The controversial Kayelekera Uranium Mine Project in northern Malawi has delivered a 20 percent increase in its annual production, which is four percent above the March quarter with 789 430 pounds (358 tonnes) produced during the June quarter.
However, this is despite claims by the owners (Paladin Africa, a subsidiary of Australia’s Paladin Energy) that the mine is making big-time loses, according to Greg Walker, General Manager for International Affairs.
Walker said Kayelekera Mine had not been profitable since the start-up of production and its financial situation was worsening with the global decline in the price of the uranium oxide it produces following closure of nuclear power plants in Japan after the Fukushima Tsunami some two years ago.
But according to its Quarterly Activities Report (period ending 30 June 2013), issued on July 16 by Paladin Energy Managing Director, John Borshoff, Kayelekera delivered a record annual production of 1,344 tonnes of uranium oxide for the financial year 2013.
“Kayelekera delivered a record 789,430lb (358t) U3O8 for June quarter, achieving 96 percent of nameplate with an annual production for FY13 [financial year 2013] of 2.963Mlb (1,344t) U3O8, up 20 percent on the previous year,” says Paladin.
The company expects a combined production for 2013/14 to be between 8.3 and 8.7 million pounds.
Paladin combined revenue for the year of $408.4 million was a 14 percent increase on the previous year from sale of 8.2 million pounds (3 745 tonnes), a 23 percent jump over last year, at an average price of $49.48 per pound.
On safety, the miner iner listed on Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and Australian Stock Exchange (ASX),t says the performance improved during the period with no lost time injuries (LTIs) incurred and the 12-month moving average Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate decreased significantly from 1.2 to 0.7.
“For FY13, there were four LTIs compared to seven LTIs for the previous year. During the June quarter, the annual external safety, health and environment NOSA [National Occupational Safety Association] audit at Kayelekera Mine for the period May 2012 to May 2013 was conducted and a 5 Star Platinum result achieved with a higher effort performance (92%) than last year (90%). In addition, Kayelekera also achieved a milestone of 459 LTI free days at period end,” it explains.
Kayerekela also enjoyed strong sales of $107.4 million for the quarter ending June at an average price of $46.22 per pound.
But while this may be laudable, just last week, Paladin chased out of Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre, its former employee who was on sickbed suffering from radiation sickness after getting injured while on duty, claiming it could no longer afford to pay his hospital bills.
The patient, Francis Mkonda, who was admitted to the hospital earlier this year after collapsing while on duty at Kayelekera Mine and had his leg amputated, has since been shifted to a government hospital in Chitipa, his home.
But despite the sweet-sounding story, neighbouring communities of the mine continue to be discontent with the mining project as they benefit nothing from it.
People from Karonga and Chitipa have argued the mining company’s social responsibility was not being felt as it was not injecting any proceeds from its mining activities towards raising the standards and capacity of the surrounding communities.
And a few days ago, Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga asked President Joyce Banda who is currently in the region for official engagements to ensure that mining activities benefit communities.
A recent report on revenue opportunities in Malawi’s mining sector shows that Malawi may lose between US$ 205 million and US$ 281 million over the 13 years of the mining project due to the favourable tax regime agreed between Paladin and the government of the day.