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50MVA set to boost uranium production in Namibia to second largest in the world

Mining operations at Swakop Uranium’s Husab project, earmarked to be the world’s second largest uranium mine once in full production, commenced in the first quarter of 2014. Electricity from the NamPower grid was connected on 3 February through a 17MVA mobile substation. The Husab mine site will have up to 50MVA by year end through a permanent substation.

The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) approved the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Husab mine in January 2011. This was followed by the approval in July 2011 for linear infrastructure that included site access roads, electricity, water supply and telecommunications.

Rented diesel generators were used for the first year of the project, after which temporary supply from NamPower was connected in February. The capacity of 17MVA provides sufficient power to operate the electrically-powered shovels and drills as well as construction power needs. At around month 30 of the project, NamPower will provide permanent power at 220kV.

The Zest WEG Group’s EnI Electrical, an electrical construction company, will construct the 33kV overhead power lines and install and commission all the MV and HV switchgear for Swakop Uranium’s Husab project in Namibia. The professional team includes international engineering and project management companies AMEC and Tenova Bateman. “As the Zest WEG Group we are able to make projects work and blend our expertise to provide total solutions for our clients,” Trevor Naude, EnI Electrical, Managing Director, says.

“We will construct 33kV overhead power lines and install and commission all MV and HV switchgear. Our scope of work also encompasses installation of the free issue MV transformers and the installation and commissioning of all distribution transformers, in addition to all the related cabling and racking work.”

The one year contract commenced in August 2014 and is scheduled for completion in August 2015. The transformers have been supplied by group company Zest Energy, while EnI Electrical will install, integrate and commission them. “Strategically we are positioning ourselves as the electrical infrastructure construction company of the Zest WEG Group, specifically focusing on overhead lines and wooden pole construction up to 66kV, designed and built to the highest standards,” Naude says.

“When I joined EnI Electrical we were solely an electrical and instrumentation control company. We have now taken this business to a whole new level whereby we can cater for the HV portion of a project up to 275kV. That experience resides in Zest Energy and is one of the reasons why the Zest WEG Group is so successful at providing total solutions to meet a variety of customer requirements.”

Naude adds: “This is an acquisition market. Many companies are being acquired, whereupon they boast that they are now integrated and working together, but this is rarely the case. On the other hand we have proven that our group philosophy and culture in the Zest WEG Group lends itself to such synergised solutions and value addition.” The Husab contract award represents the growing importance of the African mining industry as key local manufacturers and suppliers such as the Zest WEG Group venture further afield on the continent.

“The prevailing economic climate in South Africa almost means it is a no brainer to want to work in Africa. However, it is the combination of our flexibility with our experience and knowledge base that has allowed us to increase our percentage of Africa revenue over the traditional South African base. The entry barrier in Africa is massive overall. The companies that start afresh either over price work and thus do not get the orders, or they under-price work and then burn their fingers. The Zest WEG Group has managed to identify and mitigate these two extremes due to our experience of working in Africa,” Naude comments.

About 90% of the world’s production of uranium from mines is from the ‘big five’, namely Kazakhstan (21 317 tonnes in 2012), Canada (8 999 tonnes), Australia (6 991 tonnes), Niger (4 667 tonnes) and Namibia (4 495 tonnes). When Swakop Uranium’s Husab mine is in full operation, it will increase Namibia’s production to almost 12 000 tonnes, thereby elevating Nambia to the second rung on the world ladder of uranium producers (assuming Canada and Australia’s production remains the same).

Photo: EnI Electrical – electrical infrastructure construction company of the Zest WEG Group

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.