April 4. (Namibia Economist)-The country’s arid Erongo Region, the focal point of Namibia’s uranium mining boom, is thirsty and by 2015 old and new uranium mines will require 53 million cubic meters of water per annum.
This development has led to water utility NamWater announcing plans for another desalination plant in the country’s desert coastal region. At present, Namibia consumes about 67 million cubic meters per annum. But with more or more uranium mines being planned for the Erongo Region, NamWater notes that the solution lies in desalinating seawater.
NamWater’s Chief Executive Officer, Vaino Shivute said this week that the second desalination plant should be commissioned at the beginning of 2010. It is expected to have a capacity of 25 million cubic meters per annum and will cost around N$1.5 billion.
Construction of the country’s first desalination plant, a joint venture between NamWater and French mega nuclear builder Areva’s subsidiary UraMin, is already underway. This plant is expected to be commissioned at the end of 2009 and will have a capacity to produce 20 million cubic meters of water per annum, most of which will cater for UraMin's Trekkopje uranium mine.
The mine is set for trial mining during the second quarter of this year.
“Due to pressure on groundwater sources, we were directed by the government to construct a desalination plant,” Shivute said.
Mining companies seeking to benefit will foot all capital and operational costs associated with the second plant, such as construction water distribution expenditures, either through capital payment upfront or via water tariffs, Shivute said.
He said the national water utility is including power demand for desalination and the uranium mines in its development plans.
“NamPower has indicated to NamWater that by the third quarter of next year, there will be enough power for the desalination plant,” he said.
NamWater envisages that the second plant will result in less water being abstracted from the Omdel and Kuiseb Aquifers. The coastal towns water demand will still be met by water from the two aquifers.
Shivute said that the water from the aquifers and the desalination plant would be blended to improve the quality of water in the coast. NamWater has already appointed desalination and financial consultants on the project.