Anti-nuclear campaigners sceptical of plan to reopen mothballed uranium mine


Broken Hill 2880

The company behind a proposal to restart uranium mining in north-east South Australia says it would be ready to begin production within a year if prices improve.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has cast doubt on the likelihood of that occurring, arguing the market is moving away from uranium.

Key points:

  • Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence but has been mothballed since 2013
  • New owner Boss Resources says technology will help it lower operational costs and will reopen the mine once uranium prices improve
  • Anti-nuclear campaigners doubt the mine’s prospects, saying significant uranium producers have been deferring or halting development

The Honeymoon uranium mine was mothballed in 2013 because it had become too expensive to run.

But in 2015, the mine, which is about 80 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, was purchased by WA exploration company Boss Resources.

Boss chief executive Duncan Craib said the company had developed new technology to lower operational costs and had finalised a feasibility study.

He said the mine would reopen once uranium prices improved, which he was expecting to happen soon.

“We don’t want to destroy the resource at low uranium prices, so we’d like an uptick in the market before proceeding,” Mr Craib said.

“The demand [for uranium] is outstripping supply, so it’s inevitable that prices will rise. When the price does rise, we lock into a contract and start straight away.”



Photo:

The benchmark market for uranium in 2019 measured in US dollars per pound. (Supplied: TradingEconomics.com)

Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence.

However, Mr Craib said uranium was under-utilised in Australia and he would like to see a domestic uptake of nuclear power.

“It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s certainly a very positive carbon-free means of producing power and it should be part of any energy mix,” he said.

“Australia has a third of the world’s resource of uranium, yet we turn our backs on nuclear. I think it needs to be readdressed.”

He said the mine would generate between 80 and 100 jobs, and that he wanted to use as many workers from the area as possible.



Photo:

Officials in Broken Hill are pleased by promises the mine will employ local people. (Supplied: Boss Resources)

Optimism baseless, campaigner says

Anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney from the ACF said he believed the announcement was without substance.

“There is nothing new in their statement,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a holding-pattern statement from a mining company with not a lot of resources, not a lot of projects, that are trying to continue to hold a place in the market, where the market is increasingly in freefall.

“Obviously, Boss is going to say the uranium price is going to soar — they’re a uranium miner.

“We’ve got major producers in this country … We’ve got a third of the world’s uranium and we’re not digging much, and that is because the price is not there.

Mr Sweeney said significant producers were deferring or halting development.

“Rio Tinto, a massive mining company, is exiting at the Ranger mine in Kakadu,” he said.

“Cameco, the world’s largest dedicated uranium producer, has written down an asset that it spent $500 million on a decade ago in WA, and says that the best way to preserve the value of uranium is to keep it in the ground.”



Photo:

Mining at the Ranger uranium mine in Pit 3 ceased in 2012. (ABC Rural: Carl Curtain)

Council welcomes job prospects

Broken Hill councillor Marion Browne welcomed Boss’s assurance it would hire locally.

“Anything that promises employment has got to be something that we look at positively,” Cr Browne said.

Despite efforts to diversify its economy, Broken Hill is still reliant on mining and its population has been in chronic decline for decades.

“Everyone’s aware that without employment … we won’t increase our population or even keep our population stable at the level that it is,” Cr Browne said.

She said although there had been anti-nuclear sentiment among locals in the past, the general response would be welcoming.

“[Broken Hill] was established as a mining community around the mine, so I think there’s always interest in seeing new mines and employment generated by new mines.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news




Recent Posts