Uranium Mining Issues: 2014 Review
(last updated 13 Oct 2016)
> See also 2014 News Archive
During the first quarter of the year, UxC's weekly spot price (in US$/lb U3O8) remained close to its first value of $34.65. It then fell to approx. $28, where it remained during June and July. Subsequently it increased until reaching a sharp peak at $44.00 on Nov. 17, from where it then declined to its year-end value of $35.50, not very far from the value at the beginning of the year.
So, once again, the uranium price remained below the lower bound of approx. US$ 60 - 70 per lb U3O8 required for the profitability of many of the mine projects currently under consideration or under development, sending the already battered uranium industry into some sort of hibernation mode - not counting the cackle of all kinds of charlatans around the November peak.
Oddly enough, though, other than in the preceding years, we noticed no further companies removing the term "uranium" from their names. On the contrary, one company even added the fateful U-word to its name, which then became "NX Uranium, Inc.". This makes, however, sense, if the name is correctly read as "Nix Uranium, Inc."
This year, the "Mind-blowing Company News of the Year Award" goes to Canadian explorer Prescient Mining Corp. for its announcement to abandon the Hook Lake uranium project in Saskatchewan and switch business to grow cannabis under the new name of Aurora Cannabis Inc.
- In British Columbia, Canada, a settlement agreement was closed on the CDN$ 30 million government payoff for the Blizzard deposit claim, pre-existing to the province's anti-uranium policy - the mining company still does not know what was happening to it and how to spend all that money.
- In Québec, the inquiry commission looking into the impacts of proposed uranium mining held hearings all over the province. A temporary moratorium remains in effect until the commission's task is completed.
Meanwhile, Strateco Resources Inc. claimed CDN$ 190 million in damages from the Québec Government for losses with its Matoush uranium exploration project.
- In the USA, a court denied a mining company in May the payout for the loss of expected profits over the Grand Canyon uranium mining ban imposed in 2012. In September, a federal court upheld the ban; the mining industry appealed that ruling, however.
- In Denmark, a demonstration was held in Copenhagen in August against proposed uranium mining in Greenland. In Greenland, opposition called in November for a referendum on the country's uranium policy, after the newly elected government had lifted the 25-year old zero-tolerance policy in a narrow vote in October 2013. An opinion poll showed that a majority wants such a referendum.
- In Colorado, USA, future development of uranium mines in the San Miguel Basin could pose a threat to an already small and vulnerable population of Gunnison sage-grouse, according to findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
- In Bolivia, a uranium discovery was announced in the Santa Cruz department.
- In Sweden, uranium exploration ended in northern Billingen, Västergötland, while a court upheld the license for uranium exploration in Oviken, Jämtland.
- In the Czech Republic, the Ministry of Environment again rejected uranium exploration at Osečná-Kotel in North Bohemia.
- In Slovakia, the renewal of the Kurišková exploration licence was approved in January despite opposition. In February, the Košice City Council and the Košice Region Council called the government to withdraw from a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of the Kurišková uranium mine. In March, 300 people held a protest against the proposed mine. In December, the company requested an extension of its exploration licence to rare earth metals; opponents suspect that this is to circumvent a local referendum on the project. With newly enacted legislation (see below), such a referendum has become mandatory for the approval of any uranium mines in the country.
- China announced the discovery of more uranium deposits around the Daying uranium mine in its Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
- In Nepal, a radiometric ground survey located a potential uranium deposit in the Upper Mustang region near the China border.
- In Australia, the government of New South Wales invited six companies to apply for the right to explore for uranium in state, one of which oddly enough denied any interest in uranium. A 26-year-old ban on uranium exploration had been repealed by the NSW parliament in 2012, while a ban on uranium mining remains in effect.
- In Queensland, Paladin Energy Ltd announced a massive write down on its Valhalla and Mt Isa North properties, although the state had ended its decades-long ban on uranium mining in 2012.
Environmental opposition against uranium exploration:
- In Northern Saskatchewan, Canada, a group of Dene Trappers blocked a highway in November, fighting for their livelihood and the environment and protesting against mineral and oil exploration.
- In Québec, a Regional Directorate of Public Health committee report confirmed worries about environmental impacts of proposed uranium mining in the Sept-Îles area. In September, First Nations in Québec reaffirmed their opposition to uranium mining, and in November, Northern Québec Cree held a 850 km trek to protest against uranium mining.
