WA uranium mines: Race for environmental ticks in Goldfields before WA election, conservationists say http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-14/wa-uranium-mine-approvals-race-ahead-of-wa-election-cc-says/7931254 By David Weber, 14 Oct 16, Proponents of uranium mines in Western Australia are racing to gain environmental approvals ahead of the state election, in case Labor wins, according to the Conservation Council.
Three projects in the Goldfields are at various stages of assessment.
They include Vimy Resources’ proposed mine at Mulga Rock, Toro Energy’s proposal to mine near Wiluna, and Cameco’s nearby Yeelirrie project.
The Council’s anti-nuclear campaigner, Mia Pepper, said companies were seeking security for the projects. “Certainly we are getting the sense that [for] the three uranium projects that’re under assessment … they’re clearly seeking some level of approval before the state election,” she said.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended conditional approval for Toro Energy’s proposal, 30 kilometres south of Wiluna.
Cameco’s project at Yeelirrie, 70 kilometres south-west of the town, was knocked back after the EPA said there was too much risk to the subterranean fauna. However the EPA in August recommended the green light for Vimy’s project at Mulga Rock, 260 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, and preliminary site works have been given the go-ahead.
Approvals could lead to ‘pressure’ on Labor Ms Pepper has met the EPA appeals convenor expressing concern about Mulga Rock. She said if a project cleared certain hurdles, it would be harder to wind it back. “An environmental approval is just one layer of approval that a uranium project requires,” she said.
“[It] is a long way from final approval, so it doesn’t lock in Labor to any of these projects, but … there would be seen to be that kind of pressure.
“It’s a political issue, it’s a very contentious issue and certainly the companies are doing everything they can.”
Even after a positive EPA assessment, uranium projects still required state and federal ministerial backing as well as other approvals and licences.
Cameco’s open cut mine at Kintyre, 270 kilometres north-east of Newman, has gone as far as gaining conditional approval from the Federal Government last year. Labor’s stated policy suggests mines that have been granted final state approval for construction will be permitted to operate and export in the same manner as other mining ventures.
Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound, Reuters, 7 OCT 16 LONDON “……..BULGING INVENTORIES Mining executives partly blame the slump on their customers’ wait-and-see attitude, as utilities believe that the uranium market’s over-capacity will persist for years and see no need to rebuild their dwindling stockpiles.
Demand for uranium is determined by the number of nuclear plants in operation worldwide, but supply and demand are disjointed by huge stocks and uranium’s long production cycle……..
In the five years before Fukushima, utilities worldwide bought about 200 million pounds of uranium per year, he said. Although Japan’s consumption averaged only around 25 million pounds per year, when it closed its reactors demand was cut far further, falling by half. European and U.S. utilities saw that the market was over-supplied and reduced inventories, buying less.
Mining firm Energy Fuels estimates global uranium stocks held by utilities, miners and governments are now at around 1 billion pounds. That is down from a peak around 2.5 billion pounds in 1990, but still many years’ worth of consumption.
Despite the plunge in uranium prices after the 2008 financial crisis and again after Fukushima, uranium production has doubled from 80-90 million pounds in the mid-1990s to about 160 million pounds last year, according to Energy Fuels data……
With so much new supply, and demand sliding, prices have fallen to a level where most uranium miners operate at a loss.
“At today’s spot prices, the primary uranium mining industry is not sustainable,” US uranium producer Energy Fuels COO Mark Chalmers told the World Nuclear Association’s London conference last month.
He added that many legacy long-term supply contracts will expire in 2017-18, which will force many mines to close or throttle back even further than they already have.
Miners like Canada’s Cameco, France’s Areva and the uranium arms of global mining companies have closed or mothballed several mines and deferred new projects in order to cut back supply.
Paladin – the world’s second-largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth-largest globally – has production capacity of 8 million pounds of yellowcake uranium but produced just 4.9 million pounds last year at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.
Molyneux said the firm will produce about 4 million pounds this year and will cut output further to about 3.5 million pounds next year if prices do not recover.
Paladin suspended production at its 2.3 million pounds per year capacity Kayelekera mine in northern Malawi in 2014 but maintains equipment so it can resume when prices recover.
Meanwhile it is trying to further reduce its debt, which already fell from $1.2 billion five years ago to $362 million.
Paladin has agreed to sell 24 pct of Langer Heinrich to the China National Nuclear Company and plans to use the expected proceeds of 175 million dollars to further reduce debt.
