Of Note:

South Africa:

Two projects have been shut down

The closure of Uranium One’s Dominion mine near Klerksdorp.
The closure of Mintails’  West Rand Gold and Uranium (Wergo).

Two others are running behind schedule.

First Uranium has pushed back the start of production from its Ezulwiniuranium plant on the West Rand.
Rand Uranium is running behind on plans to develop the Cooke Dump uranium project.


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Uranium sector shows strain

Posted: Thu, 27 Nov 2008

[]-- SOUTH Africa’s uranium production prospects have received a majorset back over the past six months as two projects have been shut down and two others are running behind schedule. 

The closure of Uranium One’s Dominion mine near Klerksdorp received widespread publicity, but the closure of Mintails’ West Rand Gold and Uranium (Wergo) project has been largely overlooked.

First Uranium has pushed back the start of production from its Ezulwiniuranium plant on the West Rand, while Rand Uranium is running behind on plans to develop the Cooke Dump uranium project - although CEO JohnMunro reckons his company will benefit from this delay.

It’s all a far cry from April when Rand Uranium, Mintails and First Uranium were talking about sector consolidation.

Much of their production will come from retreating existing dumps on the West Rand. A key issue concerns where that material will be deposited after it has been put through treatment plants to recover uranium and/or gold.

Mintails said in April that its proposed Witfontein dump site near Randfontein was a “trump card” in negotiations to consolidate the region.

This was because it was both environmentally safe and large enough to take material from other proposed dump treatment operations.

That was challenged by Munro at the time, who said: “It’s not clear to me that anyone has a dominant position.

”But Mintails now seems to have hit a brick wall. The company’s September quarter report published on October 31 said that “Mintails has halted all project-commissioning activities and placed the Wergo project on care and maintenance until the required funding and regulatory approval for the new Witfontein deposition site is granted”.

According to Mintails, “new conditions imposed by the South African regulatory authorities in respect to water pumping obligations and cyanide destruction will impact heavily on the anticipated cash cost of production at the Wergo project and Mogale (a separate gold plant whichis in operation).

“Until the company receives regulatory approval for a new deposition site at Witfontein, a decision to proceed with commissioning at the Wergo plant may be imprudent.

“These new conditions were not known to the company at the time construction commenced and represent an impediment to the profitable recovery of gold, uranium and other minerals.

The Wergo project construction team has been retrenched and Mintails is having to deal with its creditors.

The Mintails report stated: “In agreement with creditors, Mintails has undertaken to satisfy creditor obligations on a structured basis from new equity, debt and asset realisation.

”Despite all this, it seems Mintails remains optimistic about the future of the Witfontein site on which it has carried out three years of technical evaluation.

Mintails said a number of SA companies hold tailings resources in the immediate vicinity but are limited in terms of plant availability and tailings deposition capacity.

“This will limit the ability of these deposits to be profitably exploited and presents significant future opportunity for Mintails.Over the next quarter Mintails will continue to explore corporate participants for the Witfontein tailings deposition facility and has already received approaches from a number of parties.

”But Munro this week said that Rand Uranium was looking at deferring the construction of a “greenfields” dump site by up to eight years, by making use of dump sites already available to the company.

He said: “We do need to construct a new tailings dump site, and that is one of the major challenges we face.

Mintails is quoted on the Australian Stock Exchange, but trading has been suspended at its request since September 18 while the company tries to sort out its finances.

The company said its shares would remain in voluntary suspension “until such time as it can provide a clear and sustainable outlook to investors and shareholders”.

*The writer owns shares in Mintails.

John Munro, CEO Rand Uranium

Uranium One eases back in Athabasca Basin venture with Pitchstone

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Pitchstone Exploration Ltd. (TSXV:PXP) disclosed Friday that Uranium One Inc. (TSX:UUU) has declined to make a cash call payment on the companies' joint-venture properties in the eastern Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan.

Pitchstone said it has covered Uranium One's payment, and Pitchstone's interest in the formerly 50-50ownership of the five properties has increased to 51 per cent.

Pitchstone added that Uranium One's interest will be further diluted as it hassaid it will not fund its share of January-April field work.

Uranium One said earlier this month that it has taken a US$2.8-billion writedown and is cutting costs across its operations after placing its Dominion mine in South Africa on care and maintenance.

Pitchstone said Friday it "is well funded and will proceed with the 2009 program."

In addition to its Athabasca Basin portfolio, Pitchstone has partnerships with Triex Minerals Corp. (TSXV:TXM) in Nunavut and with Cameco Corp.(TSX:CCO) and Motapa Diamonds Inc. (TSXV:MTP) in Gabon.


Pressure leach autoclaves under construction at Uranium One's Dominion Reefs project.


11 400 mining jobs on line as sector struggles

Meeting in Pretoria today to discuss crisis

December 1, 2008

By Justin Brown

Johannesburg - Potential job losses announced in the mining industry over the past two months swelled to 11 400 people on Friday, with the announcement by Lonmin that it wanted to lay off as many as 6 600employees and contractors.

This is more than two-and-ahalf times the figure of 2 600 jobs that the company said could be at risk when it announced its results on November18.

Lonmin, which employs about 25 000 people locally, initially said 1 000contractors could lose their jobs at the group's open cast operations at Marikana, with as many as 1 600 jobs at risk at its Limpopo operation. On Friday, Lonmin said 1 400 contractors and as many as 4000 underground workers at Marikana could lose their jobs.

Uranium One is laying off 2 600 people at its Dominion mine in NorthWest; 1 700 people could lose their jobs at DRDGold's East Rand Property Mine operation in Johannesburg's East Rand; and Simmer &Jack Mines (Simmers) has announced that 500 jobs could be lost at its gold mines.

DRDGold and Simmers are looking at layoffs despite a rand gold price atR261 532 a kilogram on Friday – close to record levels of R272 759 a kilogram reached last Monday.

In contrast, the platinum price has come off a record level of R714 062a kilogram in early March and at the close on Friday was trading at R279470 an kilogram, the metal's lowest level in rand terms in almost 19months.

"Lonmin announces it has advised its employees and representative unions that in response to the current economic climate, it has commenced a process which may lead to job losses at its Marikana operations," Lonmin said.

"At this very early stage it is estimated that up to 4 000 permanent Lonmin employees may be affected," it added.

About 18 000 workers joined a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) protest on Wednesday against the proposed job cuts at Lonmin.

Lesiba Seshoka, a NUM spokesperson, said Lonmin had not notified the union of the potential job losses of 4 000.

"We are very disappointed. We have called a national stakeholder conference to discuss the retrenchments," Seshoka said.

Jaco Kleynhans, a Solidarity spokesperson, said: "The South African mining industry is facing an enormous crisis and all possible avenues need to be explored to prevent retrenchments. A larger solution is urgently needed to counter further ripples of the economic crisis in the industry."

Representatives from the department of minerals and energy, the Chamber of Mines, the SA Mining Development Association, as well as the trade unions were due to meet in Pretoria today to discuss the wave of restructuring and retrenchments that have been announced in the mining industry.

Bheki Khumalo, a department of minerals and energy spokesperson, said he had no detail of how the jobs crisis in the mining industry would be dealt with.

"According to the section 189 notice Solidarity received from Lonmin today, employees in all job categories will be seriously affected by the planned retrenchments. In addition, Lonmin is proposing only the minimum severance pay of one week's salary for every year of service,"Solidarity said on Friday.