Uranium projects seek environmental approval

06 October 2014

Uranium projects in Australia and Canada have moved a step nearer to production by submitting environmental impact statements (EIS) for regulatory approval. Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has lodged a draft EIS for the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine, while Areva Resources Canada has submitted a final EIS for its Kiggavik project.  

ERA described the draft EIS, lodged with both the Northern Territory Environmental Protection Agency and the Australian Department of the Environment as an important milestone in the project to develop an underground mine at the mineral resource in Australia's Northern Territory. Mining would take place between 200 and 500 m below ground. The company is seeking environmental approval of an underground mine that would operate for about five years and is targeting first production in 2015.

Ranger 3 Deeps is an extension of the Ranger 3 orebody in Australia's Northern Territory. ERA launched a prefeasibility study to determine the viability of an underground uranium mine at Ranger 3 Deeps in July 2012, and has been carrying out an extensive underground drilling program to delineate the extent of the resource. Recent results published in September estimate the resource model to contain the equivalent of 34,761 t U3O8 (29,477 tU). The company expects to complete final mineral resource estimates by the end of the year. The prefeasibility study is also scheduled for completion then.

ERA finished open cut mining at Ranger at the end of 2012 after more than 30 years of operations, and has since been processing stockpiled ore. The planned underground project at Ranger 3 Deeps has a significantly smaller footprint than Ranger's previous open cut mines.

Government ministers, stakeholders and members of the public have until 13 December to submit their comments on the proposed project.

Areva Resources Canada has submitted the final EIS for its proposed Kiggavik project to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the environmental regulator for Nunavut, Canada's northernmost territory.

The FEIS is the culmination of more than six years of engineering, environmental and public engagement, and Areva says it has sought input from both the community and the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit - a set of guiding principles based on Inuit traditional knowledge - to refine the project design and environmental assessment.

The proposed mining and milling operation would take about four years to construct and operate for around 14 years. Four uranium deposits would be mined using open pits, with one deposit mined using underground methods, with a dock site at Baker Lake, 80 km from the project, used to supply the mill with reagents, fuel and other supplies. Based on estimated resources of 130 million pounds U3O8 (50,000 tU), an operating life of 14 years is envisaged.

The proposed operation would be co-owned by Areva (62.8%), JCU Canada Exploration (33.5%) and Daewoo Corporation (1.7%), and operated by Areva. In a statement on its dedicated Kiggavik project web site, Areva Resources Canada said that "uranium market conditions do not currently favour a construction decision," but noted that completing the environmental assessment would allow the project to move forwards quickly "when the market improves as expected."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News