Rio Tinto to reduce workforce by 23% at Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia

9 June 2014 (Last Updated June 9th, 2014 18:30)

Rio Tinto Group is preparing to cut 265 jobs at its Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia, due to a fall in demand for uranium following Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011.

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Rio Tinto Group is preparing to cut 265 jobs at its Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia, due to a fall in demand for uranium following Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011.

Uranium is mainly used to fuel nuclear power plants and Namibia is the largest uranium producer after Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.

Rossing's affected jobs represent 23% of the total 1,168 positions at the mine.

Rossing Uranium managing director Werner Duvenhage was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that production will fall to slightly less than 2,000t this year, from 2,409t in 2013.

"We have to keep company operating to avoid care and maintenance or complete closure," Duvenhage said.

"We have to undertake these measures to reposition the operation for the future as we still believe strongly in the future of uranium."

The company plans to reduce its seven-days a week operating cycle to five days to cut costs, while producing enough uranium to meet its long-term sales contracts.

Duvenhage said the cost-reduction measures will save as much as NAD1bn ($94m).

Meanwhile, Rossing plans to increase its production after 2017, and return to full output in 2018 and 2019.

Duvenhage said: "We have to undertake these measures to reposition the operation for the future as we still believe strongly in the future of uranium."

The Fukushima disaster caused Rossing Uranium to lose 276 jobs in 2012, due to weak uranium prices.


Image: The pit of the Rössing mine, near Swakopmund. Photo: courtesy of Ikiwaner.

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