Rossing sees 4,000 T/yr uranium till 2023

Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:21am GMT

By Agnieszka Flak

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Rio Tinto's Rossing uranium mine in Namibia is on track to produce 4,000 tonnes of the metal this year and plans to maintain that output on average until 2023, an official said late on Wednesday.

General Manager for Corporate Services Zebra Kasete said the company had updated the forecast on output and the mine's lifespan after further drilling on the open pit mine in the Namib desert in Namibia.

"We have a better understanding of the ore body ... on average, 4,000 tonnes per year is what we expect to maintain," Kasete told Reuters in an interview.

He said Rossing was conducting further exploration to see if it could go beyond. In 2008, the mine produced 4,108 tonnes, its highest level in the past 20 years.

Forty-one percent of the uranium produced at the mine is exported to North America, 10 percent is absorbed by Europe, and the rest nearly evenly split between Japan and the rest of Asia.

Demand for uranium is growing as more nuclear power plants are being built by countries scrambling to cut emissions and reduce fossil-fuel dependence, also giving support to the price for the metal going forward, Kasete said.

"Countries are looking to diversify their energy mix ... companies are taking longer to bring new mines into operation -- we will see prices picking up in the coming year," he said.

Spot uranium on Thursday stood at $46 per pound, down from a record around $136 in June 2007.   Continued...

<p>Uranium pellets on a production line at Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan's eastern town of Ust-Kamenogorsk in this August 11, 2006. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov</p>
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