Bigger peer Cameco in April suspended production at its Rabbit Lake, Canada mine while also curtailing output across its U.S. operations, saying market conditions could not support the operating and capital costs needed to sustain production.
Cameco marketing head Tim Gabruch told the WNA conference that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
Supply adjustments and producer discipline had not yet been sufficient to counter the loss of demand, he said.”As difficult as those decisions have been, we recognize that those actions may not be enough.”(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Peter Graff) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uranium-nuclearpower-idUSKCN1230EF
http://www.robinchapple.com/crisis-confidence-over-epa-uranium-mine-push 27 September
WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Robin Chapple MLC have today questioned the EPA’s approval for preparatory works at the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, which is yet to be approved and currently subject to an appeal.
“Today’s approval for preparatory works at Mulga Rocks exposes the sham of the assessment and appeals process; the EPAs decision today is at odds with the intention of the Environmental Protection Act 1986,” Mr Chapple said.
“There has been serious public backlash against the project reflected in numerous appeals being lodged against the project, including from Traditional Owners and people in the local community.
“There is a race on in WA to get uranium mines approved before the State election. This ambition is ridiculous given the widespread opposition to the industry and the market conditions which are prohibitive to new mines.”
“World-wide we’re seeing uranium mines close and others put in to care and maintenance. Vimy Resources may have some political influence and big benefactors like Andrew Forrest, but none of these things will make this mine profitable or socially acceptable,” Senator Ludlam said.
“The EPA’s response to Vimy’s aggressive approach to starting this mine is not just a demonstration of a poor and non-transparent process, it is a slap in the face for the public and local community that have engaged in good faith in a process which is in essence a fait accompli.
“While the process is broken, the resolve of communities to fight this project is very much alive and well.”
Lauren Mellor, 27 Sept 16
Quick update from the NT as some of you may have seen the news last week that Rio Tinto was granted exploration rights for uranium at a site called Dry Creek, part of the Garawa Wanyii Land Trust on the border of the NT and QLD in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Well-known Garawa/Wanyii Aboriginal rights activist Alec Doomadgee’s family are caretakers for the area concerned and he has been posting video updates online about the situation, saying the community are preparing to challenge the Northern Land Council’s sign off on the project with Rio Tinto (you can view some on his Facebook page
and the Borroloola Change-makers page).
Opposition to the agreement is high and the community have responded quickly to the announcement calling for new meetings to clarify and reverse any decision made.
A fired-up delegation from the community including Alec have just travelled to Darwin and met with the NLC executive on Friday.
The outcome was that NLC have agreed not to proceed with the agreement sign-off until new community meetings can be called in coming weeks.
I’ve been speaking with people from Gulf communities and it looks like the ‘agreement’ was reached through a very sloppy consultation process with the NLC piggy-backing off an IPA meeting for the Garawa/Wanyii Land Trust and creating alot of confusion about the projects being discussed.
When some people requested more information about the uranium exploration project the NLC took that to mean agreement to start negotiations and as a ‘yes’ to exploration, which many will know ultimately means a yes to mining further down the track if the company wants to proceed..
Paladin Energy’scontaminating uranium operations, controversy over Anvil and state repression in Congo, MRC’s exit from its Xolobeni titanium project on South Africa’s Wild Coast following the murder of anti-mining advocateBazooka Rhadebe earlier this year.
The list goes ever on and the details – some of which are documented in a powerful report by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists – are deeply disturbing.
The absence of a robust regulatory regime in many African countries can see situations where Australian companies are engaged in activities that would not be acceptable practise at home
Africa Down Under: Tales Of Australian Woe On The ‘Dark Continent’, New Matilda, By Dave Sweeney on September 7, 2016 A mining conference underway in Perth states its aim is to help boost the fortunes of one of the poorest regions on earth. But boost the fortunes for whom, asks Dave Sweeney from ACF.
Stories of corruption, dirty dealing and corner cutting are not uncommon in the world of mining and resource extraction, especially in the developing or majority world. It is a tough trade where the high-visibility clothing is often in stark contrast to the lack of transparency surrounding payments and practises.
But as a major industry gathering takes place this week in Perth it is time for a genuine look at whether Australian resource companies are supporting the growth of fledgling democracies or literally undermining them.
No doubt the tall tales will flow along with the cocktails at the Africa Down Under mining conference, an annual event that sees Australian politicians join their African counterparts alongside a melange of miners, merchants and media. Continue reading
Energy Resources of Australia slashes asset values, The Age, Brian Robins 30 Aug 16 Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has been forced to slash the value of its assets by $161 million, almost equal to the company’s remaining sharemarket value.
