South Australian govt pursues dream of uranium enrichment, despite the poor economic outlook

South Australia digs deep on future of uranium SHERADYN HOLDERHEAD MILES KEMP THE ADVERTISER MAY 04, 2014
THE State Government’s mining department has continued to explore uranium enrichment, despite the minister saying there is no business case for it. Documents released under Freedom of Information also show the State Government wants to ship the uranium ore already mined in SA through eastern ports to make it more cost effective.

Emails between Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy Department executives shows they planned a meeting in December with a University College London Master’s graduate whose thesis showed the State Government should invest in uranium enrichment.


The emails suggested the graduate give a talk to the Olympic Dam Task Force and attached a summary of the paper, which stated that the SA Government should invest in uranium enrichment company URENCO.

The summary states a strategic investment would provide access to profits without the risk of developing a new technology and leaving options open for Australia to construct a future uranium enrichment facility.

Another report prepared for the State Government into how to make the state’s uranium industry more profitable and allow new mines to open suggests eastern states be lobbied to allow shipment from higher-traffic ports such as Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Its report says found government should take a leadership role in lobbying for improvement which included a “discussion document around options for addressing access to east coast shipping ports”. Adelaide and Darwin are the only ports from which uranium shipping is now permitted.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said there were no plans to export uranium from Queensland ports. A Victorian Government spokesman said that “the proposal is not something that has been considered … Any proposal would need to be assessed to consider environmental implications, port handling and also transport arrangements’’.

In 2011, Mining Minister Tom Koutsantonis, publicly backed by then treasurer Kevin Foley, called for change from the traditional approach of simply mining uranium and sending it offshore.

“We’ve got to value add here in SA. Down the track, I would like to see some form of enrichment, some sort of value add. We have to go out and passionately support the uranium industry,’’ he said at the time.
But in April last year, he said there was no case for it “any time in the near future” because it was not commercially viable.

Mr Koutsantonis said the department was not “investigating” uranium enrichment but that it was “keen to foster relationships between universities” and was often approached to discuss a range of policy issues.

He said that SA Government has not been presented with a viable business case for enrichment, and had not approached the eastern states to use their ports.

Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire said the government needed to “come clean” with their plans for uranium. “They’ve tricked their way back into office and it’s no longer acceptable for them to sidestep important issues on alternative energy sources,” he said.
“Why are they doing secret work, what are their intentions? And if they’re not considering it, then why allow the department to look at options?”

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