Companies agree on Spanish uranium projects

24 July 2012

Disputes over a venture to revive uranium mining in Spain have been resolved with an agreement that sees Berkeley Resources waive its rights to mine in reserves where Enusa has already begun rehabilitation. In exchange, Berkeley will hold full exploitation rights in other reserves.

Australia-based Berkeley and Spanish state-owned Enusa had been working together to revive uranium production at Spanish deposits using an existing mill at Quercus under a cooperation agreement signed in 2009. The agreement provided for Berkeley to acquire an interest of up to 90% in Enusa's state reserves, including the Quercus mill. In January 2011 Berkeley announced its plans to go ahead with mining at the reserves, but Enusa's subsequent failure to incorporate the necessary joint venture company led Berkeley to initiate proceedings against Enusa with the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce.

The new agreement signed by the two companies on 23 July sees Berkeley take a 100% interest in state reserves 28 and 29, also referred to as the Addendum Reserves, which include the unmined Alameda deposit, the Villar deposit and additional prospects. According to Berkeley, total resources for the Addendum Reserves are currently estimated at 30.6 million pounds of contained U3O8 (11,770 tU) at an average grade of 465 ppm. Although Enusa remains the owner of the reserves, all exploitation rights have now been assigned to Berkeley. This makes the Australian company the sole and exclusive operator in those reserves with the right to exploit the contained uranium resources and have full ownership of any uranium produced. Enusa will receive a production fee equivalent to 2.5% of the net sale value of the uranium (after marketing and transport costs).

At the same time, Berkeley is waiving its rights to mine in various state reserves where Enusa has undertaken rehabilitation, and has also waived any rights to the management of the mothballed Quercus processing plant. With combined resources estimated at 21.9 million pounds U3O8 (8424 tU), Berkeley's previous 90% interest in these reserves equated to 19.7 million pounds U3O8 (7578 tU). The 2009 cooperation agreement between Berkeley and Enusa has now been terminated.

In a statement, Berkeley noted that the outcomes had "successfully resolved long standing difficulties" including the termination of the arbitration proceeding. The company says it will now focus on integrating the evaluation and development of the Alameda and Villar deposits into its 100%-owned Salamanca 1 project.

Enusa issued a statement welcoming the signing of the new agreement, enabling the Spanish company to continue with the process of dismantling its facilities and properties without interfering with Berkeley's development projects.

Low uranium prices led to the cessation of uranium mining in Spain in 2000, and today Spain imports some 1600 tU per year for use in its nuclear power plants. Enusa operates the Juzbado nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Salamanca, which produces fuel elements for Spain's reactors and also supplies other customers in Europe.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News