Australian news, and some related international items

Govt to investigate ERA’s Ranger uranium mine burnoff and subsequent Kakadu fire

bushfireKakadu bushfire: Dept of Environment to investigate Ranger mine burn-off that spread to national park, ABC News, 9 Oct 15   The federal Environment Department says it will investigate a fire started by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) that spread into Kakadu National Park, threatening important cultural sites.

The fire started at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine a week ago and spread into the World Heritage-listed park, threatening several culturally sensitive Indigenous sites. In a statement to the ABC, a spokesman for Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt described the fire as a “very serious matter”.”Minister Hunt has asked the Department and Parks Australia to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire,” the statement said.

“No permission was sought and no approval was received for the lighting of the fire by ERA.

“We will not hesitate to seek reimbursement for the costs of firefighting if negligence or wrongdoing are in any way shown.

“Additionally, a breach of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act can result in fines of up to $8.5 million.”

The ABC understands the NT Department of Mines and Energy will also be investigating the fire………

Aboriginal groups angry over fire

Justin O’Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area’s traditional owners, said ERA needed “to be taught about the sensitive environment” they operate in. “There’s an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they’ve done, this is the second year in a row that they’ve done this, It’s almost a replica of last year,” he said.

“They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they’re operating in.”

The Northern Land Council (NLC) said it was not confident a federal investigation would find anyone accountable for the fire.

Joe Morrison, CEO of the NLC, said he wanted to see traditional fire management practices reinstated.

“There’s been lots of fires and lots of investigations in relation to Kakadu and surrounds for a long time, we wouldn’t want to hold our breath,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he wanted to see Aboriginal people “take control of that agenda and reinstate their traditional fire management practices”.

October 10, 2015 Posted by | - incidents, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Western Australian Wiluna uranium project in the doldrums for the forseeable future

thumbs-downWA’s first uranium mine likely to be delayed as Toro Energy puts Wiluna on hold WESTERN Australia’s first new uranium mine is likely to be delayed due to the ongoing downturn in demand and prices, Perth Now, 1 Oct 15 

Toro Energy has put its Wiluna uranium project on hold as it waits for market conditions to improve. The company began drilling at the project in 2014 and had expected to start operations in 2017.

“We will get to build Wiluna when we get the price that makes Wiluna economic. We are not seeing that price today,” managing director Vanessa Guthrie told AAP.

Wiluna, 960 kilometres northeast of Perth, is the first new uranium mine in WA to receive federal Guthrie poisoned-chalice-3government approval since the lifting of a ban on uranium mining in 2008.

The project will require prices between $60 and $70 a pound to make money, Dr Guthrie said.

Long term uranium prices currently hover around $45 per pound, almost half the levels of five years ago. Prices are expected to dip further because of large stockpiles……..

Global uranium production has stalled in the past two years as depressed uranium prices have curtailed exploration activities and the opening of new mines……

October 1, 2015 Posted by | business, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Uranium deal with India is bad for Australian business

cliff-money-nuclearAustralia-India nuclear deal

14 September 2015  By Ron Walker, currently a visiting fellow at the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at ANU. Ron is a former DFAT officer who worked for 20 years in Australia’s nuclear diplomacy. Among the positions he occupied were the first Head of the Nuclear Safeguards Branch and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Besides its collateral damage to Australia’s security, commercial and diplomatic interests, the soon-to-be ratifiedAustralia-India nuclear cooperation agreement notably fails to meet its objectives.

The aim was to give a green light to Australian uranium exports to India. Two objectives were to be served, one commercial, the other diplomatic. A vast new market was to be opened for Australian uranium exporters and India was to be convinced Australia was a reliable partner, worthy of a closer relationship.

Instead, as has been exposed in the Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Australian side gave away so much in the course of the negotiations on safeguards against nuclear proliferation and left open such loopholes for Australian uranium to end up in bombs or otherwise help their manufacture, that this proposed treaty does not do what Australia’s 23 existing nuclear safeguards treaties do.

Unlike them, it does not give Australian exporters legally watertight guarantees that the trade will be subject to effective controls against misuse of the uranium in ways Australian companies neither want nor could afford. So many deficiencies in the proposed treaty have been exposed it amounts at best, not to a greenlight but to a blinking yellow one. Not ‘all is guaranteed safe’ but ‘proceed carefully at your own peril’. And JSCOT’s main recommendation is a red light: no uranium exports to be permitted for the foreseeable future.

How Australian companies will respond and what risks they will be prepared to take remains to be seen, but no responsible government would have placed them in this situation.

