Taking the uranium bull by the horns

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 24 Jan 2012   Posted by admin


URANIUM miner Toro Energy has completed a drilling program at its wholly-owned Theseus project in northeastern WA, where it intersected high-grade uranium mineralisation.
On October 14, Toro concluded the last phase of its year-long drilling program, which focussed on testing the higher-grade zones within the 8km palaeochannel previously defined.
Drilling at 100m spacing intersected higher-grade zones of mineralisation in three locations. The drilling results included 1.52m grading 0.15 per cent uranium oxide equivalent from a depth of 116.61m and 3.74m grading 0.17 per cent uranium oxide equivalent from a depth of 100.2m. The mineralised zone has been confirmed over a minimum strike length of 8km and averages 500m width with varying thickness from 1 to 9m.
Toro managing director Greg Hall said the potential size of the system was very encouraging. “The most recent drilling results from the Theseus project point to a large uranium mineralised system with the right ingredients for in situ recovery,” Mr Hall said.
“Further work already under way will provide more information on the uranium mineral species and the potential to extract uranium in a leach solution, but we have been especially encouraged by the tenor of intersections late in the program, where ore grades seen elsewhere are now being regularly intersected at Theseus.” Meanwhile, Toro’s advanced Wilunaproject has come under fire, with the WA’s Greens party claiming that the company’s proposal to the Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA) is flawed. According to WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam, there were a number of alarming holes in Toro’s impact assessment report of the proposed mine in central WA.“This project should not proceed until there is a full public inquiry as provided for in the [Environmental Protection Act 1986] into the wider environmental and public health consequences of uranium mining in WA, and full disclosure by the company as to the real scope of the project,” he said. “The company does not yet know from where it will source 35 million tonnes of groundwater over the proposed 14-year life of the mine and it does not yet have a coherent proposal for transporting the radioactive concentrate thousands of kilometres to the port of Darwin.”
Mr Ludlam said Toro had failed to undertake a formal assessment of security risks despite acknowledging potentially high risks in the transport phase, and had not conducted high-volume air sampling for much of the 2010 sampling period. “Toro has not revealed estimates of future mine closure liability and has not submitted a final rehabilitation plan,” he said. “This is remarkable given the company intends for post-closure liability to pass to Australian taxpayers only 10 years after
mining ceases, though the consequences of the mine will endure for centuries.” According to WA Greens mining and pastoral region member Robin Chapple , the initial environmental impact statement in March 1981 of the failed Lake Way project identified the need to build a new bore field for the Town of Wiluna as the water drawdown would have posed a risk to the community, but the current referral relating to water drawdown and contamination failed to acknowledge this. However, according to the Environmental Review and Management Program (ERMP) released by Toro in July, the company had addressed the potential impacts and met commitments to public occupational health and safety plus environmental protection.
“We have developed environmental management strategies included in the ERMP to avoid or lessen the potential impacts of the project, and to protect conservation and biodiversity values,” Mr Hall said.
“The design features, management controls and mitigation measures described in the ERMP would enable potential impacts to matters of national environmental significance and socio-economic, health or cultural aspects to be managed to acceptable levels.”
Since the devastating tsunami-induced incident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant six month ago, public opinion has been divided on the future of uranium mining and nuclear power.
European superpower Germany has already begun phasing out its nuclear generating capacity, but China, India, South Korea, the US, Japan, Russia, the UK, France  and many smaller countries have continued to support the controversial power source.
Mr Ludlow said Australian support for nuclear power had dwindled. “If the events following the triple meltdown in Japan have taught us anything, it is that the calculated ignorance of Australian policy makers as to the consequences of this trade is no longer supported by the majority of Australians, and should be brought within the remit of the EPA,” Mr Ludlow said. The Wiluna project will involve the development of a uranium mine, associated processing plant and support infrastructure,
and the transport of uranium within Australia for export to international markets. Toro plans to produce 1200t per annum of uranium oxide concentrate during an anticipated mine life of 14 years.
Currently, the EPA’s jurisdiction is limited to the domestic impact of uranium exports and its decisions do not consider the broader consequences of uranium exports.

 

By Kate Christou


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