Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, Peter Ker, Resources Reporter, 29 Nov 14 “….. As fate would have it, ERA could barely have picked a worse time to evaluate a new uranium development.
Most Australian uranium miners haven’t made a profit since. ERA has received just $US46 ($54) a pound for its product during most of this year. That is 12 per cent below the price it received in 2009.
Commodity prices are not the only threat to the project going ahead. A series of events over the past year have shaken investors’ confidence.
A tank failure in December last year spewed toxic substances around the Ranger site and prompted a six-month shutdown. Despite official surveys suggesting none of the substances escaped into Kakadu, a fierce debate ensued over the mine’s social licence to operate in such a delicate and difficult location.
The exploration results for the project have also fuelled concerns, with some analysts expressing alarm at the quality of some sections of the underground geology and cases of unstable rock formations.
At the same time ERA’s 68 per cent shareholder, Rio Tinto, is aggressively cutting back capital spending on new projects.
With Rio focused on boosting dividends rather than building large numbers of new mines, many doubt it will be willing to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to go ahead with a new underground mine at Ranger.
When the geological concerns were reported to the market in July, Credit Suisse published the most pessimistic research note on the project to date.
“We believe the results of the Deeps resource drilling are poor,” the note said.
“Ranger Deeps either adds value or there is close to none, and risks are increasing towards the latter. If ERA announces at the end of this year that Ranger Deeps is not viable, then the share price should collapse to very low levels.”……..
JP Morgan analysts said the weak uranium prices, combined with the 2021 expiry of the mining lease, put ERA in a difficult position.
“We believe the project likely needs prices of $US50 per pound to $US60 per pound over the life of the project,” they wrote. ……..
ERA chief Andrea Sutton said the geological results had been consistent with expectations, and sufficiently good for the company to conduct less drilling than planned.
The spot uranium price enjoyed a small surge in early November, and while the longevity of that rise is unclear, Sutton said the company was confident the price would rebound in the medium term……….http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/uranium-mining-in-kakadu-at-a-crucial-point-20141128-11vmr3.html
Paladin continues uranium plunge, Yahoo 7 News, Nick Evans November 14, 2014 A surge in the uranium spot price failed to help Paladin Energy’s bottom line, with the company declaring a net after-tax loss from operations of $US45.8 million for the September quarter.
According to Paladin’s latest financial results, released late yesterday, revenue for the quarter crashed 43 per cent to $US39.3 million………
The unexpectedly big loss will put further pressure on Paladin’s balance sheet, despite the completion of a $US190 million company-saving deal with China National Nuclear Corporation for the sale of a 25 per cent stake in Langer Heinrich. Closure of the deal left Paladin with cash holdings worth $US209.5 million at September 30.
Paladin also refinanced its existing $US110 million project finance loan and $US20 million working capital facility in the quarter, and used some of the CNNC cash to pay down debt.
But the company still faces the task of refinancing $US300 million of convertible bonds maturing next November, as well as paying $US40.4 million in interest and principal repayments before next September…….https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/wa/a/25512522/paladin-continues-uranium-plunge/
Pact to operationalise nuclear deal won’t to be signed during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia Indian Express by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi November 13, 2014
Two months after India and Australia signed the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, a pact on the administrative arrangements — key to operationalising the uranium supply deal — is not likely to be signed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Australia from November 14 to 18. However, officials said the two sides are aiming to conclude the deal in the first-half of 2015.
The pact on administrative arrangements is important for the Australian government to put it before the Australian parliamentary committee on treaties. After the committee examines the civilian nuclear deal and the administrative arrangements and prepares a report, it goes to the Australian parliament for approval. Only after the parliamentary nod can the Australian companies get into commercial negotiations with Indian counterparts for uranium supply………http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/pact-to-make-n-deal-with-australia-operational-wont-be-signed-this-time/
Northern Territory and national environment groups have pledged to fight a proposal for a new underground uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park, arguing the proponent Energy Resources of Australia has failed to supply key details that would allow NT and federal environment ministers to make an informed assessment of the project’s economic risks.
