Uranium mining could return to Spain. Mawson Resources of Canada has submitted two applications to explore for uranium in the La Haba district of Extremadura in southwestern Spain.
Spain currently has no front-end nuclear fuel cycle facilities: operationof the Saelices el Chico (Salamanca) uranium mine ended in 2000, anda previous operation at La Haba was shut down in 1990. There are no uranium conversion or uranium enrichment plants.
The La Haba project includes the historic open pit uranium mine and existing resources, which are overlain by a 3865 ha State Reserve to which Mawson presently has no entitlement. The company has entered discussions with the authorities to have the State Reserve lifted.
Previous exploration of the application area was undertakenexclusively by government agencies in the 1960s, by Junta EnergíaNuclear (JEN), followed by more extensive exploration and productionfrom 1980 to 1990 by Empresa Nacional del Uranio S.A. (ENUSA).
Mawson expects the applications, covering 17,837 ha in La Haba, Corredor de la Guarda andLas Cruces-Manantial, to beapproved soon for an initial period of three years. They cover a 35 km trend to the east and west of the already-mined area following the contact of the granitic pluton which controls uranium mineralization and the 300 m wide black shale unit that is host to mineralization at La Haba. The Corredor de la Guarda and Las Cruces-Manantial projects lie with the applications, in a similar geological setting to La Haba.
Mined and in-situ resources at La Haba total 9.4 million pounds ofU3O8 (3616 tU), 2.7 million pounds (1038 tU) of which have beenextracted during two periods of activity.
From the 1960s to 1975, 1.7million pounds of U3O8 (654 tU) were extracted at a grade of 0.12% U3O8from the El Lobo and El Pedrigal open pits. From 1980 to 1990, 1.0million pounds (385 tU) at a grade of 0.13% U3O8 were extracted fromthe El Pedrigal-Intermedia-Maria Lozano open pits. From 1983 to 1990, aprocessing plant at the site produced uranium oxide. The open pitfacility ceased operation in March in 1990 due to an increasing stripratio and the low uranium price at the time and was subsequentlyrehabilitated.
Significant unmined historic resources remain within the La HabaState Reserve (to which Mawson presently has no entitlement), including:
- 6.0 million pounds at 0.06% U3O8 at a 200 ppm lower cut off
- 3.0 million pounds at 0.1% U3O8 at a 600 ppm lower cut off
The quoted resources are based on the PhD Thesis, "Petrology andGeochemistry of the Uranium Deposits of South East Badajoz" by JavierAlmarza López of the University of Seville, dated March 1996.
WNA's Nuclear Power in Spain information paper