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a bowl of U3O8 yellow cake

Australia is the second largest producer of uranium in the world. Here's a look at the mines that are producing today, and the significant ones that are being developed.

Despite sitting on the largest known recoverable resources of uranium worldwide — 1.69 million metric tonnes in 2019 — Australia uses no part of it for energy. Instead, Australia exports the valuable resource, which accounts for one-quarter of its energy exports.

In fact, Australia was the second largest producer of uranium in 2020, producing 6,203 metric tonnes. It was only beaten by Kazakhstan, which produced nearly 20,000 metric tonnes that year.

Australian uranium production has centred around three mines in recent years — Olympic Dam, Beverly Four Mile and Ranger — until the Ranger mine ceased operations in 2021.

Main mines in the country

Here's a closer at these mines and the companies that own them:

1. Olympic Dam owned by BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)

The Olympic Dam complex is built upon one of the world's most significant deposits of copper, gold, silver and uranium. In fact, it's the world's largest known uranium deposit. It has both underground and surface operations and it has a fully integrated processing facility, which means it is capable of extracting, refining and processing mined commodities.

In 2020, BHP Billiton produced 3,000 metric tonnes of uranium oxide (U3O8), which is nearly half of Australia's output and 6 percent of the world's production. In 2021, their uranium segment accounted for US$249 million in revenue.

Although the company produces a significant amount of global uranium, its production of copper, iron ore, coal and petroleum dwarfs its uranium production by a wide margin.

2. Beverly and Four Mile owned by private company Heathgate Resources

Australia's first in-situ recovery mine at Beverly sits on a uranium deposit about 520 kilometres from Adelaide. Owned by Heathgate Resources, a subsidiary of US-based General Atomics, the Beverly mine itself has all been mined out and production exclusively occurs at the nearby Four Mile mine (owned by Quasar, a subsidiary of Heathgate).

In 2020, Heathgate Resources mined 2,130 tonnes of uranium oxide from Four Mile, accounting for 4 percent of the world's uranium production.

3. Ranger Uranium Mine owned by Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA)

Ranger was the longest serving uranium production mine in Australia at 35 years, located 8 km east of the town of Jabiru. The mine officially stopped processing operations in January 2021 after traditional owners of the land did not support extending the Energy Resources of Australia's (ERA) authority in the area. The company had already stopped mining operations back in 2012 and had been processing stockpiled ore since then.

The ERA, whose parent company is Rio Tinto, produced 1,574 tonnes of uranium oxide for 2020 — accounting for 2 percent of the world's uranium production — before shutting the mine down.

According to their 2020 annual report, continuing mining at Ranger in the future is also unviable. A change in legislation would be required and the company states that monitoring the mine in the gap between ceasing and resuming operations would simply add to its cost burden.

While ERA still holds the lease on the nearby Jabiluka orebody, it has been firm that it will not develop the site without the consent of the Mirrar Aboriginal people, and so the Jabiluka development has been indefinitely deferred.

Future mines in Australia

Australia accounts for almost one-third of the world's uranium deposits and there are several future exploration and expansion uranium projects brewing in the country. With 31 known deposits for uranium including the three discussed above, the list for potential new mines or mines being brought back online is long. Here are a few noteworthy ones.

1. Honeymoon

The deposit was discovered in the 1970s, and in 2015 Boss Energy (ASX:BOE) bought Uranium One Australia and acquired the mine as part of the deal. The project is permitted to export up to 3.3 million pounds (1,496 tonnes) per annum and production is expected soon.

2. Mulga Rock

This polymetallic deposit was first discovered by PNC Exploration in 1979 and is now owned by Vimy Resources (ASX:VMY), formerly Energy & Minerals Australia. The deposit is divided into Mulga Rock East and West, and also hosts scandium, nickel and cobalt.

With approvals from both state and federal governments in 2016 and 2017 respectively, the mine can produce up to 1,300 tonnes of U3O8 per year. Vimy Resources intends to start on the Ambassador deposit with open-pit mining with an 85 percent recovery rate.

