Paladin Energy kicks off commercial production at Namibia uranium mine

Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia. (Image courtesy of Paladin Energy.)

Australia’s Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN) said on Tuesday it has begun producing and drumming uranium concentrate at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia, adding it would now focus on ramping up operations and building a finished product inventory.

The Western Australia-based miner said first uranium concentrate production and subsequent packing into the metal drums the material is shipped to customers was achieved on March 30.

As part of the transition to production, the company’s chief operating officer, Paul Hemburrow, will take on responsibility for all activities at its 75%-owned mine, Paladin said.

Langer Heinrich is located in the Namib Desert 80 km east of the principal seaport of Walvis Bay and 40 km south-east of Namibia’s – and the world’s – longest-running open pit uranium mine, China National Uranium Corporation’s Rössing.

Achieving first production at the LHM is an important milestone for Paladin, chief executive officer, Ian Purdy, said in the statement. 

He noted the company will update the market on production guidance for the mine for fiscal 2025 in July this year. 

A 50+ year history

Langer Heinrich was discovered in 1973 and Paladin Energy took over the asset in August 2002, kicking off production in 2007 with an initial capacity of 2.7 million pounds of uranium oxide per year. 

This capacity was later expanded to 3.7 million pounds in 2009 and 5.2 million pounds in 2012. However, due to a sharp decline in uranium prices in the following years the company axed production in November 2016. Langer Heinrich was placed under full care and maintenance in May 2018.

Rising prices for the radioactive material in the last 10 months have pushed several miners to reopen mines and resume activities at stalled projects. Leading uranium producers have rushed to meet the demand not only because of favourable prices, but also in light of increased interest from governments looking for nuclear power solutions to meet emissions targets.

Paladin Energy kicks off commercial production at Namibia mine
Paladin Energy’s 75%-owned Langer Heinrich uranium mine in western Nambia’s Namib desert. (Image courtesy of Paladin Energy.)

The price of the radio atomic element has experienced a significant upturn after the NYMEX uranium 1st futures contract price hit a new high of $106.40 a pound on February 1st. The material is now sitting at $87.20 an ounce as of April 1st — still well above last year’s average price of $66.60 a pound. The last time that contract was above $100 was in August of 2007.

The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that by 2040, the global demand for uranium will exceed 100,000 tonnes per year, which is more than double the present worldwide production. 

Currently, two-thirds of the world’s uranium comes from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.