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 deposits in 1966. Ten years later, Rössing Uranium, Namibia's first commercial uranium mine, began operating.
Today, Namibia has two significant uranium mines, which together provide for 6.96 per cent of the world's uranium oxide mining output. Rössing Uranium produces some 3.4 per cent of this. The mine has a nameplate capacity of 4,500 tonnes of uranium per year and, by the end of 2013, had supplied a total of 125,862 tonnes of uranium oxide to the world.
The mine is located 12km from the town of Arandis, which lies 70km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia's Erongo Region. Walvis Bay, Namibia's only deep-water harbour, is located 30km south of Swakopmund.
The mining operation is in a semi-arid environment. Insolation at Rössing 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 180km2, of which 25km2 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 3km by 1.5km, and is 390m deep.