The project “Wings” is aimed at the search and development of uranium deposits, which, according to the specialists’ assess, can ensure record production. An experimental mining is under preparation at one site. However, firstly, it is necessary to find a common language with local farmers, whose lands fell into the area of research.
7% of global uranium resources are concentrated in Namibia. According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), the country has become among top three leaders in mining operations in 2021. The two companies operate there: Husab Mine and Rössing Uranium Mine. Both belong to the Chinese corporation CNNC, they operate classic open-cast excavation.
The Russian project “Wings”, aimed at discovery of promising deposits, started in 2010. However, the Government of Namibia almost immediately imposed a moratorium on geological exploration, so the project entered "sleep mode".
“After the lifting of the moratorium in 2018, the active phase began. A large sandstone deposit, potentially suitable for development by the method of in-situ leaching, was discovered in Omaheke Region,” said Anton Korobkin, Head of the Wings Project, Head of the Production and Technology Department of Uranium One, “We are going to build a processing plant and hope that this deposit will allow to mine uranium in amounts comparable with those mined by the largest global uranium enterprises.”
Geological exploration continues. The deposits in the central part are being prepared for the experimental mining. “We estimate the project period at 15-25 years with the ability to increase its resource base and term,” added Kirill Egorov-Kirillov, head of the AURA investment program, director of mining projects at Uranium One.
Uranium One employees visit Namibia regularly – once or twice every couple of months, staying at least for a week. No special vaccinations are required before the trip: malaria exists in a small area, outside the territory of the project.
The main part of the mining project is communications with the local population. A great number of ethnic groups live there. All of them have their own interests and expectations. “Our task is to tell local communities in an accessible way, what we do on their land,” explains Anton Korobkin. People in the Omaheke Region mainly speak three languages: English, German and Afrikaans.
Uranium One specialists get acquainted with farm owners, describe the project into detailed way, speak about the prospects for new workplaces and economic development of the region. Some farmers have a rather high quality of education, they have experience in working at mining enterprises. They usually unconditionally support the “Wings” project. “Other people need deep immersion in the topic. We explain the advantages of the SPV, show schemes, layouts, discuss the successful cases from other regions. If a farmer allows access to his land, we conclude a compensation agreement,” says Anton Korobkin.
Uranium One admits that nowadays most farmers are totally against the project. It is necessary to look for compromises. Local communities of some area claimed that they do not trust the results of water analysis, which was carried out by Uranium One. An independent laboratory repeated the investigation, the results were the same and trust was earned.
Rosatom organized a road-show in August: a group of experts visited towns and talked to local communities. Employees were talking about the state corporation, about a project and methods of mining uranium. Kirill Egorov-Kirillov noted that a lot of people had visited such events. Among them there were women with children, tribal elders and youngsters.
The main work is still ahead, but the support of Rosatom is felt in the region. Since the beginning of the project development, the state corporation has invested more than $50 million in the Namibian economy. Potential investments in the construction phase of processing plant are estimated at $300 million, up to 500 workplaces will be created. “Even at the stage of geological exploration, our contractors attract local specialist, 150 of them were involved in work last year,” says Kirill Egorov-Kirillov.
Another important direction of the project development is social work. There is a school for 600 children in the nearest settlement, Leonardville. Uranium One has got information that food supply disruptions take place there and has begun to buy groceries on a regular basis. The canteen is old, does not meet hygienic requirements, and U1 decided to make renovation with redevelopment. They have already agreed with the local architectural bureau.
“So, there are a lot of non-trivial tasks,” Anton Korobkin summarizes, “It is necessary to look for compromise, to talk to local communities. Kirill and I became friends with many locals - they invite us to visit, discuss the news with us”