Energy Resources of Australia, majority owned by Rio Tinto, has submitted a Draft Environment Impact Assessment prior to finalising and releasing a pre-feasibility study that contains important project details, including economic data directly relevant to the company’s unproven capacity to rehabilitate the troubled mine site.
“ERA’s financial struggles are well known to investors who have fled the depressed uranium sector in droves since Fukushima,” said Lauren Mellor of the Environment Centre NT.
“The company has lost more than $400 million since the disaster, which was directly fuelled by Australian uranium, struck in 2011.
“With rehabilitation liabilities of more than $700 million – worth more than ERA’s market value – the company has warned the ASX it may not be able to fully fund future rehabilitation. Federal and NT assessors should demand all project data be made available for public scrutiny during the assessment process.”
ERA is required to end mining and mineral processing at the Ranger mine in January 2021 and the groups are concerned that the planned new underground operation, known as Ranger 3 Deeps, would complicate and delay the company’s mandated clean up and rehabilitation period.
“Ranger has been operating inside Kakadu for more than three decades and has experienced hundreds of leaks, spills and license breaches in that time, including a major radioactive spill last year that shut the plant for six months,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney.
“The mine is ageing, failing and is overdue for retirement. But instead of a planned and costed clean up and exit plan, ERA is pushing ahead with incomplete plans for a new underground mine, playing radioactive roulette at Ranger.”
“We will actively contest any new uranium mine in Kakadu because this company has a track record of broken pipes and broken promises.
“Federal and NT Environment Ministers responsible for assessment of the Ranger 3 Deeps project should require ERA to come clean about its plans and its projections and ensure all the missing project data is provided for public scrutiny.”
Editors’ Note: Dr Gavin Mudd, Senior Environmental Engineer at Monash University and a leading expert in uranium mining , legacy mines and groundwater impacts will address a public forum at 6pm on Wednesday 5 Nov at the Groove Café in Nightcliff to discuss the complex rehabilitation challenges facing ERA at the Ranger site. Dr Mudd is also available for comment and background briefings.
CONTACT: Dr Gavin Mudd, 0419 117 494. Lauren Mellor, ECNT, 0413 534 125 or Dave Sweeney, ACF, 0408 317 812
BHP offers little hope of revisiting Olympic Dam expansion The global miner shelved plans for the multi-billion-dollar expansion in 2012 after a year-long study. MineWeb 03 Nov 2014 SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Expansion by BHP Billiton’s giant Olympic Dam mine in Australia, once considered among its prized growth assets, is off the agenda due to low metals prices and productivity inefficiencies, the company said on Friday.
BHP shelved plans for a multi-billion-dollar expansion of the copper, gold and uranium mine in 2012 after a year-long study, citing a need to reign in spending as the Australian mining boom started to fade.
Since then business leaders and politicians, including Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have implored BHP to reconsider its decision, hoping to alleviate job losses caused by the exit of car manufacturing inAustralia.
But BHP has stood firm and on Friday reiterated its mothballing of expansion plans for Olympic Dam. http://www.mineweb.com/mineweb/content/en/mineweb-gold-news?oid=258553&sn=Detail
Uranium producer Cameco reports a third-quarter loss By Jim Brumm StarNewsOnline.com, November 3, 2014 “……..The Canadian uranium producer reported a third-quarter loss last week after writing off its $184 million investment in Global Laser, citing General Electric’s unexpected July cut in funding to “pace our investment in line with market.”
At the time Silex, the Australian owner of the laser technology, said GE responded “to worsening trading conditions in the global nuclear fuel markets, initially triggered by the events in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011.”
“The market has declined more than 50 percent since” the Global Laser project started in 2007, GE spokesman Christopher White said in July without describing the measurement cited………
Cameco’s charge indicates a total Global Laser worth of $767 million and values GE’s 51 percent at $391 million. Hitachi, which owns the remaining 25 percent, hasn’t discussed a charge.
