Australia must open new uranium mines if the country is to maintain its position as one of the world's leading suppliers, resources minister Gary Gray has warned. National and state governments must work with industry to make this happen.
Speaking at the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy's (AusIMM's) International Uranium Conference in Darwin, Gray noted that uranium has hit its lowest spot price in five years following the Fukushima accident in Japan. However, "the two fundamental drivers of nuclear power - namely energy demand from growing populations and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - remain unchanged." Gray said, "The demand for uranium worldwide will continue to grow and so should our production."
"We need industry to commit to further development of new projects to ensure that our uranium production meets global demand, particularly as demand for uranium is likely to surpass current supply," he said. Gray called for the national and state governments to work together "to ensure that mining, processing, commercial and regulatory actions represent best practice and encourage the growth of the uranium industry."
The minister noted that Australian production of uranium oxide is forecast to increase by an average 17% per year, reaching nearly 21,000 tonnes in 2019-20, "subject to market dynamics and demand." However, he stressed, "There still remain challenges. We need new mines."
"The future looks positive for the uranium industry, and it is important that the industry now builds on its solid foundation to maximise the opportunities available," Gray suggested. "Investment by industry now in areas such as radiation skills training will pay dividends in years to come. Parliaments and governments know that effective engagement with the uranium industry is vital for industry expansion."
Gray's call for more Australian uranium mines came as a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the states of New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia to support mineral exploration and mining. The MoU, which will focus on the border regions between the two states, was announced by their respective resource ministers, Chris Hartcher and Tom Koutsantonis, at the AusIMM conference.
Hartcher commented, "Far-western NSW contains mineral-rich areas with proven potential for iron, base metals and mineral sands, and strong potential for uranium deposits. Both states have much to gain from an MoU which will encourage cooperation between agencies in respect of infrastructure access and development, policies on best practice regulation and planning processes," he said.
Koutsantonis added, "We don't want a state border to become an impediment to developing an asset. This MoU aims to eliminate cross-border obstacles so that we can ensure both states reach the full potential offered by our mineral endowment."
Uranium exploration and mining is currently permitted in South Australia, while uranium exploration alone is permitted in New South Wales but mining is banned.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News