By Hilary Mare
THE Uranium 2017 International Conference, slated for Swakopmund in September this year, will focus on future technology, amid subdued prices, key host the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), has said.
Speaking to Mining Weekly last week, SAIMM noted that the consideration of how new technologies can assist with sustainable uranium extraction, lower energy costs and reducing environmental impacts, will be at the forefront of discussions.
“Uranium as a material, and its applications, are often controversial. Yet, nuclear reactors are still being built, despite the growth in energy generation through renewable sources, and despite highly publicised nuclear accidents,” SAIMM said.
“Several countries are pursuing uranium-enrichment programmes. Although prices are subdued, it is highly likely that there will be continued and sustained demand for uranium for the foreseeable future.”
SAIMM, a Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation, is hosting the conference in collaboration with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, the Namibian Uranium Institute and the Namibia University of Science and Technology, from 11 to 15 September at the Swakopmund Hotel.
The event, themed ‘Extraction and applications of uranium – present and future’, will bring together internationally and locally recognised experts, operating personnel, engineering providers, policymakers, research and development establishments and academia and students, to explore how future uranium technologies will affect the industry. Topics of discussion will include developments in uranium mining, applications of uranium, safety and post-operations closure and remediation issues.
Namibia is currently ranked the fifth-largest producer of uranium in the world, and is set to become the second-largest producer, when Swakop Uranium’s Husab Mine, based 12km north-west of the Husab Mountain, becomes fully operational later this year, making it a fitting location for the conference.
“Namibia is poised to become a major uranium hub and the development of the Husab Mine will undoubtedly see the uranium industry playing a more significant role in the national and regional economies,” said SAIMM.
The conference will feature a programme of presentations, short courses and technical visits.
Two short courses on nuclear medicine and radio pharmacy and uranium processing plant design will also be offered, and are Engineering Council of South Africa accredited for continuing professional development points.
In addition, technical visits to key sites have been planned. This will include a visit to the Husab uranium project, which will become the second-largest uranium mine in the world on completion of its commissioning, when it is expected to produce 7 000 tons of triuranium octoxide annually.
British-Australian multinational Rio Tinto’s Rössing uranium mine, the longest-running uranium mine in the world and the third-largest opencast mine, while also be visited.
Also on the list of site visits is uranium producer Paladin Energy’s Langer Heinrich Mine and exploration and development company Bannerman Resources’ demonstration plant.
There will also be a viewing of the geology of the Alaskite mineralisation in the lower Swakop River.
Swakopmund is the centre of uranium extraction in the country, with most of Namibia’s uranium mines located in the Namib Desert.
-Additional reporting by miningweekly
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