Paladin Placing Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine on Care and Maintenance

Langer Heinrich (above) produced more than 4 million lb of uranium in full-year 2017.
Paladin Energy is placing the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia on care and maintenance. An initial rundown phase of up to three months began in late April, during which various stages of the plant are being progressively suspended and cleaned. Some continued production of finished uranium is ongoing during the rundown. When the rundown is complete, operations will be completely suspended, and the mine will be on care and maintenance.

“The decision to place the Langer Heinrich mine into care and maintenance was not taken lightly, particularly because of its impact on our loyal employees and contractors, and the community in which we operate,” the Paladin announcement said. “However, care and maintenance is the most logical decision to preserve the mine’s valuable uranium resource and mitigate operating cash flow losses.”

The mine is expected to have a relatively low working capital requirement while in care and maintenance and a short lead time to resume operations. Paladin’s internal analysis suggests that, absent external shocks, the uranium market appears set for normalization over the next few years. Since Langer Heinrich is one of the lowest-cost open-pit uranium mines in the world, it will likely be one of the first mines to return to production as the uranium market normalizes.

Langer Heinrich has a nominal production capacity of 5.2 million lb/y of U3O8 and produced 4.15 million lb in its 2017 fiscal year, to June 30, 2017, down 13% from the previous year’s total of 4.8 million lb.

The Langer Heinrich mine is located in the Namib Desert, 80 km east of the major seaport of Walvis Bay. The deposit was discovered in 1973 after a government- sponsored airborne radiometric survey of the area. Between 1974 and 1980, General Mining Union Corp. (Gencor) undertook extensive evaluation work at the site but suspended work in the mid- 1980s, following a fall in the prevailing uranium price.

Acclaim Uranium NL acquired the project from Gencor in 1998 and completed a prefeasibility study in 1999- 2000. The project was again put on hold due to low uranium prices. Paladin acquired the project in August 2002 and brought it into production in early 2007.

The Langer Heinrich mine is currently owned 75% by Paladin and 25% by CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corp.

As featured in Womp 2018 Vol 07 -