MAC: Mines and Communities

Uranium ban dropped in Western Australia

Published by MAC on 2008-09-22
Source: Northern Miner

Uranium explorers in Western Australia can move ahead with certainty now that a ban on uranium mining will be lifted by the newly elected conservative government.

The new WA premier, Colin Barnett of the Liberal Party, plans to use about 25% of the royalties from mining uranium on rural infrastructure development projects - a demand made by the National Party. The Liberal and National parties formed an alliance to beat out the Labor Party, resulting in the first non-Labor government to win power in any of the eight states in the past decade.

Australia holds 23% of the world's known uranium resources with 1.24 million tonnes of uranium oxide, but there are only three operating mines due to the ban. Kazakhstan is next on the list for resources with 817,000 tonnes, according to the World Nuclear Association. Canada is No. 5 with 423,000 tonnes.

It's estimated that WA holds 7-10% of the country's uranium and that with its reserves it could supply about 36% of the world demand, up from the current 23%.

The ban hasn't stopped juniors from developing projects. There are several sizable deposits in WA such as BHP Billiton's 115-million-lb. Yeelirrie project, which the company estimates could support a 22-year mine life with annual production of 5.5 million lbs. per year over the first 12 years.

Energy & Minerals Australia's Mulga Rocks deposit, 250 km northeast of Kalgoorlie, has a historic resource of 102 million lbs. The company is drilling so it can compile an official resource estimate.

In August, Cameco finalized its acquisition for a 70% interest in the Kintyre project in WA for US$346.5 million from Rio Tinto. The remaining 30% is held by Mitsubishi Development Pty . The project is located 1,250 km northeast of Perth and Cameco estimates it has the potential to hold resources of 62-80 million lbs. uranium oxide.

Mega Uranium's Lake Maitland project in the Eastern Goldfields region, 108 km southeast of Wiluna has a 23.7 million-lb. resource that is located only 1-2 metres from surface. Mega says it's on schedule to put an open pit mine and mill in operation by 2011 with an initial production capacity of 1.65 million lbs. uranium oxide per year.

Paladin Energy., which operates the Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Nambia, holds the Manyingee and Oobagooma projects in WA; both insitu leach projects that are on hold at the moment.

Manyingee, located in West Pilbara, 85 km inland from the coastal township of Onslow, has a measured and indicated resource of 17.8 million lbs. uranium oxide and an inferred resource of 6.2 million lbs. A 3-year feasibility study is needed before production.

Oobagooma, 75 km northeast of Derby in the Kimberly region, has a historical resource of 21.9 million lbs (not compliant with National Instrument 43-101).


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