With no major weather events to disrupt production, first quarter output at Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA's) Ranger mine was up on the previous year. But the company expects uranium production to be reduced in the second quarter as stockpiled lower grade ore is milled.
According to the company's just-released review of operations, uranium production for the first quarter of the year was 1327 tonnes U3O8, 32% higher than in the same period the previous year but 15% lower than the previous quarter. This is a function of mine scheduling and ore body characteristics, the company says. Water levels in the pit mean currently mean there is restricted access to higher grade ores, but as the rainy season draws to a close such ores will once again be accessible. In the meantime, stockpiled ore will be processed, but the low grade of this stock means second quarter output will be reduced, ERA warned.
2007 production at the Northern Territory mine was hit by flooding when exceptionally heavy rains fell in the region early in the year. The company declared force majeure on its uranium orders, temporarily freeing it of the obligation to make deliveries, but this was lifted in January 2008 after the backlog of delivery commitments under long-term contracts had been met. ERA says it will be able to meet 2008 delivery commitments.
In 2007 ERA approved an extension to the operating pit at Ranger, enabling mining to continue until at least 2012. The company reports that it spent A$3.8 million ($3.5 million) in the first quarter of the year on its ongoing exploration and evaluation programme to look at options to further extend operations.