First new uranium in Australia in 5 years faces delay

Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:43am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By James Regan

SYDNEY Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australia suffered a further setback on Tuesday in efforts to become a greater supplier of uranium to the world's nuclear power sector after the government postponed a decision on development of the country's first new mine in half a decade.

Toro Energy, which has been seeking approval to exploit its Wiluna uranium deposit in Western Australia state, said it was informed only hours before it was anticipating a final go-ahead from Environment Minister Tony Burke that it could take another three months before a decision was made.

Australia has no nuclear power plants of its own, but holds 40 percent of the world's known reserves of uranium. It is the world's third largest exporter of yellowcake for peaceful purposes behind Kazakhstan and Canada.

The federal government last gave its approval for a new mine in 2008. That mine, majority-owned by Canada's Uranium One , is only now being commissioned

Western Australia lifted a ban on uranium mining in 2008 but to date, no mines are in operation, with all the mining occurring in neighbouring South Australia state and Northern Territory.

This year, BHP Billiton postponed indefinitely its plans to unearth an additional 15,000 tonnes of uranium oxide annually from its Olympic Dam site, citing high costs and an uncertain outlook for commodities.

"Today, on the final day for a decision, Toro has been advised that the minister does in fact want more information on some specific aspects of the project and that the time for his decision has been extended to March 13, 2013," Toro Managing Director Greg Hall told Reuters by telephone from his headquarters in Adelaide

"We're surprised and extremely disappointed with this further delay," he said.   Continued...