Paladin Planning Stage 4 Expansion at Langer Heinrich

Paladin Energy reported in late October 2009 that an extensive in-house study has determined that, based on current mineral resources, production of 9 million lb/y of U3O8 would be an optimum operating rate for its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia. Paladin initiated a Stage 3 expansion at the mine in mid-year 2009 that is designed to lift the production rate to 5.2 million lb/y of U3O8 by late 2010.

Paladin is now undertaking a Stage 4 feasibility study, including environmental permitting, that is scheduled for completion during 2010. An in-fill drilling program designed to increase the confidence in the current inferred resources and expand the reserve base is included in this developmental work. The feasibility study would be followed by a sixmonth approval period and a two-year design and construction period, targeting mechanical completion by mid-2013. Mine life at the new production rate is estimated at 15 years.

The expanded run-of-mine operation is planned to crush about 8 million mt/y of ore at an average grade of 600 ppm. Crushed ore will then be upgraded through an expanded scrubbing circuit to give a leach feed grade of around 920 ppm. Planning also calls for heap leaching of about 42 million mt of low-grade, 175-ppm material.

Off-site infrastructure requirements include the installation of a second water supply pipeline and an upgrade to the existing electrical power supply line. Paladin said it does not believe that there will be any problems associated with sourcing water or power, because Namibia is planning to increase the availability of both in the region within the envisaged project development time frame. The key will be to negotiate a reasonable cost base for the additional water and electricity requirements, the company said.

On-site capital expenditure for the main plant is estimated at about $300 million, while operating costs are estimated to remain within the $25 to $30/lb range of current operations. Infrastructure costs will be determined in the feasibility study, and structured financing options with third-party ownership will be considered.

The capital cost for the heap leach facility has been estimated at about $50 million.

As featured in Womp 2009 Vol 10 -