- In Southwestern Poland, a community continues the fight against uranium exploration at Kopaniec despite an unfavourable court decision.
- In Mongolia, a demonstration was held in Ulaanbaatar in June against uranium extraction in the country.
Positive preliminary economic assessments:
Positive preliminary economic assessments, preliminary feasibility studies, or scoping studies were announced for the following uranium mine projects - however, all of them assuming uranium selling prices way above current market prices:
- Anderson uranium mine / heap leach project in Arizona,
- Slick Rock uranium and vanadium mine project in Colorado,
- Laguna Salada near-surface uranium deposit in Argentina (here, the company boldly claimed that "the project would have a healthy operating margin even at current uranium prices", although a uranium price of $60/lb U3O8 was assumed and the ore grade is extraordinarily low at 0.0051% U.)
- Reguibat uranium mine project in Mauritania,
- Madaouéla uranium mine project in Niger,
- MMS Viken multi-metal mine project in Sweden,
- Carley Bore uranium in situ leach project in Western Australia.
License applications for new uranium mines were actually filed for the following projects:
- Burke Hollow uranium in situ leach mine project in Texas.
Uranium mining/milling licenses were issued for:
- Ross uranium in situ leach mine project in Wyoming,
- Dewey-Burdock uranium in situ leach mine project in South Dakota.
Uranium mine development projects that were temporarily suspended due to the unfavourable market situation (in addition to those already suspended in previous years)
- Cameco's Millennium uranium mine project in Saskatchewan,
- Areva's Imouraren uranium mine project in Niger, where Areva lost the confidence in the uranium reserves (previously announced 'proven reserves' were degraded to 'probable reserves').
Uranium mine development projects that were abandoned or terminated due to the unfavourable market situation
- Energy Fuels' Lower Gas Hills open pit / heap leach uranium mine project in Wyoming,
- Wildhorse Energy Ltd's Mecsek Hills uranium mine project in Hungary.
Projects currently under development, or being prepared for development:
In the USA:
- In January, the French antinuclear network 'Sortir du nucléaire' handed out to French Ministers a petition with 30,000-signatures against Areva's Kiggavik uranium mining project near Baker Lake, Nunavut. In October, Areva submitted its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
- In September, a lawsuit against the deal concluded by uranium miners Cameco and Areva with the northern community of Pinehouse in Saskatchewan was dismissed; the deal provides an estimated CDN$ 200 million in benefits to the community.
- After years of delays, ore production finally began at Cameco's Cigar Lake high-grade mine in Saskatchewan in March, but had to be suspended again in July due to a freezing problem; ore production resumed in September.
In Central/South America:
- In July, the Navajo Nation Council reversed a standing committee resolution that allowed Uranium Resources Inc. access to its Church Rock / Crownpoint uranium in situ leach mine site in New Mexico. In November, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) put the license renewal for the project on hold to give the company time to complete its discussions with the Navajo Nation Council.
- In February, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved Cameco's Gas Hills uranium in situ leach project in Wyoming.
- In March, Energy Fuels Inc. announced plans for an open pit mine with heap leaching at Juniper Ridge in Wyoming.
- In April, the NRC issued an operating licence for the Ross uranium in situ leach project in Wyoming; in July, a NRC Board announced to grant intervenors a hearing.
- Also in April, the Nichols Ranch uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming started operation; the uranium-loaded resin is sent to Cameco's Smith Ranch plant for further processing.
- In April, the NRC issued a license for Powertech Uranium Corp.'s Dewey-Burdock uranium in situ leach mine project in South Dakota. The Oglala Sioux Tribe then invoked federal treaties and international agreements against the mine, and an NRC Board issued a temporary stay against the operating license. In August, an NRC Board ruled that Powertech must release geological survey data for the mine. In October, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment found radioactive contamination at abandoned uranium mines in the project area of the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine (see below).
- The Forest Service issued a favourable draft decision for the La Sal mine in Utah.
- In July, Energy Fuels Inc. announced the sale of its Piñon Ridge uranium mill license and several mining assets in Colorado. In September, a Denver district judge suspended the license to build the Piñon Ridge uranium mill, again, as the state's hearing process did not comply with the requirements.
- The EPA partly withdrew the aquifer exemption for the Goliad in situ leach uranium mine project in Texas.
- In April, public comment was invited on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Itataia uranium/phosphate mine project in Santa Quitéria, Ceará, Brazil. In July, the hearings on the project were postponed.
