The draft terms of the reference for the royal commission, released on Monday, are focused on nuclear power generation, uranium enrichment and waste storage. But the government has ruled out scaling back the state’s involvement in uranium mining, while also precluding the use of nuclear for military purposes.
Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney says the decision to exclude consideration of uranium mining is deeply disappointing. “The nuclear industry starts with uranium and so should any genuine assessment of the nuclear sector in South Australia,” he said.
Given that Australia’s uranium mining and export accounts for less than 1 percent of its hundred billion dollar mineral export business (iron ore, bauxite, coal, copper, nickel etc),36 however, these decisions by Australian leaders risked significant political capital over what has been a highly contentious issue in Australia’s recent political history
Undermining Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Energy and Security Politics in the Australia-India-Japan-U.S. Nuclear Nexus 核不拡散の土台崩し オーストラリア·インド·日本·米国間におけるエネルギーと安全保障政策 The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 46, No. 2, November 1, 2014 Adam Broinowski “……Until 2014, along with China, Japan has also seen a boom in mostly solar and wind electricity generation. But this has been stalled by utilities who have refused to take an influx of renewable power into the grid or to reduce electricity prices.10 With fewer nuclear plants scheduled for construction around the world than for shutdown, however, the nuclear industry faces the likely prospect of contraction11 and replacement by rapidly advancing renewable energy options, including solar, wind, tidal, hydro and possibly geothermal power over the longer term.
Despite this gloomy prognosis for the uranium sector, confidence began to return to the uranium mining industry in Australia from late 2012. Continue reading
The ERA full year report for 2014 shows sales revenue up from $356.1 million in 2013 to $379.2 million, however nets profits have dropped from -$135.8 million to -$187.8 million.
Production has copped a beating as the Ranger begins to reach the end of its mine life, down to 1165 drummed tonnes in 2014, compared to 2960 in 2013 and 3710 in 2012.
The Ranger mine will continue mining until 2021, with full rehabilitation required by 2026, and has spent $378 million on rehab and water management over the past 2 years……http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/uranium-miner-era-posts-new-profit-losses
Nuclear non-starter: Oversupplied, losing money and without a constituency, Climate Spectator, JIM GREEN 16 Feb 15 “… South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced a Royal Commission on February 8 to investigate options to expand the state’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle beyond uranium mining. There is some hope that a value-adding enrichment industry could compensate for the weakened uranium mining industry.
But the 2006 Switkowski report found that there was no realistic prospect of an enrichment industry in Australia, due to overcapacity at enrichment plants around the world. The SA Royal Commission will reach the same conclusion. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd noted in Nuclear Engineering International in July 2014 that “the world enrichment market is heavily over-supplied”.
There are other reasons to be concerned about uranium enrichment … though it hardly matters given that it is an economic non-starter. Australia’s involvement in enrichment R&D began in 1965 with the ‘Whistle Project‘ in the basement of Building 21 at Lucas Heights, then run by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Those in the know were supposed to whistle as they walked past Building 21 and say nothing about the enrichment R&D. Why the secrecy? Because enrichment provides a direct path to nuclear weapons.
Forty years later, John Howard was likening uranium enrichment to value-adding to the wool industry. Perhaps Lucas Heights also had a secret program to knit woollen garments? Or perhaps not.
The enrichment R&D was publicly revealed in the Atomic Energy Commission’s 1967-68 Annual Report and plodded along until it was terminated in the mid-1980s. Nuclear power was growing steadily from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, yet Australia didn’t come close to establishing an enrichment industry. It’s hardly likely to happen when nuclear power capacity is stagnant, when the enrichment market is heavily over-supplied, when there is growing international momentum to curb the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies (enrichment and reprocessing), and when the atomic bomb lobby is far smaller and weaker than it was in the mid-1960s.
Clutching at straws, enrichment lobbyists argue that an Australian enrichment industry could supply nuclear power reactors in Southeast Asia. That argument would carry more weight if there were any power reactors in Southeast Asia.
Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia. http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2015/2/16/energy-markets/nuclear-non-starter-oversupplied-losing-money-and-without
Australia’s uranium industry is in a sick and sorry state. Production of 5000 tonnes in 2014 was the lowest for 16 years. The industry generates less than 0.2 per cent of national export revenue and accounts for less than 0.02 per cent of jobs in Australia (about 1200 jobs).
The Ranger open-cut mine in the NT has been mined out and the planned Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine is subject to doubt and delay. Energy Resources of Australia has posted losses for each of the past five years, totalling $500 million. The uranium industry in the NT may come to an end when the last of the Ranger ore stockpile is milled in two years time.
