Robb Fast-Tracks UAE Uranium Deal https://newmatilda.com/2014/04/23/robb-fast-tracks-uae-uranium-dea By Dave Sweeney, 23 April 14 The Federal Government has signed another uranium export deal with a dubious overseas partner – and without inspecting the country’s facilities. We need an independent inquiry, writes Dave Sweeney
In a move that marks the first time Australia uranium would be sold to the Middle East, Trade Minister Andrew Robb is fast-tracking a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Last week hesigned a new treaty in Dubai worth 800 tonnes of Uranium a year from 2020. But in doing so, the Minister is treating our Parliament as little more than a radioactive rubber stamp.
The foundation for these sales was laid by former foreign minister and airline food critic Bob Carr, who signed the initial agreement with the UAE — a country with a secretive, unelected government situated in one of the world’s most insecure regions.
Consequently, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recently recommended that prior to any ratification of the sales plan, the International Atomic Energy Agency undertake physical inspections of UAE facilities.
But the Federal Government’s failure to take this or any other prudent step, in favour of providing “certainty” to the ailing uranium sector shows it has confused the commercial interest of Australia’s small, high-risk low-return uranium sector with our national interest. Uranium is a small contributor to Australian export revenue and employment, but when it comes to global impact and risk Australian uranium is playing in the major league. The Australian Conservation Foundation has used industry data to examine the sustained gap between the sector’s promise and performance.
The report, Yellowcake Fever: Exposing the Uranium Industry’s Economic Myths, highlights the urgent need for an independent cost-benefit analysis and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of Australia’s uranium trade. The sector’s employment contribution is tiny: the World Nuclear Association estimates there are less than 1800 jobs in Australia’s entire uranium industry, representing just 0.015 per cent of Australian jobs. From 2002 to 2011, uranium sales averaged $627 million annually and accounted for only 0.29 per cent of all national export revenue: small beer, but with a big hangover.
Why sell to the UAE? The seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have one of the least participatory political systems in the world. In 2012, more than 50 human rights activists in the UAE were rounded up and detained without charge following calls for political reform. The Human Rights Watch 2013 world Report describes a worsening human rights situation in the country, with labour rights a particular issue.
The planned uranium sale treaty doesn’t take into account local human rights issues, political changes or broader social upheavals in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It states that the agreement “shall remain in force for an initial period of thirty years and upon expiry of this initial period shall be renewed automatically for successive thirty year periods”. If this is advanced Australia would be locked in. As Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said, the Federal Government should “take a deep breath” and ask “do they really want to be selling uranium into the Middle East at the moment?”
Despite the Federal Government’s repeated insistence that the uranium must and will only be used for peaceful purposes, there is clear evidence that international nuclear safeguards are stressed, under-resourced and effectively impossible to police. To simply state that Australian uranium will not be misused is dangerously naïve.
In the shadow of Fukushima — a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium — we need policy based on evidence. Instead of fast-tracking irresponsible uranium sales to the UAE and India — or continuing to provide nuclear fuel to nuclear weapon states — we urgently need an independent assessment of the full impacts of Australia’s radioactive and risky uranium trade.
The company’s sales revenue of $US88.56 million in the three months to March 31 was down from $US106 million in the same period a year earlier.
Its average sales price in the March quarter was $US36.82 per pound, down from $US38.40 in the first six months of the 2013/14 financial year, and $US55.22 in same quarter a year earlier…….http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/04/22/paladins-revenue-continues-slide
During the quarter under review, Paladin reported a combined production of just over two-million pounds from its Kayelekera and Langer Heinrich mines. This compared with the 2.2-million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8) in the previous quarter.
The Kayelekera operation produced 696 710 lb during the quarter, compared with the 777 015 lb produced in the previous three months.
Paladin suspended operations at Kayelekera in February this year, citing the depressed price of U3O8, and the unsustainable cash demand to maintain the loss-making operation.
Production at the Langer Heinrich operation, in Namibia, declined to 1.39-million pounds during the three months to March, compared with the 1.43-million pounds produced over the three months to December……..http://www.miningweekly.com/article/paladin-production-declines-on-kayelekera-close-2014-04-22
Australia hopes to lure Emirati students to its institutions while selling uranium to the UAE The National, Caline Malek
April 17, 2014 ABU DHABI Higher education and nuclear power are areas in which the UAE and Australia will start collaborating.