- In March, protestors against a uranium mining project in Quebrada de Alipán blocked a highway in La Rioja, Argentina; they blamed the project for a water shortage experienced in the area.
- An Environmental Impact Study was presented for the Sierra Pintada uranium mine in Mendoza, Argentina.
- Residents filed an appeal to the Supreme Court to prevent mining in the UNESCO World Heritage area of Quebrada de Humahuaca in Jujuy, Argentina.
- The National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) of Tanzania has decided that the Madaba project which is located in the World Heritage Selous Game Reserve does not require a full Environmental Impact Assessment.
- Denison Mines further wrote down the value of its Mutanga uranium mine project in Zambia.
- The Letlhakane uranium mine in Botswana will be opened in 2016, according to the Botswana Chamber of Mines.
- In January, public comment was invited on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the heap leach pilot plant at Bannerman Resources' Etango uranium mine project in Namibia. In September, contracts were awarded for the heap leach pilot plant.
- Areva announced that it has no plans to restart its mothballed Trekkopje uranium mine project in Namibia.
- In May, the Chinese-owned Husab uranium mine (formerly Rössing South) in Namibia was commissioned. Cameco Corp. has shown interest in buying offtake output from the mine. In August, construction of a sulfuric-acid plant was to start at the mine.
- Deep Yellow Ltd plans to develop the Tubas Sand uranium mine in Namibia as an interim standalone project, until its Omahola project would come on stream.
For the latter, heap leaching is being eyed now as the preferred development strategy.
- Construction of Forsys Metals Corp's Valencia uranium mine in Namibia is to start in early 2015.
- In May, the first consignment of uranium was shipped from Sibanye Gold Ltd's Ezulwini plant in South Africa.
- In Greenland, the plan for an overseas refinery for the rare earth - uranium concentrates to be produced at the proposed Kvanefjeld mine was abandoned. Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd now considers that the most suitable location for the hydrometallurgical refinery is in Greenland, adjacent to the mine and concentrator.
- The Czech government announced in March to consider the re-opening of the Brzkov uranium mine in the Vysočina region. In September, a demonstration was held against the re-opening of the mine. A petition against the mine project was supported by over 1,500 people. In December, the Czech Cabinet approved the preparation of a study on possible uranium mining in Brzkov.
- In Spain, a mining licence was granted in April for Berkeley Resources' Retortillo uranium deposit in Salamanca. In December, 115,000 signatures against the uranium mine project were handed over to the Ministry of Industry, and a protest march was held in Retortillo.
- Jordan plans to develop its first uranium deposit in 2015, uranium exports are expected by 2020.
- In India's northeastern state of Meghalaya, neighbouring villages urge the start of uranium mining in Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong, while regional parties and the District Council oppose the uranium mine project.
- In Andhra Pradesh, groundwater contamination is expected to increase beyond standards once uranium mining commences at the Lambapur-Peddagattu project, researchers say.
- Areva is suing the Australian government over the inclusion of the Koongarra uranium deposit in Kakadu National Park (Northern Territory).
- The Queensland Government invited tender for reopening the abandoned Mary Kathleen uranium mine.
- Cameco submitted a new referral with a doubled production rate for its Yeelirrie uranium mine project (Western Australia).
- Comments were invited on the Environmental Scoping Document for Energy and Minerals Australia Ltd's Mulga Rock uranium mine project (Western Australia).
- The licensing process was initiated for the Millipede and Lake Maitland extensions of Toro Energy Ltd's Wiluna uranium mine project in Western Australia. Wiluna Martu Elders have condemned the move to expand the yet unrealised Wiluna mine plan into a much larger uranium precinct spanning 100 km and which will destroy ecologically sensitive lake systems.
- Cameco's Kintyre uranium mine project in Western Australia obtained state environmental approval; environmental groups filed an appeal.
- The Beverley Four Mile uranium in situ leach mine in South Australia, majority-owned by General Atomics' subsidiary Quasar Resources, started operation.
By-product recovery of uranium from mining primarily for other ores:
- Uranium recovery is planned for the Charley Creek Rare Earth Project in the Northern Territory (Australia).