In South Australia, the planned expansion of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine was cancelled in 2012, and hundreds of workers have been retrenched by BHP Billiton since then. The Honeymoon mine has been put into care-and-maintenance. Beverley Four Mile started production last year, at the same time as the nearby Beverley mine was put into care-and-maintenance. Instead of the usual fanfare, The Advertiser reported: “South Australia’s newest mine will lose money and won’t create any jobs.”
Nuclear non-starter: Oversupplied, losing money and without a constituency, Climate Spectator, JIM GREEN 16 Feb 15 As discussed in Climate Spectator recently, some nuclear insiders and lobbyists are starting to confront the reality that the global pattern of nuclear power stagnation is likely to continue. With the number of ‘operable’ power reactors declining from 443 to 437 over the past decade, the rhetoric about a nuclear renaissance is becoming hard to sustain.
Similar opinions about the uranium industry are becoming increasingly common. Continue reading
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia tight-lipped about its Ranger mine’s gloomy financial situation
ERA keeps its Ranger delay very hush-hush BY CRAIG DUNLOP NT NEWS FEBRUARY 11, 2015 ENERGY Resources Australia has quietly delayed the expansion of the Ranger uranium mine, with work now set to commence at an unspecified date in 2016, rather than its original target date of late 2015.
The company, 68 per cent owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, made the announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange late on Friday.
“Dependent on the outcome of further work, and subject to board and regulatory approvals, first development ore for Ranger 3 Deeps is now expected to be in 2016,” the report said.
It also said that ERA was likely to require further investment for the expansion to go ahead.
The knock-on effects from the failure of a leach tank in 2013 continued to be felt until mid-2014, as the company was forced to purchase, and then onsell, uranium in order to meet its prearranged sales contracts.
The delay has pleased environmental groups, who have long objected to Ranger 3, with the Environment Centre NT and the Australian Conservation Foundation labelling the expansion plans “unviable”.
The Environment Centre NT’s Lauren Mellor said: “The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high-risk venture.”………
- In light of the losses and the investment required in Ranger 3, the company’s directors have not issued a dividend.
13 Feb 15 National and Territory Environment Groups have today welcomed the announcement that investment in Ranger 3 Deeps, a controversial new underground uranium mine proposal has been significantly delayed by Rio Tinto, majority owner of the embattled Ranger uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.
The decision came off the back of further record losses for Rio subsidiary and Ranger mine operator Energy Resources of Australia of $188 million in 2014 and $136 million in 2013. ERA have now suffered five consecutive yearly losses totalling $500 million.
“Ranger’s underground mine has become a money pit for Rio Tinto, with the company investing hundreds of millions in feasibility studies and an underground decline tunnel in recent years, and has faced unprecedented community opposition receiving over 4500 public submissions opposing the mine during the Environment Impact Assessment public comment phase in December last year,” Lauren Mellor, Nuclear-free Campaigner with the Environment Centre NT said.
“The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high risk venture. Years of sustained uranium company and sector losses have shown even the industry’s biggest players are getting cold feet for new mines, with no commodity price recovery predicted within ten years – well past the legal operating timeframe for Ranger 3 Deeps.”
“This decision by the Rio board is a long overdue recognition that the project, like the wider uranium industry, is unviable. It has a very limited lease life, with all mining on the Ranger lease mandated to end in 2021, at a time when the commodity price has never been lower, making old mines like Ranger struggle, and new projects like Ranger 3 Deeps buckle.” said Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“Day by day, every delay and every lost dollar makes this project less viable and less likely. “The nuclear industry simply can’t compete, on cost, construction times and on community standards for environmental protection. Like Ranger mine its well past its use by date and the NT and Federal governments should be using this company delay to instead accelerate a rehabilitation plan for Kakadu that will see the region and its inhabitants protected for the long haul.”
The Rio Tinto-owned Energy Resources of Australia made a $188 million loss in 2014, after suffering a loss of $136 million in 2013.
The company expects to increase its uranium production in 2015, after output was dented in 2014 because of the suspension of processing operations for more than six months after the failure of a leach tank in December 2013.
The company’s purchase of uranium oxide to fulfil sales dragged on its earnings……..https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/uranium-miners-loss-widens-100814187.html
Minister approves uranium mine threat to National Park The states peak environment group, the Conservation Council of WA, has condemned the decision by Environment Minister Albert Jacob to approve the Kintyre uranium mine proposal in an excised area from WA’s biggest National Park, Karlamilyi.