During a visit to the UAE this week by Andrew Robb, Australia’s trade and investment minister, an agreement was signed with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, the Minister for Higher Education. The countries will collaborate on vocational education, training and research cooperation in higher education……..
Mr Robb said the UAE was investing in infrastructure and restructuring its economy, creating opportunities in sectors where Australia had a proven track record.
He also met senior ministers to advocate for a resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement with the GCC.
“I [used] my visit to set out the Australian government’s trade and investment agenda, to emphasise that Australia is open for business and that we are committed to deepening our economic engagement with the region,” he said.
Australia will also begin to export uranium to the UAE for its nuclear power plants.
The Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed in July 2012 but was ratified and came into force only on Monday. It could lead to the export to the UAE of up to 800 tonnes of uranium a year by the end of the decade. “The agreement should now pave the way for separate commercial agreements between potential Australian uranium suppliers and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation,” said Mr Kang. “The [first exports] are subject to the timeline for the construction of the UAE’s nuclear power plants, but I understand the first of these plants is scheduled for completion in 2017.”
Under the agreement, Australia will supply uranium for use in the UAE’s developing civil nuclear power programme and cooperate in nuclear-related activities, such as safeguards, security, safety and science.
“The agreement has been secured because Australia is a reliable supplier of uranium and the UAE is a responsible user of nuclear energy for civilian purposes,” said Mr Robb, who met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, this week in Abu Dhabi.
“This will open up a new long-term market for Australian uranium producers.”……….Sheikh Abdullah said the ratification of the agreement would offer more opportunities for collaboration between the Government and private sectors of both countries. He said this falls in line with the UAE’s policy of developing its peaceful nuclear energy programme in collaboration with other countries that shared the same commitment.
Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the agreement constituted a governmental framework for cooperation in nuclear activities between both countries……..http://www.thenational.ae/uae/australia-hopes-to-lure-emirati-students-to-its-institutions-while-selling-uranium-to-the-uae
In lead up to Rio Tinto’s Australian AGM (May 8) signs that Rio will not pay up for fixing up Ranger uranium mine
Rio chief tight-lipped on Ranger mine, SMH April 16, 2014 - Peter Ker Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh has refused to guarantee that his company will cover the cost of rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine near Kakadu, building on uncertainty that was created last month by the Rio subsidiary in charge of the mine.
Energy Resources of Australia – which is 68 per cent owned by Rio – raised eyebrows when it revealed it may need to find new sources of money to meet its rehabilitation commitments for Ranger, which is entirely surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
Under the Ranger permit, ERA must have rehabilitated the site by 2026, and a review of the rehabilitation strategy in 2013 found the cost would be $603 million on a net present cost basis. ERA has $357 million on hand and has ceased mining at Ranger, with the company now exploring for more uranium underground in a bid to find future revenue streams.
In an unusual move, ERA appeared to link the success of that exploration project – known as Ranger 3 Deeps – to its ability to pay for the rehabilitation of the site. “If the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area,” the company said in its annual report.Such an outcome would be unusual, as miners are typically compelled to pay for the rehabilitation at the end of a mine’s life through provisions that are made each year.
In ERA’s case, some rehabilitation is already underway and it maintains a trust with the Australian Government which was holding $63.9 million at December 31.
When asked at Tuesday night’s annual meeting of Rio shareholders in London, Mr Walsh indicated he was in no mood to pick up the tab for ERA, particularly after Rio took part in a $500 million equity raising for the company in 2011. “There was a rights issue at ERA to fund the rehabilitation work and those funds are still sitting within that business,” said Mr Walsh.
”(ERA) is a public Australian company and clearly that is an issue for them.
“We are clearly shareholders, but it’s a matter for all shareholders and a matter for the ERA board.”
Environmental sensitivities of another kind were also raised at the AGM, with Rio executives forced to defend the company’s continued involvement in coal mining.
