Rio Tinto Rossing Plans Desalination Plant Environment Study

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Rio Tinto Plc’s Rossing Uranium unit in Namibia plans to carry out an environmental impact study for a water desalination plant it’s considering constructing in the southwest African nation.

“We have concluded the bankable feasibility study,” Managing Director Werner Duvenhage told reporters on Monday in the capital, Windhoek. “We have now applied for environmental impact licenses from the government.”

The plant will have capacity to supply 3 million cubic meters of water, more than the uranium mine’s annual consumption of 2 million cubic meters.

Namibia, the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer, is running short of water for the coastal towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay, as sources in the semi-arid region such as Omaruru Delta and the Kuiseb River aquifers dwindle.

The government is considering buying Areva SA’s water desalination plant in the country, built at a cost of 3 billion Namibian dollars ($253 million), instead of constructing its own water desalination plant to supply the semi-arid Erongo region, it said in September last year.

Namibia planned to table an offer to wholly acquire the 20 million cubic-meter plant that Paris-based Areva built with initial plans to secure supplies to its Trekkopje uranium project in the country, which has since been mothballed because of low uranium prices.

Should the country build its own facility, Rossing won’t go ahead with its plans, Duvenhage said. “We are not into water supply; we are a mining company.”

Output of uranium oxide at Rossing, which started operations in 1976 and mines 2.3 percent of global production, declined 36 percent to 1,543 metric tons last year from 12 months earlier, the company said in a report released Monday. It reported a loss of 91 Namibian dollars from profit after tax of 32 million Namibian dollars a year earlier as revenue dropped 19 percent to 2.41 billion Namibian dollars.

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