Namibia: The Uranium Boom - an Eldorado

Namibia: The Uranium Boom - an Eldorado

Wezi Tjaronda

Renewed interest in uranium mainly due to rising costs of fossil fuels and fears of its impact on global warming has not died down, especially now.

Also owing to problems of power generation worldwide in the past 15 to 20 years, the world has been re-looking uranium, which has made the prices of the mineral to soar to an all time high, with the prices per pound of uranium oxide soaring at US$10 to over US$100/pound. This is the best price the mineral has fetched in 26 years.

Since last year when the second uranium mine was commissioned, many other companies have applied to prospect for uranium, while others are conducting feasibility studies and yet others are conducting environmental impact assessments.

The renewed interest in a mineral that had become uneconomical because of the dwindling prices on the international markets has seen the Ministry of Mines and Energy issuing 40 exploration licenses.

So far, 18 companies are prospecting for uranuim.

The ministry says the country is currently experiencing outgoing explorations, most of which could be upgraded into deposits. These include Valencia, Rössing, Langer Heinrich and Trekkokpje deposits, all in the Erongo Region.

Forsys Metals has initiated a pre-feasibility study on the company's Valencia uranium deposit, which should boost investor interest if the company makes positive strides toward achieving that target.

The Valencia uranium deposit is located 35 km along the geological strike from the Rössing uranium mine and approximately 40 km north of the Langer Heinrich deposit.

The country is also set to see the opening of a new uranium exploration mine in early 2011. Recently, Extract Resources, whose exploration programme is already at an advanced stage, announced its plans to commission the mine.

Extract Resources' main asset is the Husab uranium project located 40 km east of the coastal town of Swakopmund in the Erongo Region. The project is situated within 50 km of the world's best-known uranium provinces, which includes Rössing Uranium Mine and Langer Heinrich Mine.

Since Extract Resources received an Exclusive Prospecting Licence from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the company has done extensive drilling work as well as a scoping study, which has confirmed the economic viability of the low-grade high tonnage, open-pit and acid leach project.

Both Valencia and Trekkopje projects are currently under a feasibility study.

Uranium in Namibia was discovered in the Namib Desert in 1928, but was intensively explored in the late 1950s when the current giant in the sub sector Rössing Uranium showed interest. It has experienced 30 years of interrupted mining.

The Government last year declared a moratorium on the issuing of uranium prospecting licenses to regulate the activities because of an upsurge of demand in the global market for the resource, considering that uranium was not only used for electricity generation but also for destructive purposes.

Namibia contributes around eight percent of the global uranium production and, and with the opening of new mines in future, the country is likely to produce 15 percent of the world's demand.

Now, Namibia comes second to Niger as the second largest producer of uranium, followed by South Africa, with a production of two percent. Its exports are destined for Canada, Australia, Japan, China, the USA, France and Russia.

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