GE has declined to discuss the dollar value of the Global Laser charge it took against second-quarter earnings, but Nuclear Intelligence Weekly put the amount at $194 million. That would be 49.6 percent of the total value of GE’s Global Laser holdings as indicated by Cameco. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20141103/ARTICLES/141109942/-1/topic24?Title=Uranium-producer-Cameco-reports-a-third-quarter-loss-
$200m sought to rehabilitate former Rum Jungle uranium mine, ABC News 31 Oct 14 By Joanna Crothers The Department of Mines and Energy is seeking $200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the former Rum Jungle mine site.
Attempts to rehabilitate the site, Australia’s first uranium mine, stem back to the 1970s.
Scientists from the Department of Mines and Energy (DoE) have been drilling at the site over the past three weeks and analysing rock samples.It is estimated that five million cubic metres of rock will need to be relocated or re-buried in two of the mine’s deepest pits.
The process is likely to take three years and cost millions, scientists say…….Uranium and copper were mined at the site from the 1950s until the site closed in 1971. Waste rock at the site was buried but it started releasing acid and metals into the nearby East Finniss River. Ms Laurencont said the rocks were larger and more oxidised than was thought.
Last year the Federal Government allocated $14 million for developing a rehabilitation plan, in addition to $8 million already spent on a preliminary plan.
Acidic drainage has plagued the site since it closed and the Finniss River is a significant fishing sport for Indigenous people and Territory anglers.
The recreational reserve now known as the Rum Jungle South Recreation Reserve was shut from 2010 until 2012 by the Northern Territory Government where some low-level radiation was detected.
The Department will present its plan of rehabilitation to the Treasury in March next year.Other plans to rehabilitate include cleaning up other areas of the site and reintroducing vegetation onto the site. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-31/mines-department-seeking-200m-to-fix-former-rum-jungle-mine/5858764
ERA to lift safety standards at Ranger Uranium Mine 24 October, 2014 Ben Hagemann Australian Mining, The Ranger Uranium mine has been directed to engage in improvements to process safety procedures on site, as a result of inadequate safety at the time of the failure of a leach tank in December last year.
The Department of Industry released a summary joint statement for the investigation which said that at the time of the failure of Leach Tank 1, the management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet the expected standards. Continue reading
Kirsten Blair, 22 Oct 14 Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation was disappointed to learn that Ministers Ian MacFarlane and Willem Westra van Holthe had released a summary report of the investigation into the collapse of a leach tank at the Ranger uranium mine within the bounds of Kakadu National Park late last year without consulting all members of the investigation taskforce.
Gundjeihmi, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger mine site, has a position on the taskforce which was established to investigate last year’s radiological accident but was not informed of the intention to release the report yesterday.
Justin O’Brien CEO of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation said “We are bitterly disappointed that the investigation taskforce process has broken down, not for any want of trying on our part. It is critical that the recommendations of this report are fully implemented with highest priority given to a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework at Ranger, a point which the ministers have acknowledged but up to this point have not committed to act on.
“The tank collapse which sent over a million litres of radioactive acid spilling across the mine site was yet another example of the poor management and failed systems at Ranger. For Traditional Owners to gain have any confidence in the capacity of the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and the regulators to manage this mine the recommendations of this report must be acted on swiftly and completely.
“ERA wants to expand the Ranger mine underground. Without a comprehensive regulatory review and implementation of the remaining recommendations it would be ludicrous for the Federal Government to even consider such a proposal.” Mr O’Brien concluded
Graziers on alert as uranium exploration looms ABC News, By Jacqueline Breen 19 Oct 14 Graziers are watching closely as the state government prepares to grant uranium exploration licenses in the state’s far west.
Last month the government overturned the ban on uranium exploration and invited six companies to apply to explore for deposits near Broken Hill, Cobar and Dubbo.
