Rössing is the world’s longest-running open pit uranium mine. Operating since 1976, Rössing has produced the most uranium of any single mine.
Rio Tinto manages and owns a 68.58 per cent stake in the mine. It is located 12km from the town of Arandis, which is 70km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia's Erongo Region. Walvis Bay, Namibia's only deep water harbour, is 30km south of Swakopmund.
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. Rio Tinto secured the rights to the Rössing deposits in 1966. Ten years later, Rössing Uranium, Namibia's first commercial uranium mine, began operations.
Rössing produces and exports uranium oxide from Namibia to nuclear power utilities around the world.
Uranium, a metallic element, is one of the most powerful natural sources of energy. Its chemical properties can be harnessed to produce electricity without the generation of carbon dioxide.
Nuclear energy is used to generate around 13 per cent of the world's electricity, with almost no greenhouse gas emissions.1
Ore is extracted and transported to a processing facility where it is crushed to the size of fine sand. Uranium is dissolved from the rock using sulphuric acid, manganese and iron oxide. It is then recovered from the solution in a number of stages.
The uranium is extracted using an organic liquor; the organic liquor is then stripped using ammonium sulphate to concentrate the uranium for precipitation. Gaseous ammonia is added to form a solid called yellow cake, which is centrifuged and extracted to produce uranium oxide powder. This powder is the product that Rio Tinto supplies to its customers.
Uranium oxide is transformed into nuclear fuel through processes called conversion and enrichment. The resultant nuclear fuel rods are then inserted into a nuclear reactor to produce energy.
Nuclear energy is generated by the splitting of uranium atoms, a process that releases a large amount of heat. This heat is then used to convert water into high temperature steam, which in turn drives the turbines in a generator to produce electricity.
For many countries energy diversification is the key to their energy security. Uranium is an important part of the global energy mix as it provides energy security with the added benefit of no greenhouse gas emissions.
The Rössing Foundation
The Rössing Foundation was established by Rössing Uranium Limited in 1978 through a Deed of Trust, to implement and facilitate its corporate social responsibility activities within the communities of Namibia.
The Foundation undertakes a number of activities across a broad spectrum of community development areas, mainly within the Erongo Region. This includes Local Authority support to the town of Arandis, as well as investment in the fields of education, health, poverty alleviation, innovation, environment, and enterprise development. Over the past five years, the Foundation has spent N$120 million (US$13.5 million) on such programmes.
1 World Nuclear Association (2013)
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