Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.
The six-year ban on uranium mining in Western Australia has been lifted, newly elected Premier Colin Barnett announced on Nov. 17, 2008. New mining leases will no longer exclude the hunt for uranium.
Australia is the world’s second largest producer of uranium (19.7 million lb U3O8 in 2006), behind Canada (26.7 million lb). Between them they account for half the world’s production. With the hunt on again for new uranium producers in Western Australia, that country may give Canada a run for the its top-ranked status.
The change in policy will benefit companies with advanced projects in Western Australia.
Canada’s Cameco Corp. looks like it was ahead of the curve when it partnered with Mitsubishi Development (30%) to pay US$346.5 million to buy the promising Kintyre deposit earlier this year. The project, located 1,250 km northeast of Perth, is in the advanced exploration stage. The original uranium discovery was made in 1985, and former owner Rio Tinto eventually outlined eight separate deposits. Cameco estimates that the Kintyre project may host between 62 million and 80 million lb of U3O8 with grades averaging 0.3% to 0.4% U3O8. These numbers do not comply with 43-101 definitions.