Swakop Uranium is currently constructing and developing a world-class uranium mine, called the Husab mine, near the town of Swakopmund in the Erongo region in western-central Namibia. Once in full production, Husab, which has the potential to produce 15 million pounds (6 800 tonnes) of uranium oxide per annum, will be the second-largest uranium mine in the world (the world’s largest uranium mine, McArthur River in Canada, can produce up to 18 million pounds per annum).
The Husab mine’s potential production is more than the total current uranium production of Namibia and will elevate Namibia past Niger, Australia and Canada to the second rung on the world ladder of uranium producers, behind only Kazakhstan.
The 8 km uranium mineralisation on the Swakop Uranium Exclusive Prospecting Licence (EPL) area has been confirmed as the highest-grade, granite-hosted uranium deposit in Namibia and one of the world’s most significant discoveries in decades. Based on the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) for the project, Husab is being developed as a low-risk, conventional, large-scale load-and haul open pit mine, feeding ore to a conventional agitated acid leach process plant.
The mine has a potential life of more than 20 years, with uranium reserves of at least 280 million tonnes. There are furthermore opportunities to increase the reserve base by adding the defined resources at Zones 3 to 5, and through building on promising exploration results.
Until April 2012, Swakop Uranium was a 100% subsidiary of Extract Resources, an Australian company listed on the Australian, Canadian and Namibian stock exchanges. During April 2012, Taurus Minerals Limited of Hong Kong became the new owners following a successful takeover of Extract Resources. Extract Resources has subsequently been delisted.
Taurus, an entity owned by China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC) Uranium Resources Co. Ltd. and the China-Africa Development Fund, has been pursuing Swakop Uranium’s Husab orebody since 2011, first by successfully launching a takeover bid for Extract’s majority shareholder, Kalahari Minerals plc, which owned 43% of Extract. This was followed by a US$2,2-billion takeover offer for Extract, which the Extract independent directors recommended their shareholders to accept.
CGNPC’s investment in Swakop Uranium not only marked the biggest in Namibia since the country’s independence, but also by far the single biggest investment by China in Africa. More than US$ 100-million (N$1-billion) was spent to get the project to the construction phase. A further about US$2-billion (N$20-billion) will be required to bring the Husab Project to fruition.
In November 2012, the Namibian state-owned mining company, Epangelo, and Swakop Uranium finalised an agreement for the subscription of a 10% stake in Swakop Uranium in a deal valued at N$1,8-billion (US$226-million). At the signing ceremony, Mr. Zheng Keping, CEO of Swakop Uranium, said more than N$1-billion had already been spent to get the project to its current state. “Our budgets estimate a further N$20-billion will be required to bring the project to fruition,” he said.
Swakop Uranium’s head office is in the Namibian capital of Windhoek. The company also has an office in Swakopmund, which is situated about 70 km from the Husab mine site.
Swakop Uranium’s contribution
Given the potential of the Husab site, Swakop Uranium is poised to become a substantial contributor to the Namibian economy and its local communities.
At a spot price of US$ 65/lb, a production rate of 15,5 million pounds per annum and an exchange rate of N$10 to the US dollar, Swakop Uranium will have an annual turnover of US$1-billion. The Husab Project will furthermore contribute 5% to the Namibian Gross Domestic Product, 20% to the country’s merchandise exports and generate up to N$1 700-million per year in Government revenue.
The project will also create more than 6 000 temporary jobs during construction and about 1 800 permanent operational job opportunities. This will increase the number of people employed in the mining sector by approximately 17%. According to a socio-economic study done on the Husab Project, eight to ten spin-off jobs will be created per permanent employee, which means that up to 16 000 permanent jobs will be created by and as a result of the Husab Project.
Swakop Uranium has furthermore committed itself to social and empowerment aspects such as local procurement where possible, local recruitment, involvement in social responsibility programmes, training, education and sound environmental management practices. The Swakop Uranium Foundation manifests its commitment to supporting the Erongo region and Namibia. The Foundation has, among others, provided funding to Ellie’s Vegetable and Flower Garden, based in the town of Arandis near the Husab mine; and pledged support towards the construction of a girls’ dormitory at the Tears of Hope orphanage in Swakopmund.
Swakop Uranium also helped to acquire land from the Swakopmund Municipality for a new school that will open its doors in Swakopmund in 2015. Close on 500 hungry minds, waiting to absorb new knowledge, will now have a chance to benefit from some of the best education in the area.
While the major contracts on the project will be with international companies, Swakop Uranium remains committed to encouraging spend with Namibian companies through a variety of means. In parallel with the construction of the Husab mine, the Swakop Uranium management team in Namibia will assemble and train the operational team to ensure that the company is ready to operate the mine once construction is completed and the mine is commissioned.
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