Berkeley Energia boss quits as uranium mine in Spain waits for final OK

Development of the Salamanca project in 2016, after lining up approvals for initial works on (Image courtesy of Berkeley Energia)

Berkeley Energia (ASX, LON:BKY), the Australian company that has been trying for years to build Europe’s only open-cast uranium mine, said Thursday its chief executive had resigned and that it would look for a Spanish national to take over the firm’s reins.

It also noted it would move its head office to Madrid, while it continues to seek the approvals needed to break ground at the site, in the Spanish town of Retortillo, near Salamanca.

Paul Atherley, who joined Berkeley Energia in June 2015, tried promoting the proposed mine as a local source of uranium to feed Europe’s nuclear power plants.

He said he will focus now on his other investments in the resource sector.

Paul Atherley, who joined the company in 2015, is expected to be replaced by a Spanish national

The miner began developing the project in 2016, after lining up approvals for initial works on the site, but it has struggled since to obtain all the necessary permits to begin construction.

A number of environmental groups have, in the meantime, filed appeals to the company’s licences and permits, while politicians in both Spain and neighbouring Portugal had voiced their opposition to the project.

Worries surrounding the project include its impact on nearby farm animals, mainly cattle.

Despite some opposition, Berkeley has recently received a number of favourable assessments from various regulatory bodies, such as two rulings from the Nuclear Safety Council relating to pre-operational surveillance plans for radiological and environmental effects, and the control of underground water.

The final feasibility study indicates the project could produce an average of 4.4 million pounds of uranium per year at a cash cost of $13.30 per pound over an initial 10-year mine life.

This means that if and when the mine is built, it would become one of the world’s top 10 largest uranium producers.

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