Uranium should be on government agenda, ERA says

12 April 2018

The chairman of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has called on Australian governments to embrace the potential to expand the country's uranium mining industry and be prepared for an expansion in nuclear power generation worldwide.

Uranium ore stockpiles at the Ranger mine site (Image: ERA)

Addressing shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Darwin yesterday, Peter Mansell said that, with a third of the world's total undeveloped uranium reserves, the potential to expand Australian uranium mining was real.

"Australia already has a market for its product," he said. "Currently there are 25 bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements covering 43 countries to export our uranium oxide; Australia should be looking to capitalise on the eventual rebound in demand for uranium oxide and be prepared for an expansion in the nuclear power generating industry, especially in developing countries."

ERA, which is majority owned by Rio Tinto, operates the Ranger uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory. The mine produced its first uranium oxide in 1981. Open cut mining in Pit 3 ended in December 2012, since when processing has continued using stockpiled ore. Ranger produced 2294 t U3O8 in 2017, with production guidance for 2018 of 1600-2000 tU3O8 from existing ore stockpiles.

The company is progressively rehabilitating the site, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park, in a project set to continue to 2026 at an estimated total cost of around a billion dollars. Mansell said completion of rehabilitation work to the highest standards is critical to retaining trust and respect from stakeholders, giving rise to future opportunities for ERA and for the industry as a whole.

"Often forgotten, is the need for us to make sure that the buyers of our uranium oxide are able, in the face of resistance to nuclear power, to talk proudly about the responsible mining (and mine site rehabilitation) of their suppliers in Australia. As much as good rehabilitation gives us a licence to operate, so too does the nuclear power industry need to be able to talk about its licence to operate - and our behaviour, as their suppliers, is key to their message," he said.

As well as the Ranger stockpiles, ERA's principal assets include the Ranger 3 Deeps resource and the Jabiluka mineral lease. The company announced in 2015 that the Ranger 3 Deeps project would not progress to a final feasibility study because of market conditions and economics.

"Given the market has seen little improvement since that time, the Ranger 3 Deeps decline and associated infrastructure has remained under care and maintenance," CEO Paul Arnold said, adding that the Ranger 3 Deeps mineral resource, based on an updated resource model, equates to 43,858 t U3O8.

The Jabiluka lease remains under long-term care and maintenance in accordance with an agreement with the land's Traditional Owners. Jabiluka's JORC-compliant mineral resources are 137,107 t U3O8 at a cut-off grade of 0.2% U3O8.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News