The Indian Government has every reason to feel it too has been dudded. Instead of a reliable supply, there is a big element of precariousness. As for a demonstration of the Australian Government’s trustworthiness as a close partner, the contrary impression is conveyed of a bumbling inability to manage our own end of the deal.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Video: Walkajurra Walkabout protest Toro uranium mining project

Env-AustWalkajurra Walkabout begins fifth protest of Toro uranium mining project Anti-nuclear protesters have come together for the fifth consecutive Walkajurra Walkabout to oppose energy company’s Toro Energy uranium mining project.
By  Craig Quartermaine Yellarie Source:  NITV News 31 AUG 2015 

TRANSCRIPT Malarndirri McCarthy: The Walkajurra Walkabout has international anti-nuclear protesters and traditional owners gathered together on some of the richest uranium deposits in the country.

Craig Quartermaine: I’m here at Yellerie Station for the Walkajurra Walkabout that will continue for the next two weeks it’s a dynamic mix of people who make their way through country

After protesters set up camp, they had a breakdown of the meeting with Toro Energy before turning in for the night……

Kado Muir is the Tjurrura man who has lead the event for the last five years .

Kado Muir, Walkajurra Walkabout organiser: So if they ever got the approval to mine it, it would dig up a 50 kilometre area, taking uranium out of the ground, turning it over, extracting the ore, leaving radioactive materials behind, all this beautiful land will end up being a radioactive wasteland……..Basically all these people share this common goal with us the Aboriginal people of this land of keeping uranium in the ground and shutting down the nuclear industry.

September 3, 2015 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Rosatom now selling uneconomic Honeymoon uranium project in South Australia

uranium-orethumbs-downRosatom sells Honeymoon uranium mine in South Australia, SMH September 1, 2015 Simon Evans Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom has finally lost patience with the Honeymoon uranium project in northern South Australia and is selling it off to an ASX-listed minnow called Boss Resources.

Honeymoon is one of the five Australian uranium mines in Australia, four of which are located in South Australia, but it has been in mothballs for the past two years because of the plunge in uranium prices which made it uneconomic to continue mining from the site.

The Honeymoon mine is located about 75 kilometres north west of the town of Broken Hill and has been through a series of changes in ownership, the last being a buyout of the Canadian firm Uranium One by the Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom. This gave Rosatom ownership of Honeymoon.

Boss Resources chairman Evan Cranston told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that one of the big attractions was the 2600 square kilometre tenement package which came with the project…….

The complex buyout by Boss involves several components including a $2.4 million cash payment, a $200,000 “site access” fee and several milestone payments into the future if the mine does go into production again.

September 2, 2015 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian uranium company Paladin mothballing uneconomic project in Labrador, Canada

thumbs-downAurora Energy suspending uranium exploration in Labrador, CBC News Company cites low prices for decision to mothball Labrador operation Sep 01, 2015 Aurora Energy has announced it is suspending uranium exploration in Labrador and is blaming lower commodity prices for the decision.

Ches Andersen, Aurora’s vice-president of Labrador affairs, said since there’s no mining underway, the parent company will mothball the Labrador operation…..

Aurora is a member of the Paladin Energy Ltd. Group of Companies, based in Australia.

Lifting of moratorium

The issue of uranium mining in Labrador has been a divisive one.

The Nunatsiavut government narrowly passed a controversial bill to put a moratorium on exploration in place in April 2008.  The decision to lift the moratorium was made unanimously late in 2011….

September 2, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium mining experts have faith, despite the gloomy situation for the nuclear industry

One of the major risks for the uranium industry is the rapid advancement of the renewable power sector, particularly in battery technology.

“We have been waiting for the Japanese nuclear power fleet to be turned back on. We had an expectation for the past two summers that it would be turned back on and that hasn’t come to pass, and that remains the biggest question for uranium prices..”

Australia is well placed to cash in on uranium boom, say mining experts The Age, August 6, 2015 Peter Ker If uranium demand were to ever boom like iron ore, Australia would make a packet. But renewables and community attitudes threaten that. If uranium demand were ever to boom in the way iron ore has over the past decade, Australia would be well placed to cash in.

With the world’s largest known uranium resource and enough mining to be the world’s third biggest producer of the nuclear fuel, Australia is already a significant player in the global uranium industry.

But that industry remains relatively small compared with the likes of gold, copper and coal, and it has endured a severe downturn over the past four years………..


dramatically reduced demand for uranium and prices have been badly depressed ever since. The benchmark price has spent the past couple of years between $US25 a pound and $US40 a pound, and uranium was fetching $US35 a pound last week.

The weak prices have forced many marginal mines around the world to close which, combined with older mines reaching the end of their working lives, has reduced the number of operating uranium mines in Australian in recent years.

Uranium is now being produced at just three Australian sites: BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the Rio Tinto-dominated Ranger lease in the Northern Territory, and the Four Mile mine in South Australia, run by Quasar and Alliance Resources.