With its controversial Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park, scheduled to close within five years, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) had questioned the way ERA valued its assets in its December 31, 2015 financial report.
The miner had now conceded that the value at which it carried the Ranger mine assets in its books “exceeded fair value”, ASIC said in a statement on Tuesday.
ERA pointed to weakness in the uranium oxide price at a time when the mine had only a five-year life left, without an extension of its authority to mine, as reasons for booking the impairment.
The write-down compares with ERA’s sharemarket worth of just $173 million, which signals deep-seated investor pessimism over its prospects in light of the traditional land owners’ opposition to extending the operation of the mine.
In the June half, ERA lost $35.2 million, which blew out to $196.5 million following the write-down. Revenue slipped to $170.5 million from $185.8 million due to the weak uranium price……..
ASIC had queried the company’s use of a single discount rate when valuing its assets. ERA has agreed to use different valuation techniques for the mining and rehabilitation of the site, for example.
ERA’s biggest single asset is its accumulated losses, which now total $822.8 million and tower over the value of its dwindling equity of $273.4 million.
Indigenous people living in the area have a bad history with uranium developments. It’s a few hundred kilometres from Cundalee, the mission where Spinifex people from the Great Victoria Desert were placed after being pushed off their traditional lands by the British government’s nuclear testing program in Maralinga, South Australia, in the 1950s and 60s
Pilanguru people to fight on as uranium mine gets environmental approval
Traditional owners say the Indigenous community has not been adequately consulted about Vimy Resources’ planned Mulga Rock open-pit mine, Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 15 Aug 16, Traditional owners have vowed to fight a proposed uranium mine at Mulga Rock, about 240km west of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, which was given conditional environmental approval on Monday.
The Environmental Protection Authority of WA recommended the Barnett government approve construction of the open-pit mine and uranium processing plant, operated by Perth-based Vimy Resources Limited, after a three-month public environmental review. Continue reading
The winning argument against the mine A joint submission was provided to the Yeelirrie Public Environment Review by the Conservation Council of WA, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth Australia, The Wilderness Society, the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, the West Australia Nuclear Free
Alliance and the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance.
Amongst other points, they called for the project to be rejected “on the grounds that the Yeelirrie Subterranean Community, a Priority 1 Ecological Community (PEC) comprises a series of highly endemic, diverse stygofauna and troglofauna species within multiple calcrete habitats). The impacts of the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, predominantly the associated groundwater drawdown, pose an unacceptable risk that could see a number of subterranean species become extinct (particularly 15 species that are currently only known from the direct impact zone).”
The EPA decision was based on the impacts on subterranean fauna, and disregarded other points made in the submission.
The Wongutha Traditional Owners have been fighting this project for over 40 years.
WA EPA rejects proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, Online Opinion, By Mara Bonacci – posted Tuesday, 16 August 2016 After nearly 3,000 people lodged submissions with the Western Australian EPA in opposition to the proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie, on August 3 the EPA recommended that the project be rejected. Traditional Owners and environmentalists welcomed the decision, but remain wary……. Continue reading
Vimy Resources uranium mine east of Kalgoorlie given environmental approval, ABC News, By Laura Gartry , 16 Aug 16, A new uranium mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields has been recommended for approval by the state’s environmental watchdog, just weeks after a similar proposal in the area was knocked back.
The Environmental Protection Authority [EPA] granted the approval for Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rock uranium project, which is 240 kilometres east-north-east of Kalgoorlie, subject to a range of conditions.
Final approval is still required from both the state and federal environment ministers…….
Earlier this month, the EPA rejected Cameco Australia’s Yeelirrie uranium project after it deemed there was too much risk to the area’s subterranean fauna.
The Canadian company had sought to mine up to 7,500 tonnes of UOC per year from the Yeelirrie deposit, about 420 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and 70 kilometres south-west of Wiluna.
The proposal had attracted protests, including from traditional owner and chair of WA nuclear free alliance Kado Muir, who argued there was no broad community support for uranium mining in WA…….
More than 1,000 submissions were received during the 12-week public review period…….
Two other WA uranium projects have received EPA and ministerial approval in recent years, including the Wiluna uranium mine and the Kintyre uranium project, 270 kilometres north east of Newman.