3. Angela / Bigrlyi / Obagooma / Thatcher Soak

Elevate Uranium (ASX:EL8), formerly known as Marenica Energy, has acquired or bought stakes in several mining projects in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. While there is no clear timeline on start of operations for any project, managing director and CEO Murray Hill was quoted saying that he expects the price of uranium to increase over the next decade, meaning the company would be well-leveraged as it bought assets at a reduced price.

Hill also expects modular reactor technology to improve in the next decade, allowing nuclear energy to be used across the landscape in rural areas and not just the bigger cities.

Market Outlook

After suffering low prices after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the nuclear energy market is expected to pick up, with generation growing nearly 3 percent annually by 2040, according to the World Nuclear Association's Nuclear Report. As the world continues to pivot to net-zero emissions, nuclear energy will find increasing favour from countries looking to shift their energy generation to cleaner sources.

The report states that uranium production will remain stable until the end of the 2020s and then decrease by nearly half from 2030 to 2040, highlighting the need for increased exploration and production in the space to avoid future supply disruptions.

Many projects are at advanced development stages and are only waiting for improved prices from the market.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Pallavi Rao, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Cannabis remains a hot-button issue in Australia, and the country's political parties have diverse opinions. Here's a look at what they think.

Cannabis reform at a national level still seems far off for Australians, but what do each of the country's major political parties think about the drug?

At the time of publication, the Australian federal parliament had members in the House of Representatives from nine political parties, and senators from nine political parties as well.

Let's look at what Australia's four major political parties think about cannabis, followed by a brief overview of the minor parties in power. We'll also run through the cannabis-specific political parties not currently elected.


Australian Liberal Party

The Australian Liberal Party is in power right now, and it has a conservative view on drug policy, including cannabis, which it believes should remain on the illicit and illegal drug list. The party also has policies around deporting drug dealers. Although it has endorsed research on medicinal cannabis through the Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA), it has since removed all references and specific policies regarding cannabis from its platform.

Current Health Minister Greg Hunt has expressed concern over the Australian Capital Territory's decision to legalise cannabis given that it directly conflicts with federal law. He previously told ABC Radio Melbourne that cannabis presents a "significant mental health risk."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has joked that he "won't be partaking" in cannabis. He was also unmoved by activists from the Who Are We Hurting campaign who delivered a pound of weed to Kirribilli House on April 20, 2020, and then brought AU$420,000 in crisp green AU$100 bills to Parliament House on the same date in 2021.

Australian Labour Party

The stance from the Australian Labour Party is in support of medicinal cannabis only. Similar to the Australian Liberal Party, there is no public policy mention of cannabis or marijuana in the Australian Labour Party's mandate.

State members in Queensland and New South Wales have publicly called for the decriminalisation of cannabis, with some going so far as to call for legalisation; however, at this stage the official party line isn't pushing for legalising.

The Nationals

Running on a platform that focuses on rural Australian communities and agriculture, the Nationals often rely on more conservative policies. As part of a coalition government with the Australian Liberal Party, the party line for the Nationals is thought to be aligned as "no" to decriminalisation and "no" to legalisation, but "yes" to medicinal cannabis that is heavily regulated through the TGA.

Australian Greens

The Australian Greens have been proudly (and loudly) lobbying for cannabis legalisation for many years as a major policy. The current party line is to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis and cannabis products for recreational use, whilst regulating growth and possession for personal and medicinal use.

Minor parties in the House of Representatives

  • Centre Alliance — Member of Parliament Rebekha Sharkie spoke in support of a medicinal cannabis bill in February 2021 and believes medicinal cannabis should be included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
  • Independent — There are no public policies available for members of parliament Helen Haines, Zali Steggall or Andrew Wilkie, although Wilkie was the major push behind legalising hemp as a material and food source in Australia.
  • Katter's Australia Party — Bob Katter is not pro-legalisation, and joked in parliament, "I didn't know marijuana was legal in Canberra and I can now understand why the country has gone to pot."
  • Liberal Party of Queensland — No public policy; presumed to be the same as the Australian Liberal Party and Nationals as they are a coalition.
  • United Australia Party — The party wants a standard on synthetic dangerous drugs, including cannabis.

