Marenica’s cost-saving game changer
Developed using ore from Marenica’s Namibian operation, its U-pgrade technology can potentially revolutionise the way in which uranium mines will be developed in future. Reducing operating costs by up to 70% as compared to conventional processing techniques, Marenica’s U-pgrade can be described as a potential game changer.
Chief Executive Officer of Marenica Energy Limited, Murray Hill explained how critical the technology will be in changing the face of mining.
He said “The U-pgradetechnology reduces operating costs by 50% to 70% compared to conventional process technology making more projects viable at current uranium spot prices. An increase in uranium price would result in an improved financial outcome and most likely an increased demand for the technology from lower grade resources.”
Marenica recently raised capital for the construction of a pilot plant in Australia and a commercial plant is expected to be fully operational by 2018. Marenica have since embarked on a project development strategy to facilitate the construction of the commercial plant.
Said Murray, “The specific project development strategy and the uranium price will determine the timeline but it would be expected that a commercial plant could be operational within 3 years.”
According to Murray, part of the commercial strategy is to raise funds for the construction of the plant.
Added Murray, “The plan for commercialisation of the U-pgrade process is application to either higher grade resources at these low uranium prices, or projects that have already spent capital [where] the marginal development cost to apply U-pgrade™ would be relatively low.”
Murray added that the pilot plant was designed for a throughput of 60 kilograms per hour and will be operated for approximately one month, using ore obtained from three different mining operators. The results of the pilot project are expected in the first quarter of 2015.
The pilot plant will be located in Perth, Australia. Quizzed as to why, Murray said, “The Australian government provides very attractive incentives for research and development of new technologies and a healthy tax refund would be expected by constructing and operating the Pilot Plant in Australia and as a consequence the plan is to locate the Pilot Plant in Perth.”
Marenica holds a mining license just north of Areva’s Trekoppje mine, covering an area of roughly 527 square kilometres. In November 2011 Marenica delivered a resource estimate, based on historical and new data, indicating 276 Mt grading 94 parts per million U3O8 comprising an Indicated Mineral Resource of 26 Mt grading 110 parts per million yellow cake and an Inferred Mineral Resource of 250 Mt grading 92 parts per million yellow cake for a combined total of 57 million pounds of contained yellow cake.
In 2012, Marenica embarked on a Research and Development programme to develop a uranium concentration process that was unique and ground breaking and lowered the extraction cost of uranium at the its Namibian project. Marenica has subsequently applied for a patent which will be known under the trademark of U-pgrade.