According to a Ministry of Mines source, once the international price of the commodity rises, the elevated amounts of Uranium collected from ore at the Lumwana mine could begin to be processed.
In an interview, a source stated the mine contains elevated quantities of uranium, which is now resting on the specially constructed tailing storage facility and might be processed if worldwide prices improve.
The source said Uranium had once been mined at Lumwana and had been stockpiled, the ore containing both copper and Uranium belonging to the Lumwana mine had been processed but the actual Uranium has not yet been recovered adding that the facility where it is stored is monitored and secured.
The source revealed that “at the time when Lumwana mine started constructions of the mine, the idea was that they will also build a separate processing facility or plant to recover the Uranium over and above the Copper, so at the time, it was intended that they could produce the Uranium cake,” the source said.
The source also attributed the putting on ice or delay in the ramping up of Uranium recovery at Lumwana to the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident that happened in Japan on March 11, 2011. The source explained that due to that tragic incident, the price of Uranium dropped and as a result, the Lumwana mine could not proceed to set up the Uranium processing plant but instead decided to recover only the contained copper.
“When the Uranium price improves, Lumwana mine should be able to make plans and start the procession of recovering the uranium.” The source said. However, the source could not disclose the grade and quantity of uranium that Lumwana is sitting on, adding that only the company in charge (Lumwana mine) can give a proper answer on that.
A further check by ZBT has revealed that indeed Reuters report in 2008 also stated that the Lumwana mine at the time had projected to start producing about 1 million tons of high-grade Uranium annually. A $6 million Uranium feasibility study at the Lumwana mine has been concluded and results showed the existence of high-grade uranium, Reuters reported. The report further confirmed that Stockpiling of uranium ores has already started at the mine.
While the quantity and grade of Uranium stored at the unknown facility remain unconfirmed, a check by ZBT revealed that the current price of the nuclear metal stands at about US $130, 000 per ton. With a projected production level of 1 million tons per annum, Uranium mining could be a game-changer for Zambia in terms of the quantum of revenue and forex earnings.
Lumwana Mine has however officially told ZBT that the mine is currently not producing any Uranium. But some ex-employees and members of the public have accused the mine of engaging in the extraction of the nuclear metal and simply not declaring it. More to follow on Uranium mining in Zambia.