October 9, 2009

BHP, & Canada's Mega Uranium Heat Up In WA Uranium Battle

Friday 9th October-2009

The race to establish the state's first uranium mine is heating up with Canada's Mega Uranium planning a $53 million capital raising for the Lake Maitland project while BHP Billiton's Yeelirrie operation received a setback.

In what is increasingly becoming a race to establish Western Australia's first mine, current front runner Mega revealed plans to raise $C50 million ($A52.5 million) through a public and private placement to North American investors.

Funds raised will be predominately used to complete feasibility studies on the Lake Maitland uranium project in the eastern Goldfields, which could be in production as early as 2011.

The uranium project is a joint venture with the Japan Australian Uranium Resources Development Co and ITOCHU Corporation.

Funds will also be used for Mega's other Australian assets and for working capital.

Meantime, Environment Minister Donna Faragher today extended the public consultation period by a month.

The mining giant has proposed an open-cut uranium mine, a processing plant and associated infrastructure, with the uranium oxide concentrate to be exported either through South Australia or the Northern Territory.

BHP has previously said that it could have the operation up and running by the end of 2014.

Mrs Faragher today said the project will be assessed at the level of Environmental Review and Management Program, the highest level of assessment for a project.

The minister also extended the public consultation period from the recommended 10 weeks to 14, after taking into consideration the nine appeals that were submitted.

"Appellants submitted that the level of assessment set for this proposal should be set at a public inquiry," Mrs Faragher said.

"A public inquiry is not a level of assessment and the level for this proposal will remain at ERMP, as it is the highest level available."

Mrs Faragher said appeals received had submitted that a public inquiry would be needed to cover issues dealing with environmental, indigenous heritage and other broader matters.

"However, whether the assessment is through an ERMP or public inquiry under the Act - it can only consider environmental matters relevant to the assessment of the proposal - rather than broader issues," she said.

"I have, however, considered the issues raised in the appeals and believe there is merit in extending the public consultation period.

"In particular, I acknowledge the challenges faced by community groups in regional and remote areas participating in consultation processes."

Another company vying to become WA's first uranium producer is Adelaide-based Toro Energy, with its Wiluna project where feasibility studies are currently underway.

Toro has previously said it could have Wiluna up and running in 2012.






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