longer-term view and identify really good projects
are going to be able to get a lot more bang for
their buck,” he told the station. “They can get
into a project without having to spend the
amount of money you have to spend in a very
But the economic downturn is creating obstacles
for some projects.
In Zambia, Equinox Minerals Ltd. received
permission from the country’s environmental
council to proceed with a uranium project last
December at its Lumwana copper mine. The deal
paved the way for the construction of processing
facilities with an initial startup cost of $200 million. But in January, the company announced it
was deferring the project indefinitely due in part
to difficulty in securing international project
If the project is completed, Lumwana expects
to process 1 million tonnes of uranium per year.
NOT IN MY BACKYARD
Government regulations, protesters and public
furor may prove to be the biggest roadblock to
getting uranium projects off the ground.
After a flurry of protests, the government of
New Brunswick, Canada banned uranium
exploration in all municipalities, watersheds and
near private wells—effectively putting a stop to
uranium exploration in the region.
Some companies aren’t willing to go down
without a fight.
U.S.-based Virginia Uranium Inc. announced
plans to merge with Santoy Resources Ltd.,
a Canadian mineral exploration company, as
part of an ongoing effort to overturn Virginia’s
25-year moratorium on uranium mining.
Virginia Uranium owns one of the largest
untapped uranium deposits in the United
States—worth an estimated $10 billion.
“It’s really a way for us to raise money for the
future and long term of the project,” Walter
Coles Sr., a co-founder of Virginia Uranium, told
Some companies have managed to find their
way through the process. Cameco and Australian
mining company Paladin Energy Ltd. were
granted an exploration license to explore the
estimated 13,000-tonne Angela-Pamela deposit
in Australia’s Northern Territory. The territory
government granted a license last October
despite almost constant local protests leading up
to the decision.
“Every development project in the nuclear
industry generates more difficulties than other
kinds of mines or mills,” says Mr. Struthers. “The
amount of technical and environmental reviews is
much higher, and when you have motivated
opponents to a project, they can create additional
delays, which also raise the costs.”
To reduce conflict and facilitate discussions
with local stakeholders during the licensing
process, Cameco opened an area community
office that will continue to serve as a future
The company also has an established communications strategy and tries to emphasize
its “proven track record of safe performance
and good communication strategies,” Mr.
It helps to promote the environmental and
economic benefits of the projects to local stakeholders as well.
“People can be alarmed about uranium mining initially, but as they learn more about the
technology, and see that the risks associated are
well-managed, they usually come to support
it,” Mr. Struthers says.