AGSO – Geoscience Australia Mineral Resource Report 1
Since the report Australian Uranium Resources (Battey, Miezitis & McKay, 1987) was released by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics (BMR), there have been many changes in the Australian uranium mining industry. As a result, a great deal of information has become available about resources and the geology of uranium deposits. This report reviews and updates the 1987 BMR report.
Since 1987, production and known resources have increased in Australia and expenditure on exploration has decreased, government policy has changed and there have been several new mine proposals. Meanwhile, worldwide demand for uranium for electricity generation has risen.
At the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, production began in 1988 and has progressively expanded, with the mine becoming Australia’s largest uranium producer (in terms of annual production) by 2000. At Ranger, mining was completed at the No. 1 Orebody in 1994, and commenced at No. 3 Orebody in 1996. At the Beverley in-situ leaching mine, production commenced in November 2000. At Nabarlek, the mine was closed in 1988. Overall, Australia’s known uranium resources in the Reasonably Assured category recoverable at US$80/kg U have increased from 470 000 t U in 1987 to 667 000 t U in 2000.
Exploration expenditure for uranium has declined since 1987, reaching a very low level in 1994 and 2000. Since 1985 no new uranium deposits have been found in Australia.
There have been important changes to Commonwealth Government policies relating to the mining and export of uranium. In 1983, the Commonwealth Labor Government had introduced a policy that became known as the ‘Three mines’ policy, permitting only the Nabarlek, Ranger and Olympic Dam mines to export uranium. The ‘Three mines’ policy was abolished by the Liberal–National Party Coalition upon election to Government in March 1996. This cleared the way for the development of new uranium mines, provided they comply with strict environmental, heritage and nuclear safeguards requirements. Also in 1996, the Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines relating to foreign investment in Australian uranium mining were eased, allowing foreign companies a higher percentage ownership of individual uranium mining projects.