Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has approved an extension of the operating pit at its Ranger uranium mine, meaning that mining will now continue to 2012. Studies on a further possible mine extension are under way.
The extension will result in a net addition of 4857 tonnes of contained U3O8 to Ranger's total reserves, bringing the total of stockpiled, proved and probable resources to 51,755 t U3O8. The A$57 million ($50.1 million) extension project will be subject to the normal regulatory process, but approval has been given for preliminary mining to commence. Most of the additional production from the extension is expected to take place in 2011.
ERA has also approved the expenditure of A$10 million ($8.8 million) on a pre-feasibility study to look at options to extend the mine further and to increase production from the processing plant. In 2006, the operating life of the Ranger plant was extended to 2020 due to an improvement in the market price enabling treatment of lower grade ores.
Ranger, located in Australia's Northern Territory, is located in a monsoonal region with a pronounced wet season from December to April. Flooding caused by unexpectedly heavy rainfall in February 2007 forced ERA to suspend mining and ore processing for a short time and to implement mitigation strategies. The company now reports that it expects the pit to be emptied of water by November 2007, and 2008 production to be restored to normal levels, subject to a normal wet season. The force majeure declared at the time of the flooding, temporarily freeing ERA of its obligations to make deliveries on sales contracts, will continue to apply in the first half of 2008 as the backlog of deliveries is cleared.
Ranger was the world's second highest producing uranium mine in 2006, when its output of 4026 tU represented 10% of world production.
Energy Resources of Australia
UIC's paper on Australia's Uranium Mines
WNA's Australia's Uranium and Who Buys It information paper
WNN: ERA mid-year profit despite forecast
WNN: ERA assesses effects of Ranger flooding