Uranium was discovered in the Namib Desert in 1928, but it was not until intensive exploration in the late 1950s that much interest was shown in the area. Today Namibia is the forth-largest producer of uranium in the world with a production of 4820 tons in 2014, 5.8 per cent of the world’s uranium oxide mining output. Uranium mining in Namibia – the country belongs to the poorest in the world – has not made anyone rich, but it brought manifold problems: from toxic tailings to polluted drinking water until horrible working conditions for the miners. Currently, there are two large uranium mines in operation in the Erongo Region (Rössing Uranium Mine and Langer Heinrich Uranium), and two are put on hold (Trekkopje and Valencia).
Rössing Name: Rössing Uranium Mine Type: open pit uranium mine Operator: Rio Tinto Start of operation: 1976 Projected closing down: 2020 Output: 127,405 t uranium by the end of 2014, 1,543 t in 2014, 12,400 t between 2010 and 2014 Tailings: The mine site encompasses a mining licence and accessory works areas of about 180 km2, of which 25 km2 is used for mining, processing and waste disposal. Waste rock removed: 16 million tons in 2014, 154 million tons between 2010 and 2014. Comments: The Rössing Uranium Mine is located in Namibia, ca. 60 kilometers inland from Swakopmund, is located in the mountain range near the River Khan. It has been a cause for environmental, human rights and health concerns for more than 30 years through unsafe working conditions, radioactive effluent and tailings. In the near vicinity is the village Arandis, where the workers and their families live. After extensive test work, construction of the current Rössing mining plant and the development of the open pit started in 1974, with commissioning taking place in 1976. Full production was only achieved in 1979 due to major teething problems in the plant. (Source: uranium-network.org; www.rossing.com; www.saiea.com)
Langer Heinrich Name: Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine Type: open pit uranium mine Operator: Paladin Resources Ltd (Australia), CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Limited (China, 25 % shareholder since 2014) Start of operation: 2007 Projected closing down: 2023 Output: 2,000 t uranium/year (current design capacity). Paladin Resources said that the mine is capable of being expanded further to 3,269 t Uranium/year Comments: Langer Heinrich is a surficial, calcrete type uranium deposit containing a Measured and Indicated Mineral Resource of 49,288 t Uranium at a grade of 0.55 %. The company Langer Heinrich Uranium (Pty) Ltd. has, in 2004, proposed to establish and operate a uranium mine in the Namib desert, about 80 km East of the City of Swakopmund in Namibia and within the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Uranium mining and milling as well as the associated wastes from these processes cause several environmental impacts. As part of the permitting process, LangerHeinrich Uranium (Pty) Ltd. has commissioned the company Softchem of South Africa to prepare an environmental assessm ent report for the planned project. The draft report was issued, written comments were received and the public participation meetings were held in October 2004. The final environmental assessment report was then issued in April 2005. According to the owner company Paladin Resources Ltd.1, in July 2005 the mining license for the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine was granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy. (Source: uranium-network.org; www.paladinenergy.com.au)
Trekkopje Name: Trekkopje Uranium Mine Type: open pit uranium mine Operator: Areva Resources Namibia Output: 3,850 tons of uranium per year over 10 to 12 years. Tailings: The principal mineralization extends over an area approximately 14 km long and 3 km wide. At full production, the Trekkopje Mine will be processing 100,000 tonnes of crushed ore per day (Source: uranium-network.org;www.areva.comwww.saiea.com)
Valencia Name: Valencia Uranium Mine Type: open pit uranium mine Operator: Valencia Uranium Ltd (wholly owned subsidiary of Forsys Metals Corporation, Canada) Output: Consolidated measured and indicated resources figures are 39,700 tonnes Uranium. Tailings: Most probably the pit will develop to a maximum size of approximately 1,400 m long, 700 m wide and 360 m deep. Comments: Forsys Metals Corporation has laid off most of the workers at its Valencia Uranium Project in the Erongo Region with reports reaching The Namibian indicating that the company is now left with only four workers and seven managers. Like other uranium mines and projects in the country, the project has been negatively affected by the downturn in the international uranium markets after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 sent uranium prices tumbling down. Valencia general manager Dag Kullmann said in an interview that at full capacity, the project had 30 workers but said since it has completed its exploration activities, it had decided to retain nine skilled workers including managers. He further said when funding becomes available, more exploration activities will be conducted and the development of the mine will only possibly take place when market conditions improve. (Source: uranium-network.org; www.world-nuclear.orgwww.saiea.com)