Mr Walsh said Rio did accept that “man made emissions” were responsible for changes in the climate, but the company believed the challenge could be resolved through technological developments rather than by ceasing coal production………
Rio’s Australian AGM will take place on May 8. http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/rio-chief-tightlipped-on-ranger-mine-20140416-36qfi.htmlSMH
FN Arena reports (15 April 14) “……The recovery will not, however, be long lasting under CIMB’s modelling. Despite recent voluntary cuts to supply, including Paladin Energy’s Kayelekeera mine in Malawi being placed into care & maintenance, and despite the end of the Russian HEU supply agreement, CIMB sees the global uranium market drifting back in to surplus by 2016. …
In the meantime, UBS is the most recent of brokers to mark uranium prices to market for the purpose of producer valuations. The broker has cut its 2014 average price forecast to US$39/lb from US$43/lb previously. …”
Toro uranium expansion plan: premature and polluting http://www.ecovoice.com.au/toro-uranium-expansion-plan-premature-and-polluting/
Western Australia’s peak environmental group has condemned a move by uranium mining hopeful Toro Energy to expand their unrealised Wiluna mine plan into a much larger uranium mining precinct spanning 100km and two ecologically sensitive lake systems in the East Murchison region.
The state EPA has released details of the expansion plan while the company is under investigation by the Australian Securities Exchange for a second time over claims they have released misleading information to shareholders and the market. (See background below).
“Toro have never successfully mined anything before and have a long way to go to get their original single-mine project approved – let alone any new expansion,” said CCWA Nuclear Free campaigner, Mia Pepper.
“Contrary to their statements to shareholders, the company needs to complete additional environmental management , mine closure, tailings management and transport plans for assessment before any mining can commence at the Wiluna site.”
The company has struggled to find investors and currently needs $300 million in start-up costs and a further $300 million in upfront bonds.
“This new plan to attract investors is likely to draw further scrutiny from both regulators and the wider community who will be looking at the cumulative impacts of a regional uranium precinct covering 100km and two arid zone Lake Systems.”
“Toro plans to double its water consumption and store radioactive mine waste from several mine sites in a Lake bed. This idea lacks credibility and the company lacks capacity, experience and financial backing.”
Toro’s new plan involves four deposits over one hundred kilometres – Lake Way, Centipede, Millipede and Lake Maitland, with the company’s long term plans including mining an additional three deposits Nowthanna, Dawson Hinkler and Firestrike – covering a hundred kilometres in the other direction.
Also in the region is WA’s largest uranium deposit – Yeelirrie, which is now owned by Cameco. Traditional Owners have consistently opposed this project for forty years.
CCWA is partnering with a range of public health, union and faith groups to call for a public inquiry into the Toro mine plan.
The Mineral Policy Institute and the Conservation Council of WA received formal notification that the Australian Securities Exchange is investigating Toro Energy for the second time over the release of potentially misleading information. Continue reading
reality appears to be relegating nuclear power to the uneconomic category of history
Enough Uranium, but Nuclear Power Is Still Shrinking http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/enough_uranium_but_nuclear_power_is_still_shrinking_20140412 By Paul Brown, Climate News Network This piece first appeared at Climate News Network.
LONDON—There is enough uranium available on the planet to keep the world’s nuclear industry going for as long as it is needed. But it will grow steadily more expensive to extract, because the quality of the ore is getting poorer, according to new research.
Years of work in compiling information from around the world has led Gavin M. Mudd from Monash University in Clayton, Australia to believe that it is economic and political restraints that will kill off nuclear power and not any shortage of uranium, as some have claimed.
Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology that renewables do not have the disadvantages of nuclear power, which needs large uranium mines that are hard to rehabilitate and which generates waste that remains dangerous for more than 100,000 years.
In addition, research shows that renewable technologies are expanding very fast and could produce all the energy needs of advanced economies, phasing out both fossil fuels and nuclear.
Mudd, who is a lecturer in the department of civil engineering at Monash, has compiled decades of data on the availability and quality of uranium ore. He concludes that, while uranium is plentiful, mining the ore is very damaging to the environment and the landscape. Continue reading
ERA digs deep in search of a future BARRY FITZGERALD THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 10, 2014
“…..Chief executive Andrea Sutton told ERA’s annual meeting in Darwin yesterday that the environmental impact statement would be submitted in the second half of this year. The company is targeting first production late next year and has a $120 million exploration decline and a $57m prefeasibility study into the development running concurrently. Uranium production at Ranger from stockpiled ore is suspended following the collapse of a leach tank in the processing plant in December.
The collapse released a slurry of ore and acid which was captured by the site’s containment system, with ERA saying that no material escaped into Kakadu.
The AGM was told that ERA’s board had approved a work plan to bring the processing plant to readiness for a restart. But a final clearance is required from the NT and federal governments.