Piers Verstegen, Director of the Conservation Council said “The Kintyre uranium proposal directly threatens the unique desert environment of the Karlamilyi National Park, the intricate water network of the Karlamilyi River water catchment and many endangered and threatened species.”
“This decision shows a weakening of standards for environmental protection and is a reminder that uranium and other environmentally significant and dangerous projects must retain Federal oversight under the EPBC Act, something both Governments are trying axe.”
Mia Pepper, Nuclear Free Campaigner of the Conservation Council of WA said “In an attempt to gain public support for uranium this Government is desperately trying to ‘normalise’ uranium. But uranium is not like any other mineral; it is radioactive and poses a significant and long term risk to the environment and public health. It is the asbestos of the 21st century and we cannot afford to treat it like any other mineral.”
“This decision is just one of many still needed before construction could begin at the proposed mine. This is a bad deal but not a done deal and we will continue to explore every avenue possible to challenge this uranium proposal.”
“Cameco the proponent of the Kintyre uranium mine has a shocking operating record overseas we will be watching their every move here and internationally, uniting with other communities that have been negatively impacted by this company.” Ms Pepper concluded.
Paladin’s Malawi uranium mine of little benefit to the country, and now threatening pollution of Lake Malawi
Government officials in Malawi are upset about the situation. “I am very shocked with the situation I have seen after monitoring the mine here and all my questions to the Paladin boss have not been answered satisfactory”
Meanwhile international experts are starting to question the benefits of the Kayelekera mine
Australian Uranium Mining Company Accused of Contaminating Lake Malawi By Mayu Chang……Global Research, January 29, 2015 CorpWatch Paladin Energy, an Australian mining company, has been accused of discharging uranium-contaminated sludge into Lake Malawi, which supports 1.7 million people in three countries – Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. The company began uranium mining operations in Malawi in 2009 although it suspended operations last year after ore prices fell.
“It is rumored that Paladin secretly have started discharging the so called purified water. Reports from the Beach Village Chairman indicates that this started in late November,” wrote Rafiq Hajat of Malawi’s Institute for Policy Interaction on Facebook. “[At] a radius of 35 km from the Boma, you will be shocked to see fish of different species dead with some communities along the lakeshore collecting [the fish].”……………“Uranium is radioactive and that with open-pit mining, like the one to be conducted at Kayelekera, the soil drains into rivers and contaminates the water,” Titus Mvalo, a lawyer representing several civil society organizations in Malawi, told Inter Press Service in 2007. “When humans drink the water, it damages kidneys and causes cancer.”
At the time, the activist groups warned that the mine would pose a threat to Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest freshwater lake, which is a major source of drinking water and fish for the country. Continue reading
Lowest Australian uranium production for 16 years, World Nuclear Association 23 Jan 15 Due to the shutdown of ERA’s Ranger plant to June, and despite the rich Four-Mile deposit coming on line, Australia’s uranium production in 2014 at 5897 tonnes U3O8 (5000 tU) was the lowest since 1998. Two thirds of it was from Olympic Dam, where uranium is a by-product of copper. Production from Four Mile is recovered at the Beverley plant, replacing output from that mine at about double the level. http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=140c559a3b34d23ff7c6b48b9&id=e08ac096b6&e=ae5ca458a0
Paladin Energy Ltd revenues soar 79% but shares sink Motley Fool By Mike King – January 19, 2015 Uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) has announced sales of US$69.9 million in the December quarter, a rise of 79% over the previous quarter.
But despite the news, shares are down 2.8% at 35 cents at lunchtime.
So why are investors selling out of a stock reporting such strong growth?
The problem is that Paladin sold 1.9 million pounds of uranium in the quarter, at an average price of US$36.58 per pound. That last figure is the issue – that price is well below what it costs Paladin to produce the uranium, and there are no signs that the price is…[members only] http://www.fool.com.au/2015/01/19/paladin-energy-ltd-revenues-soar-79-but-shares-sink/
Uranium bulls have long pointed to China’s nuclear-industry expansion as a catalyst for a recovery in the market. In mainland China, there are 22 nuclear reactors currently operating, 26 being built and more about to start construction, according to the World Nuclear Association.
However, Australian investment bank Macquarie thinks there are now “serious question marks” about how much uranium the world’s No. 2 economy will need. “China is clearly the most positive story globally when it comes to nuclear-power-capacity expansion,” according to Macquarie analysts. “The concern, however, is that China has already procured a substantial amount of uranium well in excess of what it has consumed and that this advance purchasing might limit its need to enter the market to source material over the next few years,” they add in a note.