- Talvivaara's Sotkamo mine in Finland, where uranium recovery is planned as a by-product from nickel mining, still was struggling with the aftermath of the major gypsum pond leak that had occured in 2012: In February, an investigation report on the gypsum pond leak blamed the company and the authorities. Cameco announced that it wrote down its investment in the uranium recovery at the mine. In March, a serious release of hydrogen sulphide occured at the mine's processing plant. In April, Talvivaara received a (not yet final) environmental permit decision for the uranium recovery at the mine. In September, criminal proceedings started after reports that Talvivaara mine directors ignored toxic-leak warnings before the gypsum pond spill. In November, Talvivaara Sotkamo announced to apply for bankruptcy.
Mine expansion projects delayed in view of the low uranium price:
- The development halt of new well fields at Uranium One's Willow Creek in situ leach uranium mine in Wyoming continues for another year.
- The Stage 4 expansion of Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia was postponed.
Planned expansion of existing uranium mines and mills, with licensing processes at various stages:
- In October, the McClean Lake mill produced the first uranium concentrate from ore mined at Cameco's Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan.
- Uranerz Energy submitted a license application for the Jane Dough uranium in situ leach project as extension of its Nichols Ranch mine in Wyoming.
- At the Caetité site in Bahia, Brazil, a new uranium mining area is in the licensing process.
- The Krasnokamensk mine in Russia's far east starts a project for heap leaching and block in-situ leaching of low-grade deposits.
- New deposits are under development for in situ leaching at the Vitimsky mine in Buryatia, Russia.
- The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Energy Resources of Australia (ERA)'s Ranger 3 Deeps Underground Mine in the Northern Territory, Australia, was made available for comment. This new mine is to replace the former open pit mine that is now depleted.
- A heap leach trial to achieve lower processing cost at the Olympic Dam mine expansion project in South Australia obtained an environmental waiver.
Natural forces affecting operating uranium mines and mills:
- In March, the Inkay in situ leach uranium mine in Kazakhstan suspended operation due to floodings.
Environmental issues at operating uranium mines and mills:
- In February, a spill continued unnoticed for nine days at Uranium One's Willow Creek in situ leach uranium mine in Wyoming. In December, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Uranium One USA, Inc. for failures at the mine.
- In May, an injection well at Uranerz Energy's Nichols Ranch uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming was found to be still in use after failing a mechanical integrity test in February. In October, the state regulator issued a Notice of Violation over two spills at the mine. Uranerz Energy Corp. agreed to pay a US$ 5,000 penalty.
- A freeboard exceedance of holding ponds at Ur-Energy's Lost Creek uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming went unnoticed for six weeks.
- In April, the Grand Canyon Trust sued Energy Fuels over excessive radon emissions and other environmental issues at the White Mesa uranium mill in Utah.
In October, the Ute Mountain Tribe and environmentalists opposed the proposed relaxation of EPA uranium mill tailings standards, affecting the mill site. In December, the group Uranium Watch released findings of unacceptably high levels of radon emissions at the site.
- Conservation groups urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to suspend operations at the Pinenut uranium mine near the Grand Canyon in Arizona in response to groundwater contamination.
- Argentina's National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEA) was fined for negligence in avoiding discharges from the idle Sierra Pintada uranium mill site in Mendoza.
- In November, NGOs warned Paladin Energy against a planned release of tailings water from the Kayelekera uranium mill in Malawi into a river used for drinking water.
- In January, Rio Tinto's Rössing mine in Namibia resumed operation after the leach tank failure in December 2013.
- In March, it became known that the provisions of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) for the rehabilitation of its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, Australia, may be insufficient. (Operation of the open pit mine was halted due to resource depletion in December 2012, while the mill is still processing stockpiled ore.) In April, ERA parent company Rio Tinto refused a guarantee to cover the reclamation cost.
- In June, processing operations of stockpiled ore resumed at the Ranger uranium mill after the December 2013 leach tank collapse. In July, an interim report concluded that the burst had caused no environmental impact. In October, the Australian government declared an independent expert report into the Ranger leach tank failure confidential and declined to follow its recommendation on a review of the regulatory framework.
Yellow Cake transport incidents:
- In February, uranium ore concentrate spilled in a transport accident near Paladin's Kayelekera mine in Malawi.
- In July, an uranium ore concentrate transport from Kazakhstan to France provoked protests during transit across Germany. In August and November, activists organized blockades of trains carrying uranium ore concentrate in and near Hamburg.
Miners' health issues at operating uranium mines and mills:
- The NRC issued a Notice of Violation for three license violations at Ur-Energy's Lost Creek in situ leach mine in Wyoming, involving worker exposure to yellow cake dust, among others.
