* Says has stockpiled 4.2 mln tonnes uranium so far
* Says processing plant to wait until prices rise
By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Equinox Minerals Ltd. EQN.AX EQN.TO plans to start exporting stockpiled uranium from its Lumwana mine in Zambia in about two to three years, when prices rise, the head of the company said on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Craig Williams said Equinox had so far stockpiled 4.2 million tonnes of uranium at the mine and would continue doing so until prices rise to commercially viable levels.
“For now, the uranium price internationally is not sufficiently attractive, but I would think that within two to three years it would improve. So at that time, we will seek the license to export uranium,” Williams told Reuters during a visit to Zambia.
Williams said Lumwana had a license to mine and process uranium but would not build a processing plant until prices picked up.
Equinox estimates that the Lumwana ore body has about 8 million tonnes of uranium as well as its copper resource of 900 million tonnes and is mining them together, he said.
The company produced 109,413 tonnes of copper at Lumwana in 2009, and Williams said it was maintaining the production estimate of 135,000 tonnes of copper at the mine for 2010.
Williams said Equinox was mining and stockpiling the uranium at Lumwana in line with international environmental, health and safety standards and dismissed claims by local human rights groups that it endangered the health of nearby communities.
“We have recently heard in Zambia that mining uranium is dangerous, but the fact is that the level of uranium that we are mining is low and we have a rigorous programme in place to ensure the safety of the people,” he said.
Equinox said in January 2009 it was delaying construction of a uranium processing plant at Lumwana, due to low uranium prices and difficulty in raising financing. (Reporting By Chris Mfula, editing by Jane Baird)