Mining at Ranger has stopped and the company is gradually working through the remaining stockpiles, while Olympic Dam is focused on copper and treats uranium as a byproduct.

Two others in South Australia (Russian miner Uranium One’s Honeymoon mine and US company General Atomics’ Beverley mine) closed down during 2013 and 2014 because weak uranium prices made them unviable.

But weak prices do not only hurt the mines that are already in production; they also deter companies from pushing ahead with the next generation of uranium mines, as at Ranger last month when plans for a underground expansion were abandoned.

Other Australian uranium deposits, such as the ones Toro Energy is developing in Western Australia, seem unlikely to be mined unless uranium prices significantly recover. Continue reading

August 7, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Esperance to be sacrificed for the profits of the uranium industry?

why should the people of Esperance have any faith they will be protected this time around by those with responsibility to regulate mining companies and protect the community, when they failed so badly last time?

During the Esperance lead crises, Government agencies continually downplayed the seriousness of the problem and denied any serious risk to human health.

Martin Bruckner’s remarkable book Under Corporate Skies tells the shocking story of another Western Book Under Corporate SkiesAustralian “Sacrifice Zone”

The inability of WA Government agencies to effectively regulate and monitor the operations and performance of multinational corporations whose rationale is profit maximization was confirmed in a recent WA Auditor General’s Report.


Esperance WA: Sacrifice zone for the profits of the uranium industry?, The Stringer,  by Colin Penter July 20th, 2015 A mining industry media outlet hasreported that the uranium industry in WA is keen to establish Esperance on WA’s southern coast, as a port export hub for radioactive uranium material mined in Western Australia. Continue reading

July 22, 2015 Posted by | environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Uranium company Cameco offends Shire of Esperance in discussing use of its port.

exclamation-Shire of Esperance irate about uranium remarks, Australian Mining 
15 July, 2015 Ben Hagemann The Shire of Esperance has lashed out at public suggestions by Cameco that they would want to use the WA port for shipping uranium. The managing director of Cameco Australia, Brian Reilly, recently announced the company would want to explore the possibility of shipping their products through Esperance.

Shire president Malcolm Heasman said the Canadian miner had not approached the local council to discuss the prospect of exporting uranium through the Port of Esperance, before the making public statements of their intent, a move he said was “extremely discourteous”……..

Heasman said uranium was a very emotive commodity, and that the Shire of Esperance ran a “very clean port” which used world-best practice when handling cargo. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s uranium or nickel or any other product, to come through our port hey have to satisfy world’s best practice, and the community won’t stand for anything less,” he said. “I don’t know if they were just trying to solicit a comment, but it would be nice if they actually came and spoke with us.”

Cameco’s Yeeleerie project, billed as the largest uranium development in WA, is located near Wiluna some distance from Port Adelaide and Darwin, the only two ports in Australia approved for shipping uranium.

July 18, 2015 Posted by | politics, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Yeelirrie uranium project suspended, but will it later ship uranium through Esperance?

uranium-oreWill uranium be shipped through Esperance?, Australian Mining 14 July, 2015 Ben Hagemann With the uranium industry gaining momentum in WA, Canadian miner Cameco has suggested Esperance as an export hub for products.

Cameco’s Yeeleerie project, billed as the largest in WA, is located near Wiluna some distance from Port Adelaide and Darwin, the only two ports in Australia approved for shipping uranium.

While the Yeeleerie project has been slowed to wait for commodity price recovery in the post-Fukushima uranium market, Cameco Australia managing director Brian Reilly said all options for shipping would be considered………

So far two uranium mines have been approved in WA since the 2008 lifting of the ban on uranium mining: Cameco’s Kintyre Project in the Pilbara, and Toro Energy’s Wiluna Project.

Toro Energy has already outlined plans to ship product through Port Adelaide, a 2700km journey by truck.

The issue of transporting radioactive rare earths materials came up in 2012 when Lynas Corporation rare earth shipping activities through the Port of Esperance were strenuously opposed by Greens member for Fremantle Adele Carles………

July 15, 2015 Posted by | uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Uranium investing – some stocks bad, others worse

graph-down-uraniumERA also has a $290m cash stockpile but faces almost double that to close Ranger. Unlike Amy Winehouse, that’s one rehab to which ERA must go-go-go.

As for Paladin Energy (PDN, 25.5c), being the world’s only listed pure-play uranium miner with two operating mines (albeit on care and maintenance) hasn’t made for unfettered joy either……..