The Conservation Council of WA said it would appeal the proposed mine because it threatened a pristine environmentally and culturally-significant area.……
Vimy Resources faces many hurdles and road blocks and today’s EPA recommendation is a long way from a green light for mining yellow cake at Mulga Rock,” Council campaigner Mia Pepper said.
Pila Nguru Aboriginal Corporation chair Bruce Hogan said the site was culturally significant. “We don’t want that mine to go ahead. We will fight against that mine at Mulga Rock,” Mr Hogan said.
Spinifex Pilki elder Sandra Evans said traditional owners from the Great Victoria Desert area were not consulted properly. “There are a lot of women’s sites there – they didn’t come to talk to the tribal women from there about clearing the grass trees and other special places,” she said.
“Uranium is different to other minerals – it’s dangerous. If it leaves our country and goes somewhere else – that’s still our responsibility, we worry about that.”
The EPA’s report is open for a two-week public appeal period.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-15/epa-approves-uranium-mine-near-kalgoorlie/7734798
WA EPA rejects proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, Online Opinion, By Mara Bonacci – posted Tuesday, 16 August 2016 “…….Yeelirrie is located 420 km north of Kalgoorlie in the mid-west region of WA, the land of the Wongutha people. Yeelirrie is the name of a local sheep station and, in the local Aboriginal language, means “place of death”.
In 1973 Western Mining Corporation (WMC) found a uranium deposit there. The Yeelirrie Mine Proposal was submitted to the WA Department of Conservation and Environment in 1979. The proposal was for the development of an open cut mine, ore treatment plant, town and ancillary services and 850 employees. Environmental approval was given by both state and federal governments.
Trial mines were dug in the 1980s, which found the first large scale calcrete orebody in the world. It is estimated that around 195 tonnes of yellowcake were mined in these trials. WMC spent $35 million preparing to develop the mine until the 1983 federal election and subsequent implementation of the ALPs “three mines policy” in 1984, limiting Australia’s number of uranium mines to three.
In 2005, the mine was acquired from WMC by BHP Billiton, who concluded one stage of exploration mining. Then in 2012, Canadian mining company Cameco bought the deposit from BHP for $430 million….
Cameco’s Yeelirrie mine proposal includes:
- A 9 km long, 1.5 km wide and 10 m deep open pit mine
- 14 million tonnes of overburden
- Using 8.7 million litres of water a day
- Producing 7,500 tonnes per year of uranium (10 percent of annual world demand)
- To be transported by four road trains a week
- It would produce 126,000 tonnes per year of CO2 emissions
- 36 million tonnes of tailings stored in the open pit2,421 hectares would be cleared
- 22 years of operation
- Highly variable work force – average of 300………http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18451&page=1
Environment groups and Traditional Owners have vowed to fight the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, 260 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, despite today’s recommendation by the state EPA that the Environment Minister approve the mine.
Environment groups and Traditional Owners said the mine threatened the pristine environmentally and culturally significant area.
Bruce Hogan from the Council of Tribal Elders and Chair of Pilanguru Native Title Group said “We use to go out there with our Elders. We can’t see how this mine could go ahead. The seven sister’s tjukupa (dreaming) goes through there and the two wadis (lore men) went through that area too. The elders use to take us there for cultural practice, they would leave us there for a few days and then come back to pick us up. We don’t want that mine to go ahead. We will fight against that mine at Mulga Rock.”
Conservation Council Nuclear Free Campaigner Mia Pepper said “Conservation groups will be lodging an official appeal against this recommendation by the EPA.
“The Mulga Rock uranium proposal is unsafe and unwanted. The company has continually dismissed the cultural values and importance of the area and has failed to properly consult with Traditional Owners.”
“The Mulga Rock area is a rare and significant environment and part of the Yellow Sandplain Priority Ecological Community. The planned mine threatens a number of rare and endangered species. Taking this unique and pristine desert ecosystem and turning it into a polluted, radioactive uranium mine is not a proposal that should ever be entertained” Ms Pepper concluded.
“The planned mine does not enjoy bi-partisan state political support, broad social license or favourable market conditions,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Vimy Resources faces many hurdles and roadblocks. Today’s EPA recommendation is a long way from a green light for mining yellow cake at Mulga Rock.”
Traditional Owners welcome Yeelirrie decision and re-affirm anti uranium mining position https://nuclearfree.wordpress.com/media/ 4th August 2016
“Traditional Owners at Yeelirrie have fought against uranium mining for over 40 years.
The decision from the EPA comes as welcome relief but Traditional Owners remain wary.
