BHP cool on hot uranium demand, The Weekend Australian p.2 REBECCA PUDDY, 22 Aug 2015 BHP Billiton has warned that the future doubling of global demand for uranium will not necessarily lead to increased investment at its Olympic Dam mine.
The mining company said the commercial return from the Olympic Dam deposit in the north of South Australia was driven primarily by copper production, together with a combination of commodity prices and other market factors.
“Therefore increased demand for uranium may not in and of itself lead to increased investment in the Olympic Dam deposit,” the company said in its submission to South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.
BHP Billiton’s warning comes after it announced this month that 380 workers would be sacked as part of an operational review to cut costs.
An expansion plan for Olympic Dam was put on hold three years ago, although South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill hinted this month that a modified plan to expand the mine remains on the cards, with trials of an alternative heap-leaching technology progressing more rapidly and successfully than expected. This comes as demand for uranium is tipped to increase.
The International Energy Agency world energy outlook states that there are currently 437 operating nuclear power reactors in the world with 378 gigawatt capacity.
With a further 68 reactors being built, the agency forecasts nuclear capacity will increase to 624GW by 2040. “In the long run, additional supply of primary uranium will be required to meet the expected demand,” it says.
“With steady demand increases, the market deficit is expected to be filled by a range of potential projects.”
BHP Billiton’s submission to the royal commission focuses its attentions on the regulatory burdens placed on it by state and federal governments. It recommends the removal of uranium mining from the list of Matters of Environmental Significance in the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act.