Rio’s big Rossing uranium mine expanding output

15 November 2008 | 04:30 Code : 18337 Geoscience events
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Rio Tinto’s (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) Rossing Uranium is on track to produce 4,000 tonnes of....

Rio Tinto’s (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) Rossing Uranium is on track to produce 4,000 tonnes of uranium at its mine in Namibia this year and is looking to expand output to 5,500 tonnes by 2012, officials said.Rossing, which supplies around 7.6 percent of the world’s uranium, is also studying the possibility of building its own sulphuric acid plant to end its dependency on imports.The study for the plant, which could produce 1,200 tonnes of sulphuric acid per day, a major cost item in the uranium recovery process, is expected to be finalised in December.The plant would also generate 14 megawatts of power, to be used by the plant and the company’s other projects.Willem van Rooyen, Rossing’s manager of operations. said the existing open pit mine -- at 4,000 tonnes output for the first time since 1990 -- was being expanded through "push backs" in two areas, while two other potential areas were being evaluated.The company is on track to produce nameplate capacity of 4,500 tonnes of uranium as of 2012. It plans to boost output by a further 1,000 from that date, but the reserves for that have not yet been identified, it said."Our ore reserves support that in 2010 and even 2011 we have enough reserves to gradually build up to the nameplate capacity of 4,500 tonnes -- the 5,500 tonne production is the rate that ore reserve is capable for supporting for Rossing going forward," van Rooyen said.The company, which produced 3,046 tonnes of uranium in 2007, is exploring a satellite deposit and is also looking at using a heap leaching facility to further boost output.Heap leaching uses sulphuric acid to extract metal from lower grade ore which cannot be processed by the current plant.The heap leach method will go into pilot testing in January, with an investment decision expected in May 2009.If the project receives approval, the first metal from the 2-kilometers-long and 250-meters-wide heap leach pad could come out around the first quarter of 2011. It is expected to produce 1,000 tonnes of annual output. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by David Cowell)


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