History and location of Rössing
Uranium was discovered in the Namib Desert in 1928, but it was not until intensive exploration in the late 1950s that much interest was shown in the area. After discovering numerous uranium occurrences, Rio Tinto secured the rights to the low-grade Rössing deposit in 1966. Ten years later, in 1976, Rössing Uranium, Namibia's first commercial uranium mine, began operating, celebrating its 40th year of production in 2016.
Today, Namibia has two significant uranium mines, which together provide for roughly 5 per cent of the world's uranium oxide mining output; Rössing Uranium produces about 2 per cent of the world's output. The mine has a nameplate capacity of 4,500 tonnes of uranium per year and, by the end of 2015, had supplied a total of 128,650 tonnes of uranium oxide to the world.
The mine is located 12 km from the town of Arandis, which lies 70 km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia's Erongo Region. Walvis Bay, Namibia's only deep-water harbour, is located 30 km south of Swakopmund.
The mining operation is located in an arid environment. Insolation at Rössing Uranium is high, and as a result, daytime ranges of temperatures are wide, especially during May and September, when the difference between minimum and maximum temperatures exceeds 20ºC daily. The lowest temperatures are normally recorded during August, but frost is rare. The highest temperatures are recorded in the late summer, particularly March.
The mine site encompasses a mining licence and accessory works areas of about 180 km2, of which 25 km2 is used for mining, waste disposal and processing.
Mining is done by blasting, loading and hauling from the main open pit, referred to as the SJ Pit, before the uranium-bearing rock is processed to produce uranium oxide. The open pit currently measures 3 km by 1.5 km, and is 390 m deep.
Our partnerships include individual citizens and their communities as well as nongovernmental organisations, small-scale enterprises and multinational corporations.
Thus, the benefits of our operations are felt locally, nationally, across the African continent and internationally.
Rössing Uranium - Working for Namibia
In 2015, the Rio Tinto Group employed 55,000 people world-wide, including the Group's share of joint ventures and associates. Of these, approximately 29,000 were located in Australasia, 16,000 in the Americas, 7,000 in Africa, and 3,000 in Europe.
The Rössing Uranium Mine is one of the largest and longest-running open pit uranium mines in the world. It is located in the Namib Desert 65 kilometres from Swakopmund near the town of Arandis. Discovered in 1928, it started operations in 1976 as Namibia's first uranium mine and in 2015, produced 1,245 tonnes of uranium oxide, producing 2 per cent of the world's uranium. Rössing is a member of the Rio Tinto group of companies. Rio Tinto is a leading global business delivering value at each stage of mineral and metal production and has been in operation for more than 140 years. We have operations in more than 40 countries.
Rio Tinto has been working on the African continent for more than 50 years working in seven countries, namely Cameroon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Our African businesses span across operations in aluminium, bauxite, diamonds, iron, titanium and zircon.
Rössing currently has around 850 employees with 98 per cent Namibians. The mine provides stable, long-term and rewarding employment, backed by training and career development opportunities.
At the end of 2014 the mine had supplied a total of 127,405 tonnes of uranium oxide to the world's nuclear power utilities for the generation of electricity. All uranium produced by Rio Tinto's mines is marketed by London-based Rio Tinto Uranium Limited and supplies electricity companies located in all three major markets: Asia, North America and Europe.
The uranium is mined from tough Alaskite, which is the uranium-bearing rock processed to produce uranium oxide. Mining is done by blasting, loading and hauling from the open pit, currently measuring 3 km long, 1.5 km wide and 390 m deep.
Rössing remains committed to best practices in its health, safety and environmental performance and continue on its Zero Harm safety journey, with the goal to create an injury- and illness-free workplace. A formalised Health, Safety and Environmental Management System and ISO 14001:2004 certification allows Rössing consistent application of HSE best practice.
The mine has a number of great growth opportunities ahead - not only in exploration and organic expansion options, but also in business development opportunities. A most recent development is the signing of a long-term sulphuric acid supply agreement with a Namibian company, starting in 2015, that would benefit employment creation in Namibia.
Rössing has a significant annual procurement spend, with N$1.597 million spent on goods and services of which N$1.086 million (or 68 per cent of the total spent) was allocated to Namibian registered suppliers in 2014.
Apart from living up to the objectives of Namibia's Vision 2030 and the national development plans of promoting value addition within the Namibian market, Rössing is assisting the Government of Namibia to create and maintain employment opportunities. The impact of the events in Japan in 2011 continued to plague the uranium market throughout 2014.
During 2014 the uranium price continued to be under pressure. The significantly lower uranium price – combined with much lower uranium oxide production of 1,543 tonnes in 2014 compared with 2,409 tonnes in 2013 – resulted in our revenue decreasing by 19 per cent since the end of the previous reporting year, ie from N$3 billion in 2013 to N$2.4 billion in 2014. A net loss tax of N$91million was realised from normal operations, compared with a net profit after tax of N$32 million in 2013.
The Rössing Foundation implements and facilitates Rössing's corporate social responsibility activities within Namibian communities, and is managed by a Board of Trustees and contributed some N$21 million to neighbouring communities in 2014.
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