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Uranium mines blocked

Friday, 18th November, 2011

ALL GO IN SA: The Beverley Uranium Mine in South Australia. ALL GO IN SA: The Beverley Uranium Mine in South Australia.

By Paula Doran

 The NSW Government will not rethink its ban on uranium mining in the near future.

Despite the Federal Government’s u-turn on the sale of uranium to India, a State Government source confirmed this week that it would uphold its ban, meaning any potential resources surrounding Broken Hill would remain untapped.

Speculation has abounded this year on the State Government’s ban on mining and exploration of uranium, following a call by Federal Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, for Victoria and NSW to rethink their position.

Local mining experts say there could be an abundance of uranium deposits in the Callabonna sub-basin, stretching across from the Honeymoon uranium mine on the SA border.

A spokesman for the Australian Uranium Association told the BDT that it was long suspected that the geological structures which would now supply the Honeymoon mine stretched across the SA border to the north of Broken Hill.  

“These deposits don’t just stop at the border,” he said.  

“But with the current ban on uranium mining in NSW we lack the evidence to support this theory.”

The source said uranium was being surveyed for by mining companies from the Flinders Ranges, where deposits were known to be extensive, right across to the border.  

“These deposits are not on the same scale as what we’re seeing in the Northern Territory, for example, but they are significant.

“Uranium is always a difficult challenge for politicians, and that’s politicians of all persuasions. They tend to respond to public concerns, rather than looking at the facts.

“Australia undoubtedly has the world’s largest resource, but we are by no means the largest producer.”

Despite Broken Hill geologists supporting the uranium potential of the region, the source said he did not anticipate any change on the NSW political agenda for some time.  

This comes as predictions for global demand on uranium, from developing nations like India and China, is being touted as expanding exponentially in the next decade.

“These countries look at nuclear energy as a reliable, low cost, low carbon producer of electricity and an alternative to coal. The need for our uranium is there and unless something changes, there is going to be a real market shortage in the future.”

Meanwhile Uranium One, the company ramping up production at its Honeymoon mine, 75 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, said while they did not have any tenements in NSW, they would look at the opportunities should the political climate change.

Kuzma Otto, Senior Vice President of Australian projects for Uranium One, said the company had explored in NSW, but had continued exploring on the Eyre Peninsula and in the Curnamona Province, in which the Honeymoon mine located.  

The company is in the early stages of production at Honeymoon, in a project which Mr Otto described as 40 years in the making.

Once in full production at Honeymoon, Uranium One will export to North America, Western Europe and Japan.

It Is estimated that in its six years of expected operation, Honeymoon will produce 400 tonnes of uranium oxide per year, generating $80 million.

Uranium One last week released its quarterly report, recording a $89.5 million profit for the nine months until September compared to losses of $40.8 million for the same time last year.

The company cites a 47 per cent increase in global uranium production and a 17 per cent increase in cost per pound sold, compared to the previous year.

While internationally the Fukushima nuclear disaster is continuing to hurt demand, Uranium One forecast another growth in the financial year ahead, with full production in line at Honeymoon and an expected rise in price per pound of uranium.

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