June 19, 2008

Namibia “to Become Home” of World’s Largest Uranium Mine – Report

Text of report by Namibian newspaper The Namibian website on 19 June

[Report by Brigitte Weidlich: "Uranium Rush Lands N$6-b Investment for Namibia"]

Namibia is set to become home to the world's largest uranium mine with the announcement yesterday by French state-owned energy company Areva that it is injecting US$750 million (about N$6 billion) into a uranium mine at Trekkopje in the Erongo Region.

It will surpass the N$3,2 [Namibian dollars] billion investment made in Skorpion Zinc, making it the largest foreign direct investment in the history of Namibia.

Iain McPherson, Managing Director of UraMin Namibia, a subsidiary of Areva, made the investment announcement in Windhoek late yesterday, when introducing the company to the media.

About N$1,4 billion of the total investment will go towards a desalination plant at the coast -near Wlotzkasbaken -which is already under construction.

The investment figure includes the rehabilitation of the area after mining ceases.

"Mining will start at the end of 2009 and the shallow deposits cover a large area.

We expect to process 100 000 tonnes of ore per day and to extract about six to eight million pounds of uranium per annum," McPherson added.

"Trekkopje will be the largest uranium mine in the world," he said.

Approximately 800 people will be employed by the mine, which has a projected lifespan of nine years.

Spot prices for uranium stood at US$57 (about N$455) per ounce on Monday, down from US$60, after skyrocketing to US$95 last December.

Areva, which says it is the world's second largest uranium producer, bought UraMin for US$1,9 billion (about N$14 billion) in September.

The buy-out was part of a composite deal totalling US$12 billion (about N$85 billion) with state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC).

Among others, the Chinese firm agreed to buy 35 per cent of UraMin's uranium production.

UraMin, now a subsidiary of Areva, holds mining rights in Namibia, South Africa and the Central African Republic.

UraMin was granted a mining licence on Tuesday and received the environmental clearance certificate from the Environment and Tourism Ministry last Friday.

Former Deputy Mines and Energy Minister Henock ya Kasita, who was reshuffled to the Lands Ministry, welcomed the huge investment.

Originally published by The Namibian website, Windhoek, in English 19 Jun 08.

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