The 2023 financial year saw Australia-based Paladin Energy continue to execute on its strategy of returning the Langer Heinrich mine (LHM), in Namibia, to production, with the restart project well advanced, chairperson Cliff Lawrenson writes in the company’s annual report.
“The work executed, combined with our well-defined pathway to production, and the quality of our on-site operational and project management team ensure the project remains on track and on budget [$118-milllion] for first production in the first quarter of calendar year 2024.
“The restart of production at the LHM builds on the ten-year production history of the asset. The project has a reserve life to support 17 years of operations with annual peak production representing around 4% of annual global uranium production – a considerable contributor to the evolution to a carbon-free energy economy,” he highlights.
Lawrenson says Paladin has secured a strong uranium offtake portfolio with top-tier global counterparties that will underpin the restart of the LHM.
In addition to Paladin’s life-of-mine offtake with Chinese nuclear utility CNNC5, it has secured offtake agreements with five counterparties in the US and Europe.
The company says it will continue to layer its offtake contracts to ensure it provides a financially robust offtake position for the project.
“Importantly, our contract book remains overweight to market-related pricing mechanisms to ensure that our company continues to benefit from the strong demand and pricing outlook for uranium,” Lawrenson avers.
CEO Ian Purdy says that the low-risk brownfield restart activities at LHM are supported by a combination of a well-defined pathway to production; strong in-country management and engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM) teams; a quality offtake portfolio; growing demand for uranium supported by increasing government support and incentives for nuclear energy; a strong balance sheet; and a supportive local government and communities in Namibia.
Paladin’s owner team, alongside EPCM partner ADP, continues to progress and execute activities focused on returning the LHM to production.
The restart project site works remain focused on general repairs and refurbishment activities to return the existing process plant to operational readiness.
In parallel, ADP continues to provide engineering and procurement services for the delivery of the growth project’s process upgrades to increase throughput capacity and operational availability, Purdy informs.
Over full-year 2023, several activities were progressed, including the contractor workforce being fully ramped up to anticipated peak with over 1 000 personnel on site, many noted to be from local communities.
There was also the delivery of critical construction materials, plant and equipment to site, including the Hydrosort classifier, agitators, thickeners, cyclones, structural steel, prefabricated tanks and tank strakes.
Paladin progressed the growth project steel fabrication activities, including construction of the Hydrosort structure, other structural steel plate works and leach surge tanks.
There was also the workshop site assembly and testing of the automated and dustless drumming plant; mobilisation of the project commissioning manager and commissioning team; and shipment of the ion-exchange resin, required for the uranium extraction process.
The company also onboarded a general manager and a Langer Heinrich operations mining and process manager.
An independent operational readiness gap assessment was completed, confirming LHM is well placed for operations to resume.
Recruitment strategies for the operational workforce and initial engagements with potential mining contractors have started.
There were also over 850 000 lost-time-injury-free project manhours executed at the end of the period.
Activities for full-year 2024 until first production include completion of the repair and refurbishment and growth project works; introduction of stockpile ore; completion of the operational-readiness programme; and completion of commissioning and handover to LHM Operations.
Purdy says all permits and licences for the project remain in good standing and the company has secured the necessary water and power contracts.
Source : Mining Weekly