Aura seeks compensation for Swedish uranium ban

11 November 2019

Australia's Aura Energy has lodged a claim against the Swedish government for compensation for the financial loss resulting from a ban on uranium exploration and mining, introduced in August 2018. The company had planned to extract uranium as a by-product from its 100%-owned Häggån polymetallic project in Sweden.

The Häggån deposit, pictured in October 2013 (Image: Aura Energy)

Aura announced on 8 November that it had notified Sweden in writing of its claim under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT). This treaty is a multilateral legal framework promoting cross-border cooperation in the energy sector, comprising 54 signatories and presupposes that signatories respect fundamental legal principles. Aura says the ECT - of which Australia and Sweden are both signatories - provides "a level playing field of rules to be observed by all participating governments, thereby mitigating risks associated with energy-related investment and trade".

Aura says it has requested an "amicable settlement" from Sweden. Under the ECT, negotiations between Aura and the Swedish government will end within three months.

Häggån, previously known as Storsjon, forms part of a large uranium field in central Sweden. Figures released in mid-2012 estimated resources of 800 million pounds U3O8 (307,718 tU) at Häggån, making the Swedish project the second largest undeveloped uranium resource in the world, Aura says. The uranium occurs with molybdenum, vanadium and zinc in black shales, and Aura has reported yields of up to 85% uranium from bioheap leaching tests.

In February 2013, Aura announced it had accepted Areva Mines as strategic partner in the project and had entered a binding cooperation agreement, but Areva later pulled out of this.

However, on 16 May 2018, the Swedish parliament passed an amendment to the Environmental Code banning uranium exploration and mining in the country. As from 1 August that year, no permits for uranium exploration or mining will be issued for any such applications submitted from that date.

Older regulations still apply to applications granted before 1 August 2018, as stated by the transitional provisions. Cases of exploration permits or the renewal of exploration permits initiated by the Chief Mining Inspector before 1 August 2018 are also subject to older regulations in accordance to the transitional provisions.

"In line with Aura's internal innovation stance the company had commenced transitioning Häggån to development and production of a broader metal suite," Aura said in its 2018 Annual Report, published in September last year. "With metal price changes it soon emerged that Häggån's greatest value lay in its vanadium content."

Aura earlier this year completed a revised scoping study for the Häggån project focusing on the potential for a major vanadium project, with no uranium extraction.

There is currently no uranium mining in Sweden. The country has eight nuclear power reactors providing about 40% of its electricity. Sweden imports most of its nuclear fuel, including all enrichment services.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News