and Japan’s nuclear plants have been off-line since the Fukushima nuclear incident that tumbled the global market confidence in nuclear reactors.
“The impact of lower prices and the lower production figures, strained our revenue which reduced by 19 percent compared to the previous year,” says Rössing Uranium Managing Director Werner Duvenhage.
Nevertheless, the two mining companies are bullish in their production outlook with Langer Heinrich saying its 2015 annual production guidance remains pegged between 5 million pounds and 5.2 million pounds of uranium oxide.
Rio Tinto Uranium Managing Director Clark Beyer echoes the same sentiments: “The outlook for 2015 is a bit brighter: the Japanese government has now approved the restart of several units, and China continues to construct new reactors at a rapid pace.”
Duvenhage says the market price for uranium is expected to rise in line with an expected increase in demand, as utilities look to secure fuel for their 2017 to 2023 needs.
“However, in the short term, the market remains oversupplied. Until such time as the industry recovers, we will continue to work in a constrained environment. And we will certainly continue to depend on the resilience, commitment and innovation of our employees to overcome these challenging times,” said Duvenhage.