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
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 Australian “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
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. http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/shire-of-esperance-irate-about-uranium-remarks
Will 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………http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/News/Will-uranium-be-shipped-through-Esperance
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 Tim Boreham 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
as 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.
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
ERA 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
Expert 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”.
“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.”…….http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/national/expert-warns-sa-that-uranium-supply-deal-with-india-could-end-up-in-its-nuclear-weapons/story-fnii5yv8-1227418016005
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.
What’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
Mining exploration slump makes a new Olympic Dam unlikely, The Age, June 24, 2015 Tess Ingram Reporter One of the key geologists involved in the discovery of BHP Billiton’s highly-regarded Olympic Dam mine says the industry’s search for another deposit of a similar scale has all but ceased as major miners reject greenfield exploration and juniors struggle to secure financing.
Douglas Haynes was one of a small fleet of young geologists working in the 1970s for Western Mining Corporation, whose innovative approach to copper exploration aided in the discovery of one of the world’s largest economic mineral deposits.
Mr Haynes told The Australian Financial Review on the sidelines of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies Convention the sustained lull in exploration activity suggested “there is no more exploration for Olympic Dams in Australia”.
“There are two things happening,” he said. “The idea of finding an ore body at 300 metres depth puts a lot of small companies off because of the starvation of capital for entrepreneurial types doing this kind of thing.” He added major miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were unlikely to “indulge” in large exploration programs……….http://www.theage.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/mining-exploration-slump-makes-a-new-olympic-dam-unlikely-20150624-ghvjmh
Half of Australian uranium miner’s board quits after Rio shelves project http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/22/energy-rsc-aust-moves-idUSL3N0Z81YX20150622 SYDNEY, JUNE 22 Half of the board at uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia resigned on Monday, saying majority owner Rio Tinto’s decision to abandon work on a major mine expansion made it difficult for the company to pursue its goals.
ERA’s stock has plunged more than 70 percent since it said on June 12 that it would not proceed with the final development study for its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in northern Australia due to low uranium prices.
Uranium prices have tumbled since the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan has idled its entire industry in response, exacerbating a worldwide supply glut.
Three ERA directors, including Chairman Peter McMahon, resigned, leaving the board with just three members, the company said in statement. ERA, a separately listed division in which Rio Tinto holds a 68.4 percent stake, said a search for replacement directors had been approved.
ERA shares in death spiral as prospects slashed, SMH, June 15, 20 Peter Ker The uranium miner operating beside Kakadu National Park may have zero chance of restarting mining at the site, according to UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock.
Speaking after shares in Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) lost more than 48 per cent of their value on Friday, Mr Lawcock said the decision to abandon plans for an expansion of the Ranger mine warranted a downgrading of the stock to a “sell” rating.
Many ERA shareholders were doing just that on Monday, with the stock falling a further 25.4 per cent or 17¢ to close at 50¢.
ERA shares were worth $1.29 at market close on Thursday, prior to ERA announcing that it would not go ahead with an underground expansion at the Ranger mine. That expansion, called “Ranger 3 Deeps”, was the only chance of future mining at Ranger, where mining of the third pit ceased in 2011……
Rio Tinto has offered to cover the shortage of funds to complete the rehabilitation, but it is believed that offer is conditional on ERA ruling out any further development at Ranger, something ERA is not yet willing to do……
The funding shortfall for the rehabilitation is believed to be close to $200 million, although Mr Drew speculated it could be as high as $500 million.
Uranium prices have been depressed since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011, and that weakness was one of the major reasons why the underground expansion was abandoned….http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/era-shares-in-death-spiral-as-prospects-slashed-20150615-gho6jg.html
Rio Tinto mulls $300M writedown as uranium mine expansion cancelled, Mining.com Cecilia Jamasmie | June 12, 2015 Mining giant Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO) is contemplating to take a writedown of about $300 million after its subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA) decided to cancel plans to expand a uranium mine.
ERA, in which Rio has a 68.4% stake, said on Thursday that it would not proceed with the final feasibility study of its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in Australia’s Northern Territory, citing weak market conditions.
The decision underscores the ongoing strains in the nuclear industry following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, which prompted Japan to mothball its 43 operable reactors, causing uranium prices to drop as a result of a worldwide supply glut……..http://www.mining.com/rio-tinto-mulls-300m-writedown-as-uranium-mine-expansion-cancelled/
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, 12 June 15 The Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger Uranium Mine area and the site of the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine release this statement following yesterday’s announcements by Energy Resources of Australia and Rio Tinto that ERA will not at this time proceed with the final feasibility study of the proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine.
The Mirarr and the GAC welcome the clarity that yesterday’s announcements provide in terms of the present viability of the Ranger Three Deeps project. We are also pleased that both companies now publicly recognise the importance of adequately financing the rehabilitation of the Ranger site.
First and foremost in our minds is ensuring the permanent protection of the natural and cultural values for which Kakadu is inscribed World Heritage. We need to see a concrete and comprehensive commitment and plan for the clean-up of Kakadu; that commitment and planning needs to start today.
Mirarr have maintained ongoing dialogue with ERA and governments throughout this process and notwithstanding today’s announcement will continue to talk through all relevant issues as necessary. However, as things stand today we will not support any extended term of mining at Ranger beyond 2021.
We take this position because of our experience of 30 years of environmental and cultural impacts at Ranger and because in our talks with Rio Tinto and the Australian government we have been given no guarantee that Ranger will be the last uranium mine in Kakadu. The Mirarr remain fundamentally opposed to Jabiluka’s development – that opposition is intergenerational. We are concerned about the lack of adequate planning for Jabiluka’s final rehabilitation and its incorporation into Kakadu National Park. ____________________________________________________________________________________ For further information contact 08 8979 2200 / 0427 008 765
Northern Territory and national environment groups have welcomed the announcement that a planned underground uranium mine in Kakadu – Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger 3 Deeps project – has been cancelled.
“ERA’s move to abandon plans for an underground expansion at Ranger is an overdue acknowledgement that the underground mine plan lacked economic and environmental sense. It is also a significant step towards the end of uranium mining in Kakadu,” said Nuclear-Free campaigner Lauren Mellor.
Local and national environment groups have for long called for ERA and parent company Rio Tinto to commit to the rehabilitation of the Ranger site and have welcomed that ERA’s ASX announcement has now accepted it needs to secure adequate rehabilitation funding.
“We welcome the fact that ERA has sought an assurance from its parent company Rio Tinto that the required clean-up costs will come at the expense of the company and not the public,” said ACF spokesperson Dave Sweeney.
“ERA has lost around $1 billion on the under-performing Ranger project and has left its run too late in developing the Ranger 3 Deeps proposal – with the continuing low post-Fukushima commodity price the window for uranium mining at Ranger is closing and the operation has moved from dig up to clean up.”
The groups have called for all project applications and approvals to be withdrawn and for ERA to detail its closure and clean-up plan and costings.
*ERA ASX announcement available here: http://www.energyres.com.au/documents/Media_release_Ranger_3_Deeps_project_update.pdf
For further context and comment contact:
Lauren Mellor, Environment Centre NT on 0413 534 125
Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation on 0408 317 812