Are Africa's Uranium projects finally waking up from a decade long slumber?
By: Paul Miller
There have been a number of recent announcements suggesting that this is indeed so.
The Mkuju River Uranium Project in Tanzania was explored by Australian listed Mantra Resources, which was bought out (indirectly) by Russia's Rosatom in 2010 for $1.15 billion, about a year before the Fukushima nuclear disaster - it has been on hold ever since. A few days ago METC, a fast growing South African EPCM house announced that it had been awarded the project.
The Kalakerya Uranium Mine in Malawi was operated from 2009 until being put on care-and-maintenance by Paladin Energy in 2014. The lead contractor in the projector was South Africa's then Aveng E&PC, with the project finance being provided by SA banks using Export Credit Insurance Corporation cover. This is thus a well known project to the SA engineering community. The mine has been acquired from Paladin Energy by Australian listed Lotus Resources, with the the deal completing in March 2020. Lotus Resources team has subsequently released a steady stream of announcements as they look to restart the project.
In June 2020 Paladin Energy itself released a restart plan for its Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine in Namibia, which has been on care and maintenance since 2018. The results of a re-start PFS had been issued in October 2019.
Both Kalakerya and Langer Heinrich restarts will entail fairly extensive brownfields capital projects.
Of course the two African uranium majors are China's CNNC which now operates both the Rössing Uranium Mine and the Husab Uranium Mine in Namibia and France's Orano SA which operates the Somaïr and Cominak mines in Niger. Orano SA controls the advanced Imouraren project, also in Niger, which has been on hold since 2015, and might also be restarted in market conditions continue to improve.