Uranium mining picks up globally on new investments, licenses
As demand for nuclear energy picks up around the world, global mining of uranium has seen an uptick as some of the largest companies in the industry allocate heavy investment toward international projects.
On Thursday, December 1, officials in Namibia granted one unit of Australia's Extract Resources a mining license, allowing the company to begin digging in the largest uranium deposit in the country - an investment worth roughly $1.5 billion.
According to the Agence France-Presse, the Ministry of Mines and Energy announced it had issued the mining license to Swakop Uranium, a company wholly owned by Extract Resources. The company says it plans to develop the country's rich Husab uranium deposits, ranked as the fourth largest in the world.
"The 12 billion Namibia dollar ($1.5 billion, 1 billion euro) project will create more than 3,000 temporary jobs during construction and about 1,200 permanent operational jobs," Norman Green, Swakop's chief executive, told an international investment forum in Windhoek.
The mining site will lie in the mineral-laden lands of the Erongo Region, roughly 180 miles west of Windhoek. A study of the mining outlook suggests the new project will contribute 5 percent to the country's GDO and 20 percent to its exports. The project is expected to last for about 20 years, the news source stated.
The Husab region has also drawn the attention of the state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Uranium Resources Company (CGNPG-URC), which recently held talks on purchasing a 10 percent stake in Namibia's Epangelo mining company, with both companies then buying into Husab.
"We are aware these discussions are taking place," Extract said in a statement. "However, any agreement between CGNPG-URC and Namibia's Epangelo would need to be conditional on CGNPG-URC having acquired a controlling interest in Extract's 100-percent owned Husab project."
Thousands of miles away in Canada, mining company Rio Tinto is urging the Canadian government to allow it to operate the recently acquired Roughrider uranium deposit in Saskatchewan, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Because Canada limits foreign ownership of uranium deposits found inside its borders to 49 percent, Rio Tinto will need to work to keep the deposit to itself. But managing director Tom Albanese says the company is confident that over the next several years, it "can operate a uranium operation in Canada as well as a resident Canadian can."
Albanese recently toured Canada, where Rio has projects in aluminum and iron extraction, working to bolster the company throughout the nation.
''I think it's a good constructive government. It's just a matter of working through with the provincial government of Saskatchewan and also the federal government in Ottawa, and finding the right solution so that we can be the operator,'' Albanese stated.
Rio's pursuit of the Roughrider deposit falls in line with its $1 billion bet that both demand and prices of uranium are set to recover after Japan's Fukushima disaster. The company currently has $342 million in equity supporting Ranger uranium miner ERA and has spent another $634 million on a bid for Canada's Hathor, which owns the Roughrider deposit.
While the deposit's 26,000 metric tons of uranium isn't spectacular, the news provider states that its grade of more than 11 percent uranium oxide is exceptional compared to the average of other global deposits.
As mining giants anticipate the uranium recovery to begin, billions of dollars are likely to be invested in mining the in-demand metal.