AIM-listed AfriTin Mining plans to revive the once operational Uis tin mine in Namibia – once one of the largest tin mines in the world, which still holds the potential to re-establish its status once in full-scale operation.

The company has most recently undertaken a detailed mine design for the project with hopes to be in production in Q4, 2018, whilst simultaneously advancing its larger project portfolio and locating potential targets for development in the future, says CEO Anthony Viljoen.

AUTHOR: Sascha-Lee Solomons, content editor at Mining Review Africa

The Uis tin project consists of three areas in the Erongo region of Namibia, all with historical production.

The subject of the project is a pegmatite hosted tin deposit, one of the largest open cast deposits of its kind.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 6 2018

The project areas are fully permitted  to commence full scale mining and offer near-term production with low stripping ratios. Uis has a non-JORC compliant resource of 73 Mt at 0.136% tin with an additional 2.7 Mt at 0.015% tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5).

The Uis tin project is a part of AfriTin Mining’s profile following a de-merger from the highly successful Bushveld Minerals whereby AfriTin acquired its tin assets.

“It was formerly the largest hard-rock tin mine in the world and the historical resources places it as one of the top ten tin mines globally. The historic pits still contain a significant amount of resource in the region as recorded during a large scale mapping programme,” notes Viljoen.

Strategy behind the mine design

Viljoen explains that following the completion of a mapping programme and construction of a 3D geological model, the company has undertaken a mine design for the V1 and V2 pegmatite bodies, previously identified as priority targets to supply feed to the new intermediary processing plant (which is approximately half the size of Iscor’s plant).

Uis was discovered in 1911 and was developed by Iscor of South Africa as the largest hard-rock tin mine in the world. Production started in the 1950s and ended in 1990 as a result of depressed tin prices.

The mine design includes an initial five-year mine production schedule to commence operations on the outcropping pegmatite bodies and existing excavations of the historical V1/V2 pits.

Viljoen points out that this internal mine plan supports an overburden stripping ratio of less than one and a fast ramp-up profile utilising conventional open pit mining methods.

“Conventional opencast mining methods will be adopted with 10 m high mining benches where loading and hauling will be carried out with a fleet of shovels/excavators and dump trucks. Historic excavations display competent pit slope conditions and no groundwater issues,” he comments.

He adds that initial mining will be focused on exposed ore zones within the old mining footprint as well as virgin pegmatite outcrops to keep waste stripping to a minimum.

In addition, Viljoen mentions that the ROM feed to the plant for this phase of development is planned at 500 000 tpa with an anticipated annual production of 800 t of saleable tin concentrate.

The target for the following phase remains 5 000 t of tin concentrate per annum.

Mining in Namibia

Viljoen mentions that Namibia is a transparent country and one of the more favourable investment destinations in Africa, with a long history of mining activities.

He explains that according to the Chamber of Mines’ annual report, Namibia’s mining sector is characteristic of sizeable growth potential as it has continued to perform comparatively well.

“The country finds itself in a unique position in which mining is beginning to reap the fruits of prior investments.”

“Namibia is a stable investment jurisdiction and particularly complementary when it comes to mining and exploration. Since mining is the biggest contributor to the country’s economy, there is a strong emphasis on expanding the sector and encouragement of foreign investment,” he highlights.

He adds that the friendly, committed, hard-working Namibians make the mining process seamless and conflict-free.

Community outreach

“Our engagement with the community is focused on establishing relationships as well as building understanding and trust,” says Viljoen.

He explains that since closure of the mine by Iscor, the town was left derelict and many are still seeking the reintroduction of sustainable economic activities in the region.

“For this reason, there is overwhelming excitement around the prospect of the reopening of the mine and the benefits that will flow to the community when this happens. We hope to re-develop the locals’ skills and create lasting sustainable benefits for the community,” he comments.

Other projects

Viljoen highlights that the company is also currently working on the Mokopane tin project in South Africa, situated approximately 65 km west of Polokwane and 45 km north-northwest of Mokopane in the Mokopane District, Limpopo Province.

Targets have been identified on farms and exploration has been conducted on two targets, Groenfontein and Zaaiplats with 18 447 t contained tin identified which were also historic operations of significance, with Zaaiplaats mine being the second largest Tin mine in South Africa, before tin mining ceased in the country.

“A scoping study was completed and the results released in 2014 with base case ROM of 691 000 tpa to produce ~700 tpa of 99.5% pure tin metal which yields positive economics with a significant IRR of 34.6%,” he explains.

He adds that the project presents low quartile operating costs at US$14.276/t of tin metal based on a spot price of $21 300/t as of 24 September 2014. Greenhills holds a 74% interest in the project, with the remaining 26% held by local black economic empowerment partners.

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