THE URANIUM RESOURCES AND PRODUCTION OF NAMIBIA
The promulgation of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act, 1992, on 1 April 1994 and the simultaneous repeal of restrictive South African legislation on reporting uranium exploration and production results, allowed the Namibian Government for the first time to present information for publication of the report "Uranium 1995 — Resources, Production and Demand", by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the IAEA. Namibia, one of the youngest independent nations in Africa, has a large number of uranium occurrences and deposits in several geological environments. The total estimated uranium resource amounts to about 299 thousand tonnes recoverable uranium at a cost of less than US$ 130/kg U, within the known conventional resources category. The most prominent geological type of these is the unique, granite-related uranium occurrences located in the central part of the Namib Desert.
A number of large tonnage but low-grade deposits suitable for open-cast mining, were identified between 1960 and 1980, the peak period for uranium exploration. At one of these deposits, Rossing, mining operations started in 1976 and will continue into the first quarter of the next century. The presence of other, so far undiscovered deposits are suspected under thin Tertiary cover within this uranium province. Calcrete-hosted uranium occurrences and deposits are of secondary importance, due to a lower recoverable tonnage of uranium and complications with metallurgical processes. At times of better uranium markets however, at least one of these deposits will receive serious attention.
Permo-Triassic age Karoo sandstone-hosted uranium deposits were subject to only limited exploration due to the down-turn of uranium prices in the latter part of 1980s, despite the very encouraging exploration results. As only limited Karoo sandstone-covered areas were tested there is still great potential for further discoveries. The planned output of Rossing Uranium Mine at 40 000 tonnes of ore per day which results in an annual production of 4536 tonnes of uranium oxide, was achieved in 1979. Due however, to the subsequent slump in uranium prices and demand the annual production was reduced by about 50% to the present 1911 tonnes of contained uranium (in 1994). Full production capacity, depending on world markets, can be achieved within a short period of time. In case of improved uranium market conditions, Namibia is in a strong position to increase uranium production and open up new production centres to strengthen the country's position as an important uranium producer in the world.