EPA approval for the most advanced uranium mine in Australia
The most advanced uranium mine in Western Australia just took one step closer to strengthening its project economics, as the Environmental Protection Agency has given it approval for expansion plans.
Toro Energy, the Australian uranium developer with plans to meet the growing demand for clean energy across Asia’s emerging economy with Australian uranium, plans to expand its Wiluna Project.
So what do we know about Australia’s newest Uranium developers and how will the recent EPA approval impact the business going forward?
Toro Energy’s m.o is “clean energy for a growing world” and it aims to achieve this through the Wiluna Project.
The Wiluna Uranium project is located just south of the town of Wiluna in the northern goldfields of Western Australia. Toro Energy became the first company to obtain State and Federal environmental approvals for a Western Australian uranium project. This is the Centipede and Lake Way deposits.
The expansion, now with EPA approval, will look to expand both those deposits into open pit mines.
The Wiluna resource contains an estimated 80.5 million pounds of uranium oxide, providing Toro with a 20 year plus mine life for the planned Wiluna Mine.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium from mining, representing around 38 per cent of global annual production. Including Russia, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, more than 40 per cent of uranium supply is now sourced from the former Soviet bloc. Canada is the second largest supplier at about 17 per cent, followed by Australia at 11 per cent.
Uranium, nuclear power and electricity are all connected. With nuclear power currently providing around 13.5 percent of the world’s electricity, and Toro is confident that uranium demand will continue to rise. Toro, in line with Australia’s 30-year history of uranium mining and exportation, stands in a powerful position in the future of uranium.
In 2013-2015, Australia produced 5,710 tonnes of uranium oxide from four mines in northern and southern Australia. Toro, with the Wiluna project and combined output from three other projects across Western Australia from different uranium companies, will contribute to a significant increase of uranium production to an estimated 8,900 tonnes by 2019.
Since Toro became active in the Wiluna region in 2007, the company has strived to support and respect the Aboriginal culture and cultural heritage of the area. Toro has ensured that through every step of the way, the Wiluna Aboriginal community has been engaged with regularly through Traditional Owners, even providing additional funding so the local community could seek further evidence or advice on the implications of Toro’s presence.
The September issue of Mining Global Magazine is live!
Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.