- A health review of miners who worked in the 1970s at Rio Tinto's Rössing uranium mine in Namibia is still at the scoping stage. Miners from this period are said to be dying of cancers and unexplained illnesses.
- The excessive radiation doses to workers at the Rožná underground uranium mine in the Czech Republic increased in 2013 even further, with an average annual effective dose of 8.2 mSv and a maximum annual effective dose of 35.6 mSv(!)
Residents' health issues at operating uranium mines and mills:
- In August, a court ordered India's Union Government to prepare a report on the radiation situation around the Jaduguda uranium mine in Jharkhand, after concerns on radiation impacts with the local population had repeatedly been raised.
Supplies issues at operating uranium mines and mills:
- Niger launched the construction of a coal-fired power plant to supply cities and uranium mines in the north of the country with electricity.
- Areva's Trekkopje desalination plant in Namibia is to supply water to three other uranium mines.
- Rio Tinto's Rössing uranium mine in Namibia is to construct a desalination plant of its own; a Draft Social and Environmental Impact Assessment was released for public comment.
Shutdown, downsizing, etc. of operating mines and mills due to poor economics:
- In July, the production rate at Ur-Energy's recently opened Lost Creek in situ leach mine in Wyoming almost halved due to the low uranium spot price.
- In May, Paladin Energy's Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi suspended production until the uranium price recovers. In October, residents opposed the reopening of the mine under the current development agreement for lack of benefit for the local district.
- In June, Rio Tinto's Rössing uranium mine in Namibia announced to cut jobs and reduce production targets.
- The closure of the depleted Rožná uranium mine in the Czech Republic is now foreseen for 2017.
- The complete production from the years 2014 and 2015 at the newly opened Four Mile in situ leach uranium mine in South Australia is to be stockpiled in expectation of higher uranium prices.
Other issues at operating uranium mines and mills:
- In May, protests were held at Cameco's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Canada, criticizing the collaboration agreements with the English River First Nation and the Northern Village of Pinehouse Lake, the company's tax evasion scheme via its Swiss subsidiary, and possible ill-effects of mining byproducts and waste on the environment in the long term.
- On September 8, the NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Uranium One for failure to follow procedures established to prevent pressure buildup in drums filled with yellow cake at the Willow Creek uranium in situ leach mine in Wyoming. The procudures had been established after pressure build up in drums filled at Willow Creek had led to a contamination incident at Cameco's Blind River, Ontario, refinery on June 23, 2012.
- Only one day later, on September 9, pressure buildup in a drum filled with yellow cake at Willow Creek again caused a contamination incident at a conversion plant - this time in Metropolis, Illinois.
- In October, the NRC approved the processing of yellow cake from the mothballed South Australian Honeymoon mine at the processing plant of the Willow Creek in situ leach mine.
- In March, Black Range Minerals' plan to acquire Uranium One's idle Shootaring Canyon uranium mill in Utah failed. The group Uranium Watch then called for the decommissioning of the mill after 30 years of "standby". Uranium One then requested a six month license extension and postponement of obligation to begin decommissioning for the idle mill. In August, Anfield Resources Inc. announced to acquire the mill.
- In July, the Utah state regulator approved the processing of residues from the Midnite Mine in Washington as alternate feed at Energy Fuels' White Mesa mill.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe filed a Petition to Intervene against this approval.
- In February, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the designation of Traditional Cultural Property status to Mount Taylor in New Mexico.
- In November, the NRC renewed the license for Cameco's Crow Butte uranium in situ leach mine in Nebraska.
- In January and February, hundreds protested against Areva in Niger. In October, Niger finally renewed the uranium production agreement with Areva after protracted negotiations.
- The newly opened Chinese-owned Azelik mine in Niger is struggling with high cost and low output.
- In October, contract workers claimed unfair treatment at Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia.
- In April, cost reductions were announced for Russia's flagship Krasnokamensk uranium mine which is unprofitable due to the low uranium price and decreasing productivity. In August, the mine started processing of subeconomic ore dumps for residual uranium. In November, two uranium mines at Krasnokamensk were to resume operations after implementation of cost reductions and use of acid block in situ leaching.
- A joint venture between Kazakhstan's national atomic company Kazatomprom and Uranium One plans to launch scandium production at uranium mines in Kazakhstan.
- In September, mining at the Jaduguda uranium mine in Jharkhand, India, stopped following a ministry order; the license had already expired in 2007. In December, the clearance for mining work was issued.
