Uranium mining company Toro Energy has been granted federal environmental approval for the Wiluna uranium project in the state of Western Australia. Pending a final investment decision, production is expected to start in 2015.
The approval removes the last major regulatory obstacle preventing mine development and allows the company to begin entering into arrangements with potential investors and customers. It also motivates the finalisation of design, infrastructure and cost estimates which will help the company make its final decision. If it goes ahead, Wiluna is to be the state's first uranium mine and Australia's sixth currently operating mine.
The entire process has taken over three and a half years, according to the company. Federal approval was required in addition to state approval which was granted in October 2012. Environmental minister Tony Burke gave the go-ahead today, after delaying the decision in November and then again in December last year.
Toro's managing director Vanessa Guthrie noted, "Subject to successful finalisation of financing and marketing arrangements and our design and cost work, Toro anticiaptes first production from the Wiluna mine by the end of 2015."
She added "Wiluna is one of the few projects in the world capable of bringing new uranium production to the market in the medium term, when a shortfall is predicted from 2015 onwards."
The Australian Uranium Association welcomed the level of rigour of the assessment. Chief executive officer Michael Angwin commented, "This is now the fourth major federal environmental approval of a uranium project since 2008. This decision shows that Australia's uranium projects are able to meet the highest environmental standards without unacceptable impacts on the environment both during operation and beyond it, as the minister has again noted in this decision."
The mine comprises two near-surface deposits, Lake Way and Centipede, and is expected to produce about 780 tonnes of uranium oxide from 1.3 million tonnes of ore annually. Operations are expected to continue for 14 years and will employ a strip mining and leach process. The company's current economic modelling suggest capital cost of AUD269 million ($281 million) with unit production costs of $37 per pound of uranium oxide produced.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News