Minor parties in the Senate

  • Centre Alliance — Senator Stirling Griff voted against expanding medicinal cannabis in 2017. No public policy on record.
  • Country Liberal Party — The party has no public policy on record.
  • Independent — Senator Rex Patrick voted strongly in favour of increased access to medicinal cannabis, but has previously stated that decriminalising cannabis "requires considerable thought and analysis."
  • Jacqui Lambert Network — The party has policies to address the problems facing everyday Tasmanians in accessing medicinal cannabis, and believes it should be a doctor/patient issue and not a political/bureaucratic issue.
  • Pauline Hanson's One Nation — The party has stated, "One Nation upholds the right of Australians to access medical cannabis, that may give them quality of life and life itself." However, it has a history of blocking motions like the 2017 bid to fast-track medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill.

Pro-cannabis parties in Australian politics

There are several smaller pro-cannabis parties; of particular note is the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party. It was first founded as Help End Marijuana Prohibition (known by its clever and catchy acronym HEMP) in 1993 by Nigel Quinlan, who ran under the candidate name Nigel Freemarijuana.

The group, which changed its name to Legalise Cannabis Australia in September 2021, has a number of policies around legalising and regulating cannabis for personal use, industrial use and medicinal use.

A subgroup of Legalise Cannabis Australia is the Legalise Cannabis Queensland Party, which was officially approved by the Australian Electoral Commission in September 2020 and ran in the October 2020 state election. The party garnered 2.2 percent of the vote, the fourth highest overall. The Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party won two Upper House seats in the 2021 state election.

The Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party) advocates for cannabis to be legalised, regulated and taxed. The party is currently only represented in the Victorian Legislative Council by Fiona Patton and is not represented at a federal level. Patten recently chaired a foundational committee that provided a report on findings and recommendations on cannabis policy to the Victorian parliament.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

carbon emissions

Following international pressure, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In a last-minute commitment after months of debate, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, expecting to meet the goal largely through technology development.

The move comes following international pressure as Australia had previously refused to join countries in pledging to meet the target ahead of the United Nations' COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

However, the plan unveiled on Tuesday (October 26), which includes a government investment of AU$20 billion, does not strengthen the target set for 2030, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australia is on track to beat its Paris Agreement goal, cutting emissions by 30 to 35 percent by that decade.


"We will do this the Australian way," Morrison said ahead of a press conference, announcing investments in new energy technologies like hydrogen and low-cost solar.

An Australian hydrogen industry could be worth more than AU$50 billion in 2050, according to the government. Meanwhile, expanding production and processing of metals like lithium, nickel, copper and uranium could together be worth around AU$85 billion in exports in 2050.

That said, Australia will continue to be heavily dependent on fossil fuels as the plan will not shut down coal or gas production. The country is a major coal player, with the third largest reserves in the world, but its reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita.

"We want our heavy industries, like mining, to stay open, remain competitive and adapt, so they remain viable for as long as global demand allows," Morrison said. "We will not support any mandate — domestic or international — to force closure of our resources or agricultural industries."

Australia's desire to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 is a step in the right direction, Prakash Sharma, Wood Mackenzie's Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions, said.

"Our analysis shows that Australia can reach net zero emissions by 2050," he said. The country's major trading partners — China, Japan and South Korea — are already in transition towards that goal.

According to Wood Mackenzie, nearly 83 percent of Australia's power generation will come from solar and wind by 2050, as compared to about 20 percent last year. Natural gas, bio energy, geothermal and small modular reactors will supply the remaining 17 percent in power output. Coal into power is expected to be phased out by 2035.

"Although the pathway requires complete transformation of its traditional energy and export sectors, there are significant opportunities to capitalise on and protect future revenues," Sharma said.

"This will require Australia to become a significant player in low-carbon hydrogen trade as well as being able to offer carbon storage and offset services."

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the prime minister's commitment to reach net zero by 2050, but said the mid-century goal is only meaningful with deep cuts to climate pollution this decade.

"Unless the government sets the wheels in motion to cut our emissions in half by 2030, it is making climate change worse and turning its back on the opportunities," said Chief Executive Kelly O'Shanassy.

"Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy," she added. "We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent, but we cannot delay any longer."

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.