- In May, ore transport from the Bagjata uranium mine in Jharkhand, India, was suspended, after rebels set a truck with ore on fire.
- India's government cited "public interest" for not divulging annual uranium production figures - after all, India is a nuclear weapons state that is not a signatory of the NPT.
- Anti-Uranium mining activist, Salku Chaki was murdered on 4th August. His body was found in the UCIL Turamdih colony in Jharkhand, India.
- In November, protests were held outside the annual meeting of BHP Billiton, owner of the Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in South Australia.
- In November, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a hearing on the licence application for the decommissioning of the former Gunnar uranium mine site in Saskatchewan. A decision has not yet been published.
- An U.S. EPA preliminary assessment found radioactive contamination at abandoned uranium mines in the project area of the proposed Dewey-Burdock uranium mine in South Dakota (see above). The EPA is planning to conduct a site investigation to determine if hazardous substance releases from the abandoned mines are impacting sensitive environments.
- In April, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that, from a settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the Navajo Nation is to get more than US$ 1 billion for the cleanup of about 50 abandoned uranium mines. The settlement gives another US$ 179 million for the cleanup of the abandoned Riley Pass uranium mine South Dakota. In November, the settlement received final approval from a federal judge.
- In May, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that not all targets were met for the cleanup of a few uranium mining and processing sites that is currently being performed on the Navajo Reservation by several federal agencies. In August, the U.S. EPA ordered the very first phase of cleanup work at four abandoned uranium mines in the Mariano Lake and Smith Lake areas on the Navajo Nation.
- While relocation of Tailing No. 3 - one of the abandoned uranium mill tailings piles at Mailuu Suu in Kyrgyzstan - is ongoing, Tailing No. 5, the pile found to contribute the largest amount of uranium seepage to the Mailuu-Say river, is still unsecured. At Tailing No. 12, a government inspection found that two houses were built on top of the pile(!).
- Remediation of the abandoned Shekaftar uranium mine dumps in Kyrgyzstan is "most urgent", according to a scientific study. Several low-grade ore heaps and waste rock piles are located along the Sumsar-Say River. One heap is exposed to the erosion of the river throughout the year, while the bases of the others become flooded annually. In addition, a giant landslide is developing on the mountain slopes around the former uranium mine.
- In Angren, Uzbekistan, local markets sell meat from cattle grazing on uranium mill tailings left abandoned in the mountain gorges between Angren and Yangiabad.
- Australia's Northern Territory is seeking A$ 200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the abandoned Rum Jungle mine site.
In the USA:
- Again, not all is going well with the current groundwater restoration efforts at uranium mill tailings sites in the USA:
- Attenuation of radium concentrations in groundwater is not functioning as predicted at Umetco's former Gas Hills uranium mill site in Wyoming, the NRC found.
- The NRC is not convinced that the Shirley Basin South uranium mill tailings impoundment in Wyoming is not leaking.
- A groundwater contaminant plume continues to spread off-site from the ANC Gas Hills uranium mill tailings site in Wyoming. In view of insufficient reclamation funds, an extension of the site boundary is envisaged as a creative low-cost response.
- Natural flushing of the contaminated aquifer at the Riverton site in Wyoming may not be accomplished in the 100-year regulatory time frame.
- The uranium concentration in a groundwater monitoring well at the Durango uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado still exceeds the standard twice.
- The NRC again demanded resumption of groundwater monitoring at the Durita uranium mill site in Colorado, finding that the state regulator's permission to Hecla Mining Co. to discontinue the groundwater detection monitoring program and plug the wells was premature. The NRC demands Hecla to install new monitoring wells.
- The uranium concentration in a groundwater monitoring well at the Grand Junction uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado increases further, now exceeding the standard three-fold.
- Contaminated alluvial and bedrock groundwater continues to leave the former Bluewater uranium mill site in New Mexico. However, a Department of Energy (DOE) report found that the uranium plume "does not present an imminent or foreseeable risk to community water systems".
- The DOE presented a plan for an improved active groundwater remediation at the former Monticello uranium mill tailings site in Utah, replacing the failed natural attenuation scheme.
- The DOE discontinued the groundwater pump and treat scheme at the Tuba City uranium mill tailings site in Arizona due to ineffectiveness.
- other USA decommissioning issues:
- The cleanup plan for the former Midnite uranium mine in Washington is under review by the EPA. The work is on track to begin next year.