“Richard Evans Koara elder and co-founder of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance has said “The EPA decision to protect subterranean fauna is a good decision and the right decision and we are happy with the outcome.
But we believe the EPA has underestimated the risk to bush foods, public health and water and most importantly our cultural heritage and our community’s opposition to the mine.”
“I invite the Minister (who has never spoken to us before) to come and meet with us the Traditional Owners of Yeelirrie before making a decision about our country. No Minister has come to talk to us about that country.
Yeelirrie is an important place in our culture, it is a dreaming site it important to us and other tribes around us.
In the short time since WA was colonised there have been drastic changes to the ecosystem and the country.” …
“It’s not just about protecting this country for us – but uranium threatens communities and country from the cradle to the grave, at home and overseas.
This is our responsibility and we take that responsibility seriously. We have to leave this poison where it is.” … “
http://greens.org.au/news/wa/greens-applaud-rare-win-against-uranium-mine-yeelirrie August 3, 2016
The Greens have urged WA Environment minister Albert Jacobs to uphold the EPA’s advice to reject the controversial Yeelirrie uranium in the Goldfields of WA.
“The Yeelirrie uranium mine was first proposed in the 1970’s and has faced strong local and state wide community opposition for decades,” said Greens nuclear spokesperson Scott Ludlam.
“Today’s decision by the EPA should be the final nail in a proposal that should never have seen the light of day.
“The onus is now on Albert Jacobs to score a rare win for the WA environment and shut this proposal down once and for all.”
Senator Ludlam congratulated pastoralists, anti-nuclear campaigners and local Traditional Owners for their tireless work to oppose a project that would have been an environmental disaster.
Paladin cops ASX query over deals The West Australian on July 22, 2016, Paladin Energy has been forced to halt trading of its shares after a query from the Australian Securities Exchange demanding more information about $US200 million worth of deals flagged to the market yesterday.
Paladin did not outline the additional information requested by the ASX, but yesterday’s announcement was notable in that it did not give the name of the party offering to pay $US175 million for 24 per cent of its Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia.
Paladin said yesterday the agreement was non-binding and that “key terms of this proposed transaction remain confidential, including the identity of the counterparty”.
Paladin promised yesterday to disclose details as the deal firmed up, including the identity of the buyer.
But the ASX has been on the warpath over non-disclosure of counterparties to major funding deals since the Padbury Mining scandal in 2014, when shares in the market tiddler surged after it said funding had been “secured” from an unnamed party that would supposedly deliver $US6.5 billion to build the Oakajee port and rail project…….Paladin shares closed down 3.5¢ to 20.5¢ on the announcement yesterday. https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/32125776/paladin-cops-asx-query-over-deals/#page1
Paladin sold down despite $US200m in deals Peter Klinger – The West Australian on July 21, 2016 Investors have failed to applaud news from debt-laden Paladin Energy that it had struck almost $US200 million worth of deals, including offloading a big slice of its flagship Langer Heinrich uranium mine.
The news also includes a plan to sell 75 per cent of the undeveloped Manyingee uranium project east of Onslow to Chinese-backed, ASX listed tin miner MGT Resources for up to $US30 million. The Manyingee deal does not include the Carley Bore deposit.
The proposed sale of a 24 per cent stake of Langer Heinrich, in Namibia, to an unnamed party for $US175 million is the main plank of Paladin’s long-awaited debt reduction plan.
The Perth company, which remains one of the world’s few pure-play uranium producers but is fighting to remain viable because of the nuclear fuel’s long-term depressed price, has $US212 million in convertible bonds due in April next year.
Paladin is refusing to name the “major participant in the global nuclear power industry” which will buy the stake, which will cut Paladin’s interest in its only operating asset to 51 per cent.
But analysts will be focusing on China National Nuclear Corporation, which bought 25 per cent of Langer Heinrich for $US190 million two years ago.
The lack of clarity or certainty around the Langer Heinrich sale saw Paladin shares fall 2.5 cents, or 10.42 per cent, to 21.5 cents at noon on solid turnover this morning.
“The parties are using their best endeavours to prepare definitive documentation for formal execution, including (a) sale and purchase agreement, shareholders agreement, and documentation for the uranium off-take arrangements,” Paladin said.
“Paladin is working towards a formal close of the transaction in the fourth quarter (of this year). Other than set out in this announcement, the other key terms of this proposed transaction remain confidential, including the identity of the counterparty.” https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/32114763/paladin-sold-down-despite-us200m-in-deals/#page1