The state’s Resources and Energy Division has since held a stakeholder meeting in Broken Hill, attended by the local council, New South Wales Farmers and the West Darling Pastoralists’ Association.
Association president Chris Wilhelm says landholders will be the first affected when exploration begins and he wants their rights protected……( Map below shows areas in New South Wales where uranium deposts exist, could be explored for))
The ban on uranium mining in New South Wales remains in place. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-20/graziers-watch-closely-as-uranium-exploration-looms/5825950
Hillside mine: Greens call for release of ‘uranium appendices’ for Yorke Peninsula open pit, ABC News 19 Oct 14
The Greens are calling for the release of documents relating to uranium deposits at a copper mine approved for South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.
Earlier this year mining company Rex Minerals submitted a document to the South Australian Government that responded to community concerns about the potential contamination of prime farmland from the Hillside mine.
The Government responded by approving the 2.4-kilometre-long, 1km-deep and 450m-deep open pit near Ardrossan that would extract 2 million tonnes of copper, 1.7 million ounces of gold and 44 million tonnes of iron ore over 15 years.
Some parts of the mining lease proposal documents, however, were deemed “commercial-in-confidence” and withheld from publication.
State Greens leader Mark Parnell has submitted a freedom of information application to view the documents and see how much uranium is at the site.
He said appendices 36 and 37 related to uranium and were being “kept secret”.
“If the company says ‘nothing to worry about’, then they should have nothing to worry about releasing the documents that explain exactly where the radioactive hotspots are,” Mr Parnell said………
EPA regulation levels to be reduced
South Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) regulations take effect at 200ppm – a level that would soon be reduced to 80ppm in line with national guidelines……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-20/greens-call-for-the-release-of-uranium-appendices-hillside-mine/5826048
“The writing is on the wall for Rio – post-Fukushima the uranium commodity price is at an historic low, the global market outlook shows no signs of recovery and the company continue to lose millions at Ranger mine every year. NT and Commonwealth regulators need to use the Ranger 3 Deeps EIA process to take a sobering look at the mine’s struggling financial position, it’s poor worker safety, nuclear security and environmental record and use this opportunity to close the door on this costly and contaminating trade for good.”
7 Oct 14 The Environment Centre has vowed to contest any new uranium mining in Kakadu National Park and called on Rio Tinto to commit to a comprehensive closure and rehabilitation plan for Ranger uranium mine. The call coincided with an international day of action on October 7th with trade unions, communities and Indigenous groups protesting to highlight the health, environment and social impacts of Rio Tinto’s multinational mining operations.
Rio Tinto and subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia are currently seeking an approval to develop a new underground uranium deposit, Ranger 3 Deeps, despite recent claims that the company is unwilling to take responsibility for the $600 million plus clean-up costs from its open pit operation.
Rio’s Chief Executive Sam Walsh has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for rehabilitation, most recently at the company’s Melbourne AGM, suggesting instead that its subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia, 68% owned by Rio should bear sole responsibility despite its weak financial position.
Lauren Mellor from the Environment Centre NT said “We are supporting the international call today to hold Rio Tinto to account for its appalling track record on environmental, social and industrial safety issues. Here in the NT Rio’s Ranger uranium mine has recorded over 200 license and security breaches, spills, and accidents in its 30 year history. Continue reading
Toro seeks to expand planned WA uranium mine ABC News By David Weber 8 Oct 14
A company hoping to become the first to export uranium from Western Australia has released plans for an expansion of its currently untapped mine in the state’s mid-west.
Toro Energy last year received federal environmental approval for the Wiluna project to exploit the Lake Way and Centipede deposits.
But a new environmental scoping document included two more deposits, Millipede and Lake Maitland.
The plans are open for comment with the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)………
the WA Conservation Council said the existing conditional approval should be revoked and a completely new assessment done.The council’s Mia Pepper said the added impacts of an expansion needed to be considered.”While they might think that they know a lot, there’s a lot of impacts that are unknown when you add additional deposits,” she said.
