Paladin Energy Ltd’s pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the resumption of the Langer Heinrich uranium mine has provided enhanced economics and potential for capacity expansion at the Namibian mine.
The study has confirmed that $80-million in capital will be required to support a 5.2-million-pound-a-year operation.
The Namibian mine look set to return to production within 12 months of a restart decision and favourable market conditions.
Paladin began the two-stream PFS in March. The first phase – PFS1 – which has now been completed focused on a rapid, low capital and low risk restart. The second stage of the study is looking into potential changes to Langer Heinrich’s mineral processing flow sheet, including the recovery of vanadium as a by-product.
On Monday Paladin Energy said there were opportunities to increase production to 6.5-million pounds a year through additional high return, discretionary capital spend of $30-million, further enhancing access to offtake and financing.
Paladin CEO Scott Sullivan said the study confirmed Paladin’s key position as a first mover back into production in a recovering uranium market.
“The Langer Heinrich mine is a world class uranium asset and this study confirms Paladin’s key position as a first mover back into production in a recovering uranium market,” said CEO Scott Sullivan.
Langer Heinrich, located in the Namib Desert and is 80 km east of the major seaport of Walvis Bay and 40 km south-east of Namibia’s – and the world’s – longest running open pit uranium mine, Rio Tinto Group’s Rössing.
Production commenced in 2007 with a capacity of 2.7 million pounds U3O8 (1039 tU) per year. This was subsequently expanded to 3.7 million pounds in 2009 and 5.2 million pounds in 2012, but following the continued decline in uranium prices, a mining curtailment strategy was introduced in November 2016 and in May 2018 the mine was transitioned to full care and maintenance.
The mine produced over 43.3 million pounds U3O8 over its ten years of previous operations.
The PFS estimated that all-in sustaining costs over the mine life would be around $30/lb with further cost improvements of around $4.50/lb achieved through significant process changes after a restart of operations.
“Achieving productions of over five-million pounds at a cost of under $30/lb and with a 12-month lead time on execution, were key targets of the board and executive team, and will see Langer Heinrich in an enviable position when uranium prices recover.”
“This study continues to demonstrate the high quality and potential of the asset and provides a solid foundation for a confident and successful restart,” said Sullivan.
PFS1 also included a drilling programme to confirm the mineral resource at Langer Heinrich, which has total uranium resources of 123.4 million pounds U3O8.
Paladin has now declared a maiden vanadium mineral resource estimate of 38.8 million pounds V2O5, and the second stage of the pre-feasibility will look at vanadium production as a further opportunity for adding additional value.
PFS2 will also look at opportunities including reagent recovery and recycling; ore sorting to improve uranium selectivity; and the use of crushing and ore beneficiation expansion to improve uranium recovery, especially from the processing of low-grade ore.
Paladin owns 75% of Langer Heinrich Mauritius Holdings Limited, the holding company of Langer Heinrich Uranium (Pty) Ltd that holds 100% of the Langer Heinrich tenements. The remaining 25% is owned by CNNC Overseas Uranium Holdings Limited.