Ms Sutton was not able to put a timeline on when that might happen, raising the prospect that ERA will have to secure uranium from other sources. The meeting was told that the quantities involved would depend on the timing of operations being restarted.
The company said it understood the “importance of restoring confidence in the safety and environmental performance of the Ranger mine”. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/era-digs-deep-in-search-of-a-future/story-e6frg8zx-1226879305475#
ERA told: Clean up Ranger uranium mine site and clear out rather than shifting underground, 9 April 14
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-09/era-urged-to-clean-up-ranger-uranium-mine-site-and-clear-out/5377698?section=ntPublic health experts have joined traditional owners and environmentalists in calling for Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to focus on land rehabilitation rather than expansion of its Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
The company’s latest report shows that despite operations being suspended at the site since a toxic leak last year, plans to mine uranium underground continue.
ERA is holding its annual general meeting in Darwin today.
NT branch secretary of the Public Health Association of Australia, Dr Michael Fonda, says underground uranium mining poses serious health risks. One of the main things that is concerning us is that they [miners] are going to be exposed to dangerous levels of radon gas,” he said. Dr Fonda says ERA has a troubling safety record and it cannot be trusted to ensure safe work practices for the underground uranium mining.
“What is being planned for the R3 Deep’s expansion is for very large extraction fans to take much of that radon [gas] out of the mine,” he said.”I am concerned, and the Public Health Association is concerned, that will not be enough.”
Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) national nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney says ERA should focus on land rehabilitation in the final years of its mining lease. “Realise this is high risk and low return,” he said.
“Instead of accepting the inevitable and cleaning up and exiting, and having a staged and a costed and managed rehabilitation of the Ranger site, ERA is increasingly desperate and is chasing the illusion of dollars by going underground with the Ranger 3-Deep project.”Mr Sweeney says ERA and its parent company Rio Tinto should realise the planned underground mine is high risk and low return.
Indigenous traditional owners have expressed concerns that ERA will not have enough money to follow through on rehabilitation plans for the mine, which is near Jabiru and inside the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.
The ERA of uranium mining is over http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16200, Dave Sweeney 9 April 14, In the early hours of Saturday December 7th 2013 the evacuation order was given in the processing area of Energy Resources of Australia’s troubled Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu.
Minutes later came the unforgiving sound of peeling metal followed by a surge of over one million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry from the buckled and broken number one leach tank. The toxic tide swept over the concrete bunds meant to contain any spills and moved uncontrolled through the night and the site.
Four months later and ERA remains under pressure, under performing and under scrutiny. Mineral processing remains suspended at Ranger pending the findings of a federal government review of the tank collapse and this week the ERA board and management will face sceptical shareholders and no doubt plenty of critical questions at the company’s annual meeting in Darwin. Continue reading
Nuclear security and Australia’s uranium exports Jim Green, 8 April 2014, http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16197“………Australia’s uranium customers Nuclear security standards are demonstrably inadequate in a number of Australia’s uranium customer countries. Nuclear security risk factors in Russia include political instability, ineffective governance, pervasive corruption, and the presence of groups determined to obtain nuclear materials. A March 2014report by Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs notes that Russia has the world’s largest nuclear stockpiles stored in the world’s largest number of buildings and bunkers, and that underfunding raises serious questions about whether effective nuclear security and accounting systems can be sustained.”
In a 2011 report, the US Director of National Intelligence discussed nuclear smuggling in Russia: “We assess that undetected smuggling of weapons-usable nuclear material has occurred, but we do not know the total amount of material that has been diverted or stolen since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We judge it highly unlikely that Russian authorities have been able to recover all of the stolen material.”
