Sulphuric acid plant for Husab
Swakop Uranium, developers of the N$20 billion Husab mine, have confirmed plans to build a 500,000 ton sulphuric acid plant at the mine.
In an e-mailed response to questions, Grant Marais, Swakop Uranium’s Director for Communication and Stakeholder Involvement told the Economist on Thursday that construction of the sulphuric acid plant will start in the second quarter of this year.
Sulphuric acid is a key chemical used to recover uranium in an ore body.
Sources said this week that Swakop Uranium was planning on building a sulphuric acid plant after the company failed to secure a guarantee of supply from Gecko. However, Marais said construction of an acid plant has always been part of the original feasibility studies.
The Husab mine is expected to utilise all the sulphuric acid produced at the envisaged plant while additional acid, if needed, will be sourced locally or imported. Marais declined to give the cost of the project saying “cost is commercially sensitive information during the tender process.”
The Husab mine majority owned by Chinese state company, China General Nuclear Power Corporation through investment vehicle Swakop Uranium, will become the second biggest uranium mine in the world when operational. With potential to produce 15 million pounds of uranium oxide per annum, the mine is being developed to secure supply for China’s ambitious new-built nuclear programme.
China is currently building close to half of the atomic power stations under construction in the world with reports indicating that the Asian economic powerhouse has 17 nuclear power reactors spread over six separate sites while 32 are under construction. The Chinese nuclear programme is seen as an alternative to the polluting, carbon dioxide emitting coal-fired plants that supply 80% of the country’s electricity needs.
Construction of the Husab mine is said to be on track.
Swakop Uranium is confident that pre-stripping will start in the second quarter of this year.
The company also expects to have a 1 million tonnes run of mine (ROM) stockpile ready by the second quarter of 2015.
Permanent power and water supply is expected to be available at the mine in the third quarter of 2015 while the cold commissioning of the plant will be completed in the same quarter with production of uranium oxide expected to start in the fourth quarter of the same year.
There are currently around 1400 construction workers on site of which 89% are Namibians.
Swakop Uranium has also started filling permanent positions well in advance of the opening of the mine as part of the Operational Readiness Programme. At peak, the mine will employ between 4000 and 6000 people.
The developers of the Husab mine say the mine will contribute 5% to the Namibian Gross Domestic Product, 20% to the country’s export earnings and generate up to N$1.7 billion in government revenue annually.