Uranium to bring jobs, export boom back to Australia’s mining industry — report

Uranium to bring jobs, export boom back to Australia’s mining industry — report

BHP’s Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine in South Australia, state which holds more than 80% of the country’s total uranium resources. (Image courtesy of BHP Billiton)

Australia’s mining industry could enjoy a job and export growth boom given the right ­policy settings in the uranium sector, according to a new report.

The study, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia, found that under high-growth scenarios for local uranium production and nuclear power in a carbon-constrained world, the economic benefit from the industry could increase tenfold to $9.5 billion.

According to the council’s executive director for uranium, Daniel Zavattiero, Australia holds enormous opportunity for jobs and export revenue growth as governments around the world continue to adopt policies to deal with climate constraints.

“Such opportunities will only be realizable if Australia undergoes policy reforms making it a more attractive uranium investment destination, and a more competitive supplier,” he said in a statement.

While the scale of growth in demand will be determined by global nuclear power growth, Australia is in a position to control its share of global production. Australia is the third-largest supplier behind Kazakhstan and Canada.

“With vision, policy ­reform and state and federal commitments to increase competitiveness and investment attractiveness, Australia could target a share of global production closer to its resource endowment,’’ Zavattiero said.

The report, Realizing Australia’s Uranium Potential, found there are three priority reforms Australia needs to increase its uranium production towards its global share of resources:

  • Removing exploration and mining bans in those states where the bans exist;
  • Excluding the federal government from the current dual state/federal environmental assessment process;
  • And increasing the number of ports through which uranium can be exported.

The study comes as uranium prices have begun to pick up this year, leaving their post-Fukushima lows behind and currently trading at around $37.75 a pound.

Only last week, Australia's Northern Territory indigenous community rejected Energy Resources of Australia (ASX:ERA) plans to extend the company’s Ranger uranium mine permit.

The community’s opposition could mean the Rio Tinto-owned miner has to write down the value of its assets.