Nuclear security lapses have repeatedly made headlines in the USA over the past two years. Example include:
- the Air Force removed 17 officers assigned to guard nuclear-armed missiles after finding safety violations, potential violations in protecting codes and attitude problems;
- Air Force officers with nuclear launch authority were twice caught napping with the blast door open;
- an inspection by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General found that Los Alamos National Laboratory failed to meet its goal of 99% accuracy in accounting for the lab’s inventory of weapons-grade nuclear materials, including plutonium;
- a report by LBJ School of Public Affairs at Texas University detailed inadequate protection of US commercial and research nuclear facilities;
- at least 82 missile launch officers from an Air Force base in Montana face disciplinary action forcheating on monthly proficiency tests or for being aware of cheating and failing to report it. Former missile-launch control officer Bruce Blair said cheating “has been extensive and pervasive at all the missile bases going back for decades”;
- missile launch officers in two different incidents were found to have violated security regulationsdesigned to prevent intruders from seizing their ICBM-firing keys;
- nineteen officers at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, were forced to surrender their launch authority because of performance and attitude problems;
- the Navy has opened an investigation into accusations of widespread cheating by sailors at an atomic-reactor training school in South Carolina;
- the congressionally mandated Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise says that drastic reforms are crucial to address “systemic” management shortcomings at the National Nuclear Security Administration; and
- former military contractor Benjamin Bishop will plead guilty to providing nuclear-arms secrets and other classified information to his Chinese girlfriend.
Time magazine describes the most embarrassing lapse: “In the U.S. in 2012, an 82-year old nun and two other peace protestors broke into Y-12, a facility in Tennessee that contains the world’s largest repository of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in metal form and until the incident was colloquially known as “the Fort Knox of HEU” for its state-of-the-art security equipment. The nun bypassed multiple intrusion-detection systems because faulty cameras had not been replaced and guards at the central alarm station had grown weary of manually validating sensors that produced frequent false alarms. When the protestors started hammering on the side of a building that contains enough HEU for hundreds of weapons, the guards inside assumed the noise was coming from construction workers that they had not been told were coming. She and her fellow protestors were eventually challenged by a single guard.”
The United States’ credibility is also undermined by its failure to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Moreover US federal government budget requests and allocations for nuclear security have been reduced repeatedly since 2011, with programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the International Material Protection and Cooperation program, Securing the Cities, and a program to replace HEU research reactor fuel with low-enriched uranium, suffering………
The March 2014 report by Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs details significant nuclear security gaps in a number of countries that import uranium − or want to import uranium − from Australia. For example it states that India’s approach to nuclear security is “highly secretive”; the threats India’s nuclear security systems must confront “appear to be significant”; India faces challenges “both from domestic terrorist organizations and from attacks by terrorist organizations based in Pakistan”; India also confronts “significant insider corruption”; and the risk of theft or sabotage in India “may be uncomfortably high”……….
So what is Australia doing? So what is the Australian government doing about the vital problem of inadequate nuclear security standards in uranium customer countries? And what are the uranium mining companies operating in Australia doing about the problem? The short answer is: nothing. They adopt a head in the sand approach, just as they ignored the disgraceful nuclear safety standards in Japan that led to the Fukushima disaster.
There are simple steps that could be taken − for example uranium exports could be made contingent on customer countries ratifying the amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16197
European Uranium to sell Slovakia uranium projects to Forte Energy Proactive Investors, by Deborah Bacal 4 April 14 European Uranium Resources (CVE:EUU) said it has agreed to sell its Kuriskova and Novoveska Huta uranium projects in Slovakia to Australia’s Forte Energy NL (ASX:FTE) (LON:FTE) for approximately $8.5 million plus a production royalty. The deal represents the sale of the company’s only remaining mineral projects. It told investors in a statement Friday that it now plans to investigate mineral projects to option or acquire in “multiple commodities” in Europe, with the deal today giving the company the initial funding to implement its business strategy.
The binding heads of agreement with Forte, a dual-listed exploration and development company with a portfolio of uranium assets in the Republics of Mauritania and Guinea, is subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals of both companies…..
….French nuclear energy giant Areva currently holds a 4.5% stake in Forte. http://www.proactiveinvestors.com/companies/news/53229/european-uranium-to-sell-slovakia-uranium-projects-to-forte-energy-53229.html
As we have said previously, the simplification of our portfolio is a priority and is something we have pursued for several years,” BHP said in response to the market speculation, adding that in the last two years, the company had completed a number of divestments in Australia, the US, Canada, South Africa and the UK.
Divestments included petroleum, copper, coal, mineral sands, uranium and diamond assets……….
BHP told shareholders that the company would actively continue to study the next phase of simplification, including its structural options, but noted that it would only pursue those avenues that maximised value for the company’s shareholders.
BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie has previously said that Australia would remain a focal point for the company, pointing out that the country accounted for about 70% of its profits……..http://www.miningweekly.com/article/bhp-weighs-divestment-options-2014-04-01