A series of company announcements, proclamations at an uranium conference in Adelaide and release of the March quarter report of Sydney-based Resource Capital Research (RCR) have provided Australian investors with firmer evidence that uranium will join gold on the minerals recovery front.
One of the highlights was Cameco Corporation (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) making a rare public announcement in Australia to state that it has opened an office in Perth and appointed Ron Matthews managing director of the Kintyre uranium project in the Pilbara hinterland of Western Australia (WA).
This massive slumbering uranium deposit that also has scope for other minerals was acquired by the consortium of Cameco (70%) and Japan's Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd from Rio Tinto in August last year, long before Rio's debt exposure became an issue.
Toro Energy (ASX: TOE) this week had to respond to a query over its share price from the Australian Securities Exchange, and reminded the regulator that it is moving into advanced resource drilling on its Wiluna project in WA - this takes in the shallow Centipede deposit - and that a controlling block in the company is held by OZ Minerals Ltd (ASX: OZL) - a factor that would have a yo-yo affect on any company at the moment.
The RCR report which has become a benchmark for uranium company watchers in Australia came out with a series of positives on Australian companies advancing domestic projects and some overseas but also claimed this time that the long term uranium price at $US59.50 a pound was down only marginally on the previous estimate.
RCR said industry fundamentals remain strong, underpinning support for the contract uranium price, with anticipated growth in the number of nuclear reactors and risk of supply shortage mid term (4-8 years).
Companies nearing production include:
• the joint venture of Quasar Exploration and Alliance Resources Ltd (ASX: AGS) at the Four Mile project near the Beverley in-situ recovery (ISR) mine in South Australia, operated by Quasar's parent Heathgate Resources. This is almost certain to be Australia's next uranium mine and could produce 3 million lb of U308 per annum.
• White Canyon Uranium Ltd (ASX: WCU) is awaiting mine permitting for its Daneros project in the United States.
• The perennial development plans for Uranium One (TSX: UUU) launching its ISR project at Honeymoon, relatively close to Beverley now has a new deadline of coming into production in mid 2010.
Other progressing projects cited by RCR include Berkeley Resources' (ASX: BKY) Salamanca project in Spain for which a definitive feasibility study is due by mid 2010; Energy Metals Ltd (ASX: EME) which should produce a pre feasibility study for its Bigrlyi project in Australia's Northern Territory (NT); Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ASX: ERA) was assessing developing its Ranger Deeps in the NT; Greenland Minerals & Energy (ASX: GGG) has a pre feasibility for Kyanefjeld in Greenland due by September quarter; and Uranex NL has studies progressing on its Thatcher Soak project in WA and Manyoni deposit in Tanzania.
Paladin Energy (ASX: PDN) had been advancing studies on its Mt Isa projects in Queensland but this may be back on the rack following Anna Bligh winning the Queensland State election. She like her predecessor, Peter Beattie, placed a ban on uranium mining in the State.
Qualification: A member of the writer's family holds a small parcel of Energy Metals shares.