Major discussions and new discoveries in the Australian uranium industry

first_imgThe historic political fear in Australia of the uranium industry is no longer justifiable according to the sector’s peak industry lobby and in fact public sentiment is more embracing now than ever. Addressing the Paydirt 2013 Uranium Conference in Adelaide yesterday, the Australian Uranium Association’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael Angwin, also warned that domestic uranium production policies had to be aligned with international trade and diplomatic imperatives. That was just one of the many interesting papers yesterday, including Deep Yellow’s (Inca deposit shown here) Managing Director Greg Cochran, on uranium pricing. “There is no point signing international treaties if in fact domestic uranium policies hamper Australia actually fulfilling its treaty obligations,” Angwin said. “And while we need to align these policies, we should use that impetus to also reform the overweight regulation of and the approvals process for new uranium mines in Australia.”Angwin told delegates Australians no longer feared uranium, the sector operated in a best practice regulatory framework, it had proven its ability to go through and satisfy the most rigorous environmental assessments and had a best practice operational record. “Australian opinion on uranium mining shows a halving in opposition to it  in the past six years with only a small impact from Fukushima but new support coming from the realisation of its jobs, export, and clean energy credentials.“In that time we have also seen the Federal Government say “yes” four times for uranium projects – the Beverley expansion, Four Mile, the Olympic Dam expansion and Toro’s new Wiluna mine in Western Australia – so that is telling in how uranium has met and is meeting rigours politically backed environmental assessment.‘Thirty years of monitoring at Roxby Downs and the Olympic Dam village has also demonstrated convincingly that fears of excessive radiation are not borne out by credible data now which shows effective radiation doses to the public at those two sites are below detection limits for all of those two decades.”Angwin also put paid to public misperceptions re radiation incidents – pointing out that over 2009, 2010 and 2011, there had not been a singular reportable radiation incident at any Australian uranium mine yet there had been more than 100 such incidents each year in the areas of diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. Statistically, more than 11,000 containers of uranium concentrate have been transported in Australia with no incidents affecting public health. Angwin said the biggest political impediment remained the extraordinary measures required by government in assessing uranium projects.“We have a track record now in the Australian uranium industry which justifies uranium being treated the same as other mining projects. There is a case for better ports access, a removal of duplication between State and Federal Governments in the assessment processes and some reform is needed for the EPBC act. In short, we have entered the political end-game for uranium and any remnant political fears about the industry cannot be justified against the sector’s 40 year track record.”The market fundamentals for uranium are strengthening on every measure and the question of a recovery in its price is a matter of when, not if, according to one of Australia’s more advanced uranium developers, Deep Yellow. Cochran, said the market landscape for uranium demand globally was strong, despite the sceptics. “This strong demand is being underpinned by nuclear energy growth in China, Russia, India and Korea but is also being fuelled by the entry of the Middle East into the baseload energy mix with new reactors in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.“And none of the sustained demand from existing players in the US, France and the UK, is going away any time soon and by year’s end, we will see restarts of some of the Japanese reactors closed down during the tsunami recovery period.“That leaves a market that is facing constraints primarily from projects deferred through inadequate incentive prices and capital scarcity; those projects which have failed as uranium mines can be very technically challenging; some operational issues and tighter margins for existing producers; and by the end this year, the reduction of secondary supply sources from the military arsenals of former soviet states.“As a result, there are considerable positive implications for the global uranium market from these constraints – principally that the supply demand gap will grow rapidly post 2014 and that strategic players will continue to acquire projects and companies at equity premiums.”Cochran said energy utilities would also be looking to secure long-term supply in this more heated environment and that would drive the long term uranium price recovery as a matter of when, not if.Deep Yellow – whose major 19.5% shareholder is Paladin Energy, is progressing the 45 Mlb U3O8 Omahola project – one of the last independently held, high-grade deposits in Namibia – with a current focus on uplifting the resource to a “critical mass” 50 Mlb U3O8 to underpin a prefeasibility study.“It remains our objective to get Omahola in production in 2016 producing at a throughput rate of at least 2.2 Mlb/y or slightly higher assuming a conventional heap leaching process.”The timetable for Omahola aims for completion of the PFS in 2014, the definitive feasibility study in 2015 ahead of maiden production startup in 2016.South Australia’s Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis also had some interesting comments. “Having just returned from a week-long visit to China I think it is pertinent that I today brief you on where I see global demand going.“After a tough year for the uranium industry, this conference is timely with renewed activity in uranium mining across the country.“I don’t think there is anyone in this room that does not believe that in 20 years’ time most developed countries will have some form of price and carbon or pollution. As such there’s no doubt this century we can expect to see a range of exciting new renewable energy supplies in the mix that include solar, tidal and geothermal energy.“Nonetheless, nuclear energy will continue to play an important part in global energy generation.”The discovery of a significant uranium deposit in a worldclass South Australian mining province has the potential to further boost the State’s standing on the world mining and resources stage, according to a leading Adelaide-based explorer. Core Exploration Managing Director, Stephen Biggins, said results to date from the company’s Fitton uranium discovery – 500 km north of Adelaide – were outstanding. Core’s 100%-owned Fitton uranium discovery on Exploration Licence area 4569 is located in a proven uranium mining region, just 25 km north of Heathgate’s Beverley uranium mine.“The spectacular high grade uranium results from the maiden drill program at Fitton represent one of the best uranium discoveries in the region since the Beverley Four Mile find in 2005,” Biggins told delegates at the Adelaide Convention Centre. “Key intersections of high grade uranium included 5 m @ 0.25% U3O8 within broad zones of mineralisation (14 m @ 0.10% U3O8) and mineralisation is open at depth and along strike in both directions,” he said.“We have also recently completed a new 2,000 m RC (reverse circulation) drilling program earlier this month to follow up the initial high grade Fitton results, including ascertaining the extent of mineralisation along strike and at depth. Assay results from this new RC drilling program are expected to be received early in May.“Results from the first round drilling in 2012 showed a good correlation between high counts per second (cps) readings and high uranium assay grades. Therefore, the company is buoyed by the high cps readings from the current drilling and the potential for further high grade uranium intersections.”Core’s exploration work and follow-up drilling at Scott Lee prospect has confirmed that uranium mineralisation outcrops at surface and now been drilled to below 150 m depth. The Scott Lee structure controlling mineralisation has been drilled over 1 km of strike and is open in both directions.Also in South Australia, Alliance Resources is seeking special leave to appeal in the High Court over its Four Mile uranium project.last_img