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Uranium mines get water lifeline

Three uranium mines in the Erongo region have received a water lifeline after NamWater finally sealed a water supply agreement with AREVA for water from the Erongo Desalination Plant.
Mining operations in Namibia’s mining capital had faced possible disruptions as NamWater was facing serious supply challenges due to the dwindling water reserves from the Omdel aquifer and the Kuiseb river where the water utility extracts 9 million cubic metres and 6 million cubic metres of potable water each year respectively.
But all that changed this week when AREVA Namibia and NamWater signed a first water supply agreement on Tuesday. The agreement will secure the Erongo region from a water shortage and NamWater will now supply the three uranium mines of Rössing, Langer Heinrich and the Husab Project with water from the Erongo Desalination Plant.
At full capacity the plant is able to produce 20 million cubic metres of potable water per year. A part of this capacity will be used at AREVA’s Trekkopje mine when market conditions are favourable again for restarting operations.
Hilifa Mbako, Managing Director of AREVA Namibia said the first agreement is a prelude to a medium-term agreement that will enable the distribution of up to10Mm³ per year. “We are proud and happy that AREVA’s Erongo Desalination Plant contributes to the water supply security and preserves the water reserves of the Erongo region,” Mbako said.
State-owned NamWater extracts about 9Mm³ of potable water each year from the Omdel aquifer and 6Mm³ from the Kuiseb river to efficiently supply the water needs of Henties Bay, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and the mining entities in the Erongo region.
However, NamWater’s permit to extract water from the Omdel aquifer is set to expire in October 2013 and thereafter the water utility will only be allowed to extract 4.5Mm³ of water as the resource is exhausted.
Earlier this year, The Economist reported that NamWater had signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will pave the way for negotiations and the signing of an off-take and water supply agreements with AREVA.
Speaking at the time, the General Manager of Engineering and Scientific Services at NamWater, Dr Kuiri Tjipangandjara (Pr Eng), said an off-take agreement with AREVA was expected to be signed within the next few weeks if all outstanding issues are resolved. He was hopeful that by 01 August 2013, NamWater will be supplying Rössing Uranium Mine, Husab Mine and Langer Heinrich Mine with water from the desalination plant.
Negotiations for an uptake agreement for excess water from AREVA’s desalination plant have been ongoing since 2009 without success, but the dwindling water reserves in the Omdel aquifers and the flood damags experienced in the Kuiseb aquifer, coupled to the water demand from the operating mines, the construction of the Husab Mine, and the increasing population in towns such as Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Arandis, meant that a new reliable source of water had to be developed urgently.

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