$20 billion in uranium waits for Queensland ban to lift
Article from: AAP
July 27, 2009 12:00am
THERE seems little chance Queensland’s uranium hopefuls will see the ban on mining lifted any time soon, and some $20b worth is sitting in the ground.
Which is perhaps a pity for those who support mining for the nuclear fuel. Industry monitor Resource Capital Research’s latest quarterly Uranium Sector Review says: “Industry fundamentals remain strong, underpinning support for the contract uranium price, with (significant) growth anticipated in (the number of) nuclear reactors and (an emerging) risk of a supply shortage mid term (four to eight years).”
Given the strict environmental impact hurdles that any mine that was approved would have to jump, four years would be about the minimum time it would take to get any mine into production.
Federal minister Martin Ferguson’s says mining in the state is “just a matter of time”.
However, Queensland Resources Council chief executive said: “We have about $20 billion worth of uranium in the ground right now in Queensland and we have countries that want to use it.
“The opportunity is a big one in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investment, many hundreds of jobs, including for indigenous people and of course a new source of mineral royalties, which would be nice to have at the moment when the Queensland Government’s running a deficit Budget.”
Mount Isa Mayor John Molony also joined the chorus of supporters, as did former Queensland mines minister Tony McGrady, now an adviser for a uranium explorer.
Cr Molony said thousands of jobs would be created in northwest Queensland alone if uranium mining was allowed.
Cr Molony said Queensland could not afford to turn its back on the sector.
Resource Capital Research said there were 436 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide and 45 under construction.
And as of June 30, it said, another “413 new reactors (were) planned or proposed.
“A total of 71 are expected to be commissioned by 2015.”
In South Australia the proposed Four Mile mine received federal approval last week, and in Western Australia, where a number of developments are moving forward quickly, Mega Uranium’s Lake Maitland trotted out its Japanese customers as it pushed for an early start.
But Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Stephen Robertson isn’t moved.
He said last week that the Government took its longstanding no mines policy to the last election and was still committed to it.
Mining of radioactive material began in Australia in the 1930s.
But Queensland’s first (and only) mine was Mary Kathleen, which began production in 1976. It closed in 1982 after the ore body was depleted.
And though most currently known uranium deposits in the state, and elsewhere in Australia, were discovered from the 1950s through to the exploration boom in the late 1960s and early 1970s – which was sparked by the advent of civil nuclear power – no new mine has ever got off the drawing board in Queensland.
There are plenty that might, given a change of government policy, however.
Ben Lomond, 40km from Townsville and now owned by Canada’s Mega Uranium – which this week got the federal go-ahead for its Four Mile project in South Australia – was almost brought into production in the 1980s by French oil producing giant Total. It succumbed to environmental protests and a slow world uranium market.
Resource: 10.7 million pounds of U3O8 (uranium oxide concentrate).
Maureen, Trident and Twoges deposits:
These deposits, 45km north of Georgetown and dubbed the Georgetown uranium project, are owned by Mega Uranium.
Maureen resource: 6.33 million pounds U3O8.
The exploration area is 50km west of Greenvale between Charters Towers and Georgetown, and is owned by Southern Uranium and Epsilon Energy.
The area is said to be prospective for Ben Lomond-style deposits.
Resource: To be determined.
Mount Isa Joint Venture:
Covers the Valhalla-Skal and associated deposits near Mount Isa, controlled by Paladin Energy, which is Australia’s newest locally-owned uranium producer – but from the Langer Heinrich operation in Namibia and Kayelekera in Malawi.
Resource: 51.2 million pounds U3O8.
Discovered by Mount Isa Mines in 1956 and now owned by Toronto-based Laramide Resources, Westmoreland is northwest of Mount Isa close to the Northern Territory border.
Resource: 51.9 million pounds U3O8.
This project near Mount Isa is controlled by Deep Yellow Ltd. DYL’s advanced projects are also offshore, in Namibia, but at Isa West it is working to earn 100 per cent of the uranium rights on land held by Xstrata near its copper and lead and zinc operations.
Cloncurry project – Swan, Amethyst Castle, Castle Mount and Metal Ridge:
South of Cloncurry and owned by Ivanhoe Australia, controlled by Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines, this project has identified a series of copper-gold-uranium plays.
Resources: To be determined.
Goldsearch, in joint venture with Central West Gold NL – and a number of other groups – is exploring for uranium in the district that gave Queensland its only producing uranium mine so many years ago.
Resource: To be determined.