The 128,979 ha project is approximately 65 km in a straight line northeast of the coastal town of Swakopmund and lies in the very arid desert region of western Namibia, southwestern Africa.
The uranium project is owned by AREVA Resources Namibia, a subsidiary of AREVA Resources Southern Africa operating in Namibia.
The uranium deposit was discovered in the 1970s by a government sponsored airborne geophysical survey.
The project is a very large, low-grade, shallow uranium resource that consists of two calcrete uranium deposits located approximately 7 km apart. The deposits hosts a total mineral resource of 340 Mt grading 0.014% U3O8 for 105 Mlbs U3O8.
It is envisaged to be developed as a very low stripping open pit mining operation by using large hydraulic excavators or hydraulic shovels, wheel loaders, and haul trucks.
Some 8.5 million pounds of uranium oxide are expected to be produced over its 12 years mine life.
Given the selection of heap leaching and ion exchange as the preferred process route, a desalinated water source will be required since chloride in both the seawater and saline water will inhibit the ion exchange process. A reverse osmosis water treatment plant would be constructed to treat seawater, and would be pumped to the site. This would be supplied from a conventional reverse osmosis desalination plant to be located on the coast to the north of Swakopmund some 40-50 km from the Trekkopje project site.
The mine has been approved by the Namibian government in June 2008. Full production is expected to start in 2013.
Namibia is a country located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in southwestern Africa. It shares borders with South Africa, Zambia, Angola and Botswana.
The country was inhabited since immemorial times by Bushmen, and since the 14th century by Bantu people. In 1485, Portuguese Diego Cao was the first European to set foot on the desert land of the infamous Skeleton Coast. The next European to reach Namibia was Bartolomeu Dias in his famous 1487 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope.
Namibia was part of the German South West Africa between 1884 and 1915; it was subsequently occupied and governed by South Africa. It gained its independence in 1990 and nowadays it is a stable presidential representative democratic republic.
The country is inhabited by 2 million English speaking people concentrated in the northern part of the country and in the capital city of Windhoek. Income from mining accounts for 20% of the GDP.
The 55 million years old Namib Desert is the country's most distinct feature. It occupies over 80,000 sq km of arid landscape that hosts a large number of endemic plants and animals.
There are no lakes and many rivers flow underground or are dry for most of the year. In some cases dissolved salts make their water unpotable.
The Trekkopje project is approximately 65 km in a straight line northeast of the coastal town of Swakopmund. Access is via paved highway east from Swakopmund 70 km, and then by graded gravel road 23 km north to the project site. The 4,000 people city of Arandis is the closest to the project area.
The project is 35 km north of the Rossing uranium mine and 80 km northwest of the Langer Heinrich uranium mine.
The uranium deposit is located on a flat west sloping topography.
Climate is dry and dusty with most of the rainfall occurring in the February to March interval. Temperatures range from 4 deg C to 40 deg C.
Vegetation is sparse and mainly restricted to drainage channels.
Geology and Mineralization
The Trekkopje calcrete uranium deposits are part of a number of uranium deposits that lie on the western coast of Namibia ? Langer Heinrich included.
The Namib Desert is underlain by Late Proterozoic schists, gneisses and younger granites (800- 500 Ma) that form an orogenic belt that separates the Kaapvaal and Congo cratons.
Locally the schists are intruded by the Spitzkoppe granites (130 ? 80 Ma old) which were emplaced as a result of the break up of the Gondwana continent. The Spitzkoppe granites have background values of up to 20-30 ppm uranium and are the main source for the Trekkopje uranium mineralization.
A peneplain was formed by erosional processes between 80 Ma and 50 Ma. Subsequent uplifts and a Quaternary marine regression generated deeply incised valleys filled by clastic sediments.
Surficial weathering of the granites released uranyl ions that were transported by groundwater down gradient into the buried paleochannels filled with clastic sediments. There through natural chemical processes that are happening at the oxidation/reduction interface uranium and vanadium precipitated as carnotite within calcrete-cemented conglomerates, silts and sands.
The main mineralization area covers a 16 km by 4 km area.
Total Measured and Indicated resources total 144.5Mt at 146ppm U3O8 for 46.5Mlbs U3O8.
Mining operations would resemble strip mining because of the shallow depth of the deposit. Stripping ratio would average 0.5:1.
Up to eight pits would be developed in order to accommodate the highest production case which is 60 Mtpy of ore and waste. A high production pit would measure 2 km by 1 km and would be mined out in about 2 years; it would produce about 40 Mt.
Mining activities will include drilling, blasting, ripping and scrapping. The open pit mining operations would use large hydraulic excavators (up to 60ktpd) or hydraulic shovels, wheel loaders, and haul trucks.
In order to minimize truck travel ore would be transported to a moveable primary crusher located near the pits. Crushed ore would be transported by conveyors to leach pads.
The mine life is estimated at 12 years. Full production would start in 2013.
Heap leaching is the method of choice for extracting uranium from the calcrete ore.
The ore is mined, crushed and then stacked on a leach pad which is constructed on a gently slope covered by a very low permeability geomembrane. A leach solution is sprayed on top of the heap and the pregnant solution is recovered at the toe of the pad.
Process capacity is envisioned at 100,000 tpd through heap leaching for 3,000 t of yellow cake per year.
The treatment of the pregnant leach solution is then done by ion exchange. Because heap leaching and ion exchange need no chlorides in the process water a desalination plant was constructed.
The reverse osmosis desalination plant would treat seawater that would be piped to the mine site over a distance of 50 km. At full capacity the plant would be able to produce 20 million of cubic metres of potable water per year.
At Trekkopje some 8.5 million pounds of uranium oxide are expected to be produced over its 12 years mine life.
Environment and Community
Areva carefully assessed the environmental impact of its operations and as a result it would protect local flora, fauna. At the same time it commits to protecting the environment in sites located far away from the mine site by sponsoring clean-up campaigns and by helping local organizations in the protections of the coastal populations of birds.
The company not only that it won't tap in the local aquifer for its mining and processing operations but it is also providing potable water for the Spitzkoppe community where it also built toilets, it provides transport for handicapped children and made donations to local schools.
Areva is also involved in developing the mining skills of the Namibian citizens.
Once in full production the mine would provide employment for 1,200 people, contractors included.