NAMIBIA had to make way for Niger as the world's fourth biggest uranium producer in 2011, as local production dropped by nearly 38 per cent compared to 2010.
Namibia now holds the spot as the fifth biggest uranium producer globally with total production in 2011 coming in at 3 258 tonnes, or about six per cent of the world's total production, according to the World Nuclear Association's latest rankings. Niger produced 4 351 tonnes.
Kazakhstan remained in the top position with 19 451 tonnes, followed by Canada with 9 145 and Australia with 5 983 tonnes of uranium.
Speaking at the Mining Conference 2012 of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia yesterday, economist Robin Sherbourne said the new figures reflected a "very tough year" for local uranium industry. He said the lower production was probably due to Rössing Uranium working its way through lower grades of uranium.
The World Nuclear Association said eight companies delivered 85 per cent of global uranium production last year. Included in these are Rio Tinto, majority shareholder of Rössing Uranium, and Paladin Energy, owner of Langer Heinrich. Rio Tinto produced eight per cent of total global output, while Paladin contributed four per cent.
Rössing was the eighth largest uranium producing mine in the world with an output of 1 822 tonnes in 2011. Langer Heinrich, with 1 419 tonnes, was the 13th biggest uranium mine in the world.
Of the nine new major uranium mines the World Nuclear Association expects to come on line within the next few years, four are from Namibia. They are Husab (2014), Valencia and Omahola (both in 2015), and Trekkopje (2017).
Namibia, with 284 000 tonnes, has the sixth biggest known recoverable uranium resources in the world, the association said. This represents five per cent of the world's total known recoverable uranium resources.