- On May 7, 2014, the Colorado legislature approved a measure to ensure the cleanup of 30 years of groundwater contamination at Cotter Corp.'s closed Cañon City uranium mill. On August 27, 2014, heavy rains caused a mudflow at the mill site. An ATSDR Public Health Assessment report identified health hazards for residents living near the site, in particular from drinking water from private wells and from eating lots of home-grown fruits and vegetables.
- Any uranium mill tailings found in ongoing road construction in Durango, Colorado, have to be re-buried under the roadway, according to a special management plan.
- In September, the state approved a modified discharge permit for Homestake Mining Co's Grants uranium mill site in New Mexico; community members have opposed the renewal and have repeatedly advocated for relocating the tailings pile.
- A study published in June showed that contaminants added to the soil by irrigation of waste waters at the Grants reclamation site are expected to migrate deeper almost unattenuated. In December, Homestake issued a closure plan for the irrigation areas used at Grants for the disposal, sorry, "land application" of groundwater with elevated levels of uranium and selenium.
- The Moab tailings relocation project in Utah received additional funding, allowing for an uninterrupted operation. As of end July, a total of 7 Million short tons of mill tailings (44% of the initial amount of material) had been removed from the DOE Moab Project Site. On Nov. 20, a rockslide hit the train line used for the tailings relocation project - again.
- In March, a family was evacuated from their home in the Limousin area in France; the home was built with uranium mill tailings backfill and was used for childcare; later it was decided to completely pull it down.
- In July, the government released an inventory of dispersion and usage of waste from former uranium mines in the Limousin area.
- Uranium mine waste rock on a camping ground in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in western France was found to cause gamma dose rates up to more than 20 times background.
- A 3.7 MW solar park was constructed on the site of the former l'Écarpière uranium mill in western France.
- In May, about 70 miners from the former uranium mines at Urgeiriça in Portugal held a vigil in front of the official residence of the Prime Minister, again demanding compensation for the families of those who died from occupational diseases.
- The top plateau of Wismut's reclaimed Trünzig uranium mill tailings pile in Thuringia, Germany, is now being used as a grazing by a horse breeder. The vegetative cover of the deposit thus remains open land, as requested by the Nature Conservation Authority.
- Groups in Thuringia have asked the state government for more efforts to locate the whereabouts of uranium mine waste material used for road construction and other purposes in Thuringia during the GDR era. So far, 370,000 tonnes have been located and disposed of, while the total amount used was around 1.9 million tonnes.
- The EUR 6.5 billion in funds provided by the German government for the decommissioning of Wismut's uranium mines turned out to be not sufficient to cover longterm maintenance. It is expected that the total cost until 2040 will rise to EUR 7.1 billion.
- According to Wismut's environmental monitoring, radon concentrations in parts of the town of Niederschlema in Saxony have increased above the 80 Bq/m3 target value as a result of rising radon release rates from reclaimed waste rock piles. The target value includes the background radon concentration and is meant to assure a 1 mSv/a dose limit for the public. The increase of the release rates from the reclaimed piles has been observed over several consecutive years already. Wismut provides no discussion nor any proposals for remedies of the situation. According to the Saxon state regulator, the doses actually reach 3 - 5 mSv/a in certain local areas.
- The new European Union Basic Safety Standards are in parts less stringent than currently applicable regulations in the framework of the Wismut project and may water down the standards for cleanup of the remaining Wismut uranium mine sites in Germany. The new reference values are of particular concern for the effective dose to members of the public in certain areas of Niederschlema (see above).
- In September, dismantling of the surface facilities started at the Hamr underground uranium mine and the Stráž pod Ralskem uranium mill site in North Bohemia, Czech Republic.
- The six remaining uranium mill tailings ponds in Mydlovary in South Bohemia are to be reclaimed within ten years.
- In September, the Government of Tajikistan has approved a national concept on the rehabilitation of uranium mill tailings for the years 2014 - 2024; the total amount of tailings in the country is more than 55 million tonnes.
- In October, test production of rare earths from Kazakh uranium mine residues commenced.
In the USA:
- In May, the U.S. DOE approved the Uranium Leasing Program, opening up 25,000 acres [101 square kilometers] of land in western Colorado to uranium mining.
- In April, the U.S. EPA released a proposed rule for revisions of the radon emission standards for operating uranium mill tailings. The proposal would eliminate the numeric limit on radon emissions for pre-1989 impoundments, while it would establish a numeric minimum moisture content for heap leach piles, among others.