Uranium prices have mostly languished since the 2011 Fukushima disaster………with uranium prices rising 37% from August through November as Japan moved closer to restarting its idled reactors. Consultants Ernst & Young said they thought the market had bottomed. Analysts at Australian brokerage Bell Potter agreed.
BUT THAT RECOVERY HAS STALLED…….While the revival of Japan’s nuclear sector is positive for prices, China’s potential demand is more important……..But Macquarie’s analysts say China’s growing store of uranium may be bigger than anyone previously thought. Their latest analysis suggests China increased its stockpiles by 17% last year and now has enough uranium to meet domestic demand for about seven years at forecast 2020 consumption rates. China doesn’t provide data on its uranium inventories…. JPMorgan expects uranium prices to average $30.70 a pound this year, down from last year’s $31.70…….http://online.barrons.com/articles/uranium-rally-running-low-on-juice-1421462807
Mining company with links to suspended firm first to apply for NSW uranium licence SMH, January 15, 2015 Sean Nicholls A Hong Kong businessman with ties to a company whose shares are suspended after rocketing to 40 times their value is seeking to explore for uranium in NSW after the government invited his firm to apply for a licence.
Chi Ho William Lo is a director of EJ Resources, one of six companies invited to apply by Resources Minister Anthony Roberts last September after the state government overturned a decades-old ban on uranium exploration in 2012.
It followed an expressions of interest process during which EJ Resources was assessed in February and March by a panel that recommended Mr Roberts grant the company consent to apply.
It lodged three exploration licence applications on December 19.
But company records reveal Mr Lo and a fellow director, Siu-Wing Selwyn Chan, are former directors of Fifth Element Resources, which gained notoriety soon after listing on the Australian Securities Exchange in May last year.
Fifth Element Resources astonished market watchers when its share price soared from $0.20 to $7.96 in two months.
This valued the company at more than $300 million, despite it not announcing any significant news in relation to four gold and copper exploration licences it holds around western NSW. The licences were bought from EJ Resources the previous January.
On July 15 the ASX announced shares in Fifth Element Resources would be suspended from trading while an inquiry was launched into whether it had satisfied the rules for listing……..http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/mining-company-with-links-to-suspended-firm-first-to-apply-for-nsw-uranium-licence-20150114-12myku.html
BHP Billiton wants to increase radioactive waste storage at Olympic Dam, but opponents say leakage rates will rise, SMH, January 12, 2015 – Peter Ker Resources reporter BHP Billiton believes it can increase the amount of radioactive waste being stored in ponds at Olympic Dam without seepage rates rising, under the new development plan for the famous mineral deposit in the South Australian outback.
Continuing the rollout of new plans for the giant uranium, copper and gold mine, BHP has sought permission from the federal government to raise walls around an important waste or “tailings” dam at the mine from 30 metres to 40 metres.
The change would increase the volume of radioactive fluids that can be held in the dam – which is one of four on site – from 48.4 million cubic metres to 64.8 million cubic metres, with the work expected to be complete by September 2023.
Storage of the tailings, which include radioactive materials and acids, has been controversial since Olympic Dam’s previous owner, Western Mining Corporation, confirmed in 1994 that 5 billion cubic metres of the tailings fluids had leaked out of the storages and into an aquifer underground.
Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said increasing the volume of tailings under storage would probably cause more leakage.
“There is no question that increased pressure would add to the chances of increased seepage,” he said.
“We see tailings management as one of the big, unspoken problems with uranium mining. It is an unresolved environmental management problem.”……..
The push to increase the amount of tailings storage comes just months after BHP revealed a new strategy to develop Olympic Dam by putting a heap leach operation at the start of the existing processing cycle.
BHP will conduct a three-year trial of the heap leach concept, before deciding whether it warrants further expansion.
Confirmation of the heap leach trial was the first sign of progress at Olympic Dam since mid 2012, when BHP axed a $30 billion plan to develop the entire Olympic Dam deposit using the world’s biggest open-pit mine.
That $30 billion plan would have required the construction of eight new tailings dams, each requiring a 65-metre-tall embankment, and each covering two square kilometres. http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/bhp-billiton-wants-to-increase-radioactive-waste-storage-at-olympic-dam-but-opponents-say-leakage-rates-will-rise-20150111-12ltwq.html#ixzz3OfOVIn50