The start of operation of the Four Mile uranium mine in South Australia has moved a step closer with final environmental approval. However, the project partners have yet to agree on a development plan.
|Earlier exploratory work at Four Mile (Image: Quasar)
The state Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has now granted a mining and mineral processing licence for Four Mile. The licence also covers radiation and radioactive waste management plans for the in-situ leach (ISL) mine.
However, several actions remain before mining operations can begin at Four Mile. These include modifications to the existing licences for the nearby Beverley project to accommodate integration of Four Mile operations, as well as the submission of key design, construction and commissioning reports. In addition, federal governmental approval for the relevant monitoring programs and plans must also be gained.
The Four Mile project is a joint venture between Alliance Resources (25%) and Quasar Resources (75%). The project is managed by Heathgate Resources affiliate Quasar. Both Quasar and Heathgate are subsidiaries of US-based General Atomic Technologies Corp.
Quasar is proposing to begin development of Four Mile with ISL production from the east orebody, using its nearby Pannikin satellite plant and trucking the loaded solution to Heathgate's main plant at Beverley, about 8km away, for product recovery.
However, Alliance would prefer not to ship solution to Heathgate's plant, saying it "considers the construction of an appropriately sized stand-alone plant at Four Mile to produce a better outcome" for the company.
Disputes delay start-up
The start of production from the project has been stymied by legal disputes between Alliance, Quasar and Heathgate. There are on-going Federal Court proceedings by Alliance seeking restitution of its full ownership of the Four Mile deposit due to delays and disagreements.
In May 2012, Alliance said it had agreed to form a strategic alliance with Japanese trading house Itochu Corporation. Under the terms of this, Itochu will have the right to acquire a 14.9% shareholding in Alliance within six months of all litigation being finally determined. Furthermore, within 12 months of that final determination, Itochu will have an option to acquire a further 25.1% shareholding in Alliance.
Four Mile has total indicated and inferred resources of 32,000 tonnes U3O8 (27,000 tU) at an average ore grade of 0.33%.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News