Bannerman Resources (ASX: BMN) has reported success with a membrane process at its Etango uranium project in Namibia that both removes iron from the finished uranium product and recovers 80% of the sulphuric acid used.
Specifications for uranium oxide have very low tolerances for iron and Bannerman has found that more than 99% of that impurity can be removed using a weak acid solution.
In 2017, the company tested the potential of nano-filtration in combination with an ion-exchange recovery circuit. The results of that were positive.
Late last year, the Etango heap leach demonstration plant was recommissioned to investigate the preferred process for removing iron and the preferred type of membrane units for the filtration process.
Bannerman has concluded that prior to the ion-exchange process, the resin should be rinsed with a weak acid solution.
Not only does that remove 99% of the iron, that iron can be re-used in the leaching circuit, reducing reagent costs.
Costs reduced, strong balance sheet
The uranium company has also implemented cuts in management and director pay from 1 April.
Salaries and board fees will be reduced between 20% and 50% in cash terms, with travel and other costs suspended.
As at 31 March, Bannerman had a cash balance of $4.6 million and no debt.
Chief executive officer Brandon Munro said that as well as a strong cash balance, the company had a low cash burn and an advanced, permitted project. In the second half of 2019, Bannerman spent $1 million.
“Bannerman is ideally positioned to withstand the current global market uncertainties yet react positively to improvements in the uranium market as COVID-19 uranium supply disruption continues or expands,” he said.
Virus not disrupting project work
Namibia implemented an initial 21-day lockdown in the Erongo region, in which the Etango project is located.
But this is not expected to disrupt Bannerman business or the project.
Test work is complete, and the heap leach demonstration plant has been decommissioned. Upcoming project work will be desktop-based.
The 2012 definitive feasibility study identified a project processing 20 million tonnes per annum with an average yearly output of 7.2 million pounds (Mlbs) of uranium oxide over a 16-year mine life.
Bannerman said that, to date, there is no evidence of community transmission of COVID-19 in Namibia.
COVID-19 continues to disrupt uranium output
The Rossing and Husab uranium mines in Namibia are allowed to maintain only minimal mining operations and critical maintenance work during the lockdown.
In addition to the recent shuttering of the world’s largest uranium mine, Cigar Lake in Saskatchewan by Cameco, this week the world’s largest uranium producer, Kazatompron in Kazahkstan, announced its operations would disrupted be for three months.
This would reduce Kazakhstan’s 2020 production by 10.4Mlbs of uranium.