“You add additional land clearing and impact area.”What they need to do and what they should be doing as any responsible company would is look at the cumulative impacts of that increase.”
Mr Yeeles said the start of mining was some way off.
“The market is not right, the price is not right for mining at the moment but by the time we complete the assessment for Millipede and Lake Maitland, we would expect the market conditions to have improved,” he said.
Toro expects the assessment process may take up to two years. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-06/uranium-miners-toro-seek-project-expansion-at-wiluna-site/5794318
Alliance Resources ships first batch of uranium ore Four Mile mine, Australia http://nuclearfuels.energy-business-review.com/news/alliance-resources-ships-first-batch-of-uranium-ore-four-mile-mine-australia-061014-4395242 EBR Staff Writer 06 October 2014 Alliance Resources has shipped first batch of uranium ore concentrate from its Four Mile mine in South Australia.
The ore concentrate has been shipped to Cameco’s facility at Blind River, Ontario, in September for further testing prior to sale.
The company is set to make a second shipment in mid-October to Canada.Alliance said that the first shipment comprised 300,000lb, while second shipment contains 210,000lb.
Due to limited availability of maritime transport, the first shipment of uranium was delayed.
Located 550km north of Adelaide, the Four Mile project is a joint venture of Alliance Resources and Quasar Resources, which owns 75% of the mine. It was commissioned in March and was opened in June.Alliance’s, Alliance Craton Explorer holds 25% of ML6402 and EL5017.
Dave Sweeney, 6 Oct 14 Today’s announcement that Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has lodged its Environmental Impact Statement for underground mining (the Ranger 3 Deeps or R3D project) at its embattled Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu raises serious concerns about the project’s environmental impacts and economic viability, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
This application faces significant procedural and market hurdles and will be actively contested by national and NT environment groups.
“Uranium mining at Ranger has been the source of headlines, heartache and hazard for years but all mining and mineral processing ends in January 2021 when a mandated rehabilitation and closure process commences. ERA faces a serious management challenge to rehabilitate the Ranger site to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park”, said ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Ranger 3 Deeps would add considerable cost and complexity to this challenge. Instead of literally digging itself into a deeper hole ERA and parent company Rio Tinto should be advancing a comprehensive clean-up and closure program at Ranger”.
“ERA runs a failing mine in a fragile place. Kakadu deserves the highest protection and ERA requires the highest scrutiny. Instead of promises and plans to go underground Rio Tinto needs to ensure its under-performing subsidiary ERA meets its rehabilitation requirements in time and in total. After decades of being able to mine and mill Rio Tinto must not now be allowed to cut and run”.
Concerns around the planned R3D project include:
- the projects impact on the required rehabilitation of the Ranger site (note: ERA’s authority for mining and mineral processing expires in January 2021)
- doubts over the capacity of ERA and the commitment of parent company Rio Tinto to fund required rehabilitation works at Ranger. The former mine will need to be rehabilitated to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. This complex and costly task is being actively undermined by the lack of certainty surrounding rehabilitation financing. Rio Tinto argue they have no legal obligation to do the job, while ERA say they do not have the money. One corporation lacks commitment, the other capacity and Kakadu is held to ransom.
- uncertainty surrounding the safety and adequacy of related infrastructure at the Ranger site (most starkly highlighted by the collapse of a leach tank and spill of overa million litres of radioactive and acidic slurry in December 2013)
- ERA’s poor operational history which has seen over 200 leaks, spill, licence breaches and incidents at the Ranger mine and detailed concerns raised over the adequacy of the mine’s regulatory regime.
- The poor uranium commodity price post Fukushima – a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – ERA’s revenue has been steadily declining and net profit after tax has been negative in the last three years (2011-13). There is a real concern that falling costs will lead to ERA cutting corners.
Context and comment: Dave Sweeney, ACF – 0408 317 812