Swakop Uranium on track to start mining at Husab project

WINDHOEK: Swakop Uranium has started filling vacant permanent positions in view of the opening of its Husab Project on 08 May this year.

The Husab Project, located 60 km northeast of Walvis Bay, aims to contribute five per cent to the Namibian Gross Domestic Product, 20 per cent to the country’s merchandise exports and generate up to N.dollars 1,7-billion per year in Government revenue.

Director of Communications and Stakeholder Involvement Grant Marais told Nampa on enquiry Thursday that about 254 permanent positions have been filled already.

The mine is expected to employ about 1 584 permanent and contract workers.

He said training and development programmes will be designed to ensure that Swakop Uranium has world-class Namibian skills to manage such an exciting and challenging operation.

The first blast on the Swakop Uranium Husab Project site was detonated on 12 March 2014, thereby heralding the start of mining activities on what will become the world’s second largest uranium mine.

Swakop Uranium’s vice-president for operations, Deon Garbers was quoted in a statement availed to this agency on Thursday that the plan is to ensure that a run-of-mine (ROM) stockpile will be ready for processing on completion of construction of the processing plant this year.

The mine and process plant are designed to produce 15 million pounds of uranium oxide a year.

“An important recent development on the project was the securing of buffer storages for water so that the project can continue uninterrupted until the permanent water line is constructed and comes on stream.

Due to significant project ramp-up, we envisage increased demand for construction water in the year ahead,” Garbers explained.

He said the project team mitigated the risk by filling newly constructed ponds which have a capacity of 52 000 cubic metres (cm3), roughly 10 times that of the temporary pond.

A long term off-take agreement signed with NamWater will ensure that all water used during and after the project will be desalinated, thus preserving coastal aquifers.

Swakop Uranium has in the meantime confirmed plans to build a 500 000 tonne sulphuric acid plant at the mine.

Sulphuric acid is a key chemical used to recover uranium in an ore body.

Construction of the sulphuric acid plant will start in the second quarter of 2014.

“The Husab mine is expected to utilise all the sulphuric acid produced at the envisaged plant. Additional acid, if needed, will be imported or sourced locally,” he added.

Garbers indicated that electricity from the NamPower grid was connected on 03 February this year through a 17 MVA mobile substation.

The Husab mine site will have up to 50 MVA by the end of the year through a permanent substation.

He noted that the permanent road and bridge over the Khan River Khan will be completed before the end of April 2014.

The turnoff to the Husab mine is 45 kilometers (km) from Swakopmund and meanders over the Khan River Valley approximately 14 km from the B2 main road.

The bridge over the Khan River is 160m long, linking the mine to the main B2 transport route leading to Swakopmund.

The surfaced road connecting the mine with the Namibian road network stretches over 22km.

“I am proud to say that the Husab Project has so far had no lost-time injuries,” Garbers added.

Swakop Uranium owns the Husab ore body and will be building and operating the Husab mine.

Swakop Uranium is owned by Taurus Minerals Limited of Hong Kong, China, which has a 90 per cent stake in the company, and the Namibian state-owned company Epangelo 10 per cent.

Taurus is an entity owned by China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC) Uranium Resources Co Ltd and the China-Africa Development Fund.