We rate ERA a sell and Alliance and Paladin as specbuys

Uranium stocks a mixed bad for investors THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 03, 2015  Over the years the uranium caper has been much more fun for investors in the exploration chase, rather than the drudgery of actually mining the toxic substance. Continue reading

July 3, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Taxpayers likely to cop the costs of Ranger uranium clean-up. if ERA goes bankrupt

text-my-money-2as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

ERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts Sorry history, uncertain environmental legacy Apart from the discharge of a million litres of radioactive slurry in 2013, Ranger has a sorry history of accidents with more than 200 environmental incidents being reported to government agencies since 1979.

Ranger-pitJust how much Ranger’s clean-up will cost is open to question. Under existing legislation, once the lease expires early in 2021, ERA has five years to complete the rehabilitation program.

Gavin Mudd, a senior lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University with a long standing interest in Ranger, argues there are problems calculating the final cost as it depends on a number of choices, including how long is an adequate period of monitoring radioactivity levels.

The level of radioactivity around the site is unlikely to be safe any time soon given the half-life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years. The half-lives of other principal radioactive components of mill tailings, thorium-230 and radium-226, are shorter at about 75,000 years and 1,600 years respectively, but it’s a rather academic distinction.

Currently there is not a stipulated period for monitoring levels of radiation at the site once the rehabilitation is completed. However, Dr Mudd said a monitoring program should be run over decades rather than years.

“Fifty years would be a good start,” he said. Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

The end of the line for uranium company Energy Resources of Australia

burial.uranium-industryERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts ERA was once one of the world biggest uranium producers, supplying about 10 per cent of the global market for ‘yellowcake’ and powering electricity utilities in Japan, Europe and North America.

It’s now pretty well friendless as its last three independent directors resigned, leaving the company in the hands of its majority shareholder Rio Tinto.

Rio for its part said there is no future for ERA’s only productive asset, the Ranger Mine, which operates in the middle of the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

With its existing open mine resources exhausted, ERA has been labouring on, processing stockpiled ore since late 2012.

Ranger’s last hope lay in an ambitious and expensive underground mine – the Ranger 3 Deeps project – which could have extended the mine’s life by another decade. That hope was extinguished earlier this month when Rio, with its 68 per cent stake in ERA, said enough was enough. The market was blindsided by Rio’s decision, with ERA’s share price tumbling more than 70 per cent in the aftermath.

In hindsight it was probably inevitable.

ERA’s losses mount to $700 million since 2011 Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Pro Nuclear Expert John Carlson warns on selling uranium to India

India-uranium1Expert warns SA that uranium supply deal with India could end up in its nuclear weapons, Perth Now June 28, 2015  TORY SHEPHERD Sunday Mail (SA) SOUTH Australians should be concerned that uranium from their backyard could end up in Indian nuclear weapons, one of Australia’s top experts says.

John Carlson was director general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, until 2010 and has held other posts on safeguarding radioactive elements.

Mr Carlson, who is pro-­nuclear, told the Sunday Mail that the treaty being worked out for Australia to sell uranium to India was flimsy, and said South Australia’s people and companies should be concerned about where the state’s uranium ended up. ndia has huge demand for cheap energy, which Australian uranium can provide, but it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is developing weapons.

Mr Carlson said India had a history of disregarding commitments it had made, had refused to meet safety standards and “is actually increasing its nuclear arsenal”.

 “They’re basically saying ‘trust us’,” he said.

“This agreement is very different to all our other agreements. There’s much less detail in it. Only India, Pakistan and North Korea are producing weapons … you’d have to think this would be a watertight agreement (but) it’s very weak.

“I think there’s a reputational issue for the industry. There’s a problem for South Australian citizens.”…….

June 28, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

The game is up for uranium miners ERA and Paladin

After 10 years of no profit, and millions in shareholder value destroyed, very few have profited from Paladin’s ongoing existence. ERA, on the other hand, was profitable up until 2010, but has gone backwards since. Neither trend is unlikely to change in the future.

thumbs-downWhat’s next for Australia’s uranium miners?  Motley Fool, 24 June 15 Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX: ERA) and Paladin Energy Limited (ASX: PDN)are two of Australia’s largest independent uranium producers, but have they lived out their useful half-lives?

Some might suggest yes, following the recent news stories surrounding ERA, which is majority owned (68%) by Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO).

You may have already seen some of the news surrounding one of Australia’s largest uranium miners, ERA, when its shares plunged 47% in early trading two weeks ago. That reaction was due to the company’s decision to cancel its Ranger 3 Deeps project thanks to continued low uranium prices, and ongoing uncertainty over the uranium market’s direction in the immediate future.

ERA owned and operated the Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory. But the decision to not proceed with the Ranger 3 Deeps project means the mine holds very little value for ERA, Rio or anyone else wanting to mine uranium. Without Ranger 3 Deeps, ERA is processing stockpiled ore. What the company will do when that runs out is anybody’s guess. Continue reading

June 24, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment


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