- In October, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) invited comment on the management and permissible exposure limits for chemicals in the workplace: time to overcome the current anachronistic uranium exposure limits in workplace air that may lead to annual doses of 5 to 16 times the 20 mSv/a limit(!).
- In Tanzania, groups released a report calling for a tight regulation of proposed uranium mining in the country.
- In January, the European Union issued a revised directive on basic radiation protection standards, which may water down standards for the cleanup of the remaining Wismut uranium mine sites in Germany (see above).
- In June, the Slovak Parliament approved a new law that allows uranium mining in Slovakia only if approved in referendums taking place in all affected municipalities.
- The Australian parliament passed a bill to open the Woomera weapons test range in South Australia to mining.
- After lifting the uranium mining ban in the state in 2012, the Queensland Government now released a "modern and robust" framework for uranium mining.
- China has imported 18,968 tonnes of uranium in 2013 alone(!).
- India has imported 4,458 tonnes of uranium since 2008, when the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted its ban on nuclear trade with Non-NPT signatory India.
- The U.S. DOE plans to sell up to 2,705 tonnes of surplus uranium per year until 2021.
- Uzbekistan plans to increase its uranium exports to South Korea; and Uzbekistan also plans to supply 2,000 tonnes of uranium to India.
- Paraguay offers the export of uranium to Argentina.
- The Australia - United Arab Emirates agreement on uranium sales entered into force.
- In view of the Ukraine crisis, Australia halted uranium sales to Russia, while there are currently no contracts, though.
- The European Commission is probing a uranium supply contract with Russia for the planned Pyhäjoki nuclear power plant in Finland,
- Australia's Macquarie Group buys the Deutsche Bank uranium book.
Proliferation issues and uranium trafficking
- Australia signed an agreement with India on uranium exports; the former chief of Australia's nuclear safeguards organisation raised doubts over the uranium deal.
Foreign exploration and mining investment and cooperation
- Areva plans to mine uranium in Ukraine in cooperation with the Ukrainian company VostGOK.
- Turkey plans to invest into uranium mines in Niger.
- Russia and Kazakhstan signed a road map for the development of uranium deposits in Kazakhstan.
- Russia and Algeria signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement, including uranium prospecting and mining.
- Uganda seeks India's assistance to develop its uranium deposits.
- The government-owned Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) eyes stakes in overseas uranium mining companies.
- China Uranium Corporation acquired a 25% stake in Paladin Energy's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia.
- China General Nuclear is looking to invest in Canadian uranium mines.
- More Chinese companies are gaining access to uranium properties abroad.
- Other than in previous years, no new claim stakes were found on the Maybell uranium mill tailings disposal site in Colorado in 2013: is the end to this oddity a sign that those prospectors have finally come to their senses, or is this just an indication that they have lost the last glimmer of hope that the uranium price will ever recover in the foreseeable future?
- In February, a Paris court condemned the NGO Observatoire du nucléaire to pay penalties of several thousand Euros for "defamation" of Areva in a 2012 press release titled "Nuclear/corruption: AREVA offers a plane to the President of Niger...". The NGO appealed the court decision.
This court opinion is quite surprising: how can it ever be possible to defame a company that has 181 entries in its Hall of Infamy on the WISE Uranium website?
- Will uranium be extracted as a byproduct of tunnel construction for the Tokyo-Nagoya Maglev train line in Japan? The route runs through mountains in Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture, that have 20 to 30 uranium deposits scattered beneath the area.
- Is nuclear-free New Zealand incidentally becoming a uranium miner? Uranium in phosphate nodules that Chatham Rock Phosphate intends to mine could threaten New Zealand's nuclear-free reputation, the seafood industry has told the Government.
- In February, the Mining Warden's Court approved of the opposition of mining tycoon Andrew Forrest to uranium exploration by Cauldron Energy on his Minderoo ranch in Western Australia (Forrest is Australia's richest man who made his fortune digging up iron ore). However, and we are now offering an exclusive glimpse of next years annual review, the state Minister for Mines and Petroleum overturned the Mining Warden's decision on January 7, 2015, and allowed the uranium exploration in the mining tycoon's backyard. Forrest's Minderoo understandably expressed its disappointment "at the minister's decision to allow exploration by Cauldron Energy within the historical and environmentally fragile parts of Minderoo station". Have we just found the next candidate for The Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year Award?
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