This blog post is an edited version of several reports published in Fuel Cycle Week by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC.
The Quebec government rejected protests taking place Aug 17 at the provincial legislature calling for a ban on uranium mining. Serge Simard, the natural resources minister, said, "It is out of the question." And he predicted that it could hurt the industry. His prediction came true as Terra Ventures (CVE:TAS) shut down its exploration activity near Sept-lles, Quebec.
The company reportedly yanked its drill rigs and camp equipment from the site. Gunther Roehlig, CEO, did not return a call from FCW, but a person answering the phone at the company's investor relations office confirmed media reports the firm exited prospecting operations at the site because of the protests.
The Lac Kachiwiss uranium property was first explored in 1978 when Getty Mines reported a resource estimate (non 43-101 compliant) of 18.3 million short tons of "indicated plus geologically inferred" mineralization. Terra Ventures first reported its drilling results from the site in December 2008.
In Sept-lles, Marc Fafard, who leads the protest group, said the group was out to give Terra Ventures "a bad name in the industry."
There are no producing uranium mines in Quebec, but there are numerous exploration projects.
In response to the call for a ban on uranium mining by the provincial government, Uracan (TSX: URC) another Quebec junior uranium firm, hired Yvan Loubier, a former member of the Quebec parliament, to lobby on its behalf. He said in a statement the company is intent on stemming fears of uranium mining based on misinformation.
"We are confident that we can convince the majority of the population that uranium is safe, reliable, and useful. Unfortunately, the uranium industry is too often the target of a campaign of disinformation and denigration, which requires taking the time to set the record straight."
At its North Shore Uranium Property in Quebec Uracan Resources has outlined three NI 43-101 compliant inferred resources that total 44 million pounds U3O8. The company is targeting near surface uranium deposits that could be mined with open pit economics. Numerous historical uranium prospecting occurred at the North Shore property in the 1960s and 1970s, and several companies reportedly drilled a total of more than 100 holes on the project.
The Quebec Mining Association also weighed in on response to the protests. In a statement the association said "it opposes demands . . . calling for a moratorium on development of uranium in Quebec."
Slater inks deal with Eagle Plains at Karin Lake
Slater Mining (TSX:SLM) and Eagle Plains Resources (TSX:EPL) announced an agreement July 25 for Slater to earn a 60% interest in the Karin Lake property located 40 km east of Cameco's Key Lake deposit in Saskatchewan. To earn the 60% stake, Slater will complete $3 million in exploration expenditures, make $500,000 in cash payments, and issue one million shares of stock. At market close Aug 23, Slater's stock traded at $0.25/share unchanged over the past 52-weeks with a market cap of $4.4 million.
Historical assays of the property showed values of up to 8% U3O8. The property was acquired by Eagle Plains in 2006. Slater will begin work this year with an initial expenditure of $200,000 including review of existing geologic information.
Kivalliq closes CDN$5million in private placement
Kivalliq (CVE:KIV) closed a CDN$5 million of a CDN$6.2 million private placement with Lumina Capital Limited Partnership to develop Kivalliq's Lac Cinquante uranium site in Nunavut, Canada. The site is the core asset of a 225,000 acre Angilak project. So far the company has spent $6.7 million on exploration of the project including geological mapping and drilling. Results from preliminary drilling last June indicated up to 4.8% U3O8 at one site.
Virginia uranium study panel named
Green groups charge members have conflict of interest
The kick-off of a study of the issues associated with mining a large uranium deposit in southwestern Virginia may be delayed after two environmental groups documented what they say are potential conflicts of interest regarding the study.
The green groups said in formal, written comments provided submitted to the NAS, and provided to FCW, that several members of the panel have close ties to the uranium mining industry through direct employment, consulting relationships, or serving in leadership positions at professional or industry associations. Gene Adesso, a spokesman for the Roanoke River Basin Association, told FCW his group, and the Dan River Basin Association, object to four of the 13 panel members because of these types of ties.
He said one members is on the board of a mining association, another has a consulting practice with mining industry clients, a third is directly employed by a major uranium mining company, and a fourth is a consultant to the same firm and other uranium miners.
Adesso said these relationships "could significantly impair their objectivity" when it comes to the Virginia study. He said his group wants these members removed from the panel and replaced by people "who are free of any obligation" to the mining industry or "who might benefit from the findings of the study."
Jennifer Walsh, a spokesperson for the NAS, told FCW panel members are required to "self-disclose direct financial conflicts of interest" when they are invited to serve on the panel. She said the NAS reviews the financial conflict of interest disclosures to insure members will not be biased in their review of the scientific issues.
"Conflict of interest issues are addressed on a case-by-case basis."
"Panel members are chosen to reflect a balance of scientific interests," Walsh added. "We expect them to have their own points of view."
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) project is being paid to carry out an impartial review of the proposed mine which will be reviewed by the state legislature. Uranium mining is currently banned in Virginia, but a Canadian firm, which is providing the funds for the study, wants to mine the reported 100 million pounds U3O8 at the Coles Hill site. The NAS study is being managed by The Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech. The entire cost is being paid for by Virginia Uranium (TSX:VAE) as part of its 28% earn-in equity position in the uranium deposit.
Norman Reynolds, CEO of Virginia Uranium, told FCW in an interview earlier this year the reason the firm agreed to have the National Research Council do the study "is that their reputation is beyond reproach." Michael Karmis, Director of the Virginia Tech research center agreed. He said, "the source of the money is irrelevant."
The panel hasn't met yet. Walsh said the first meeting will take place "before the end of 2010." A report is expected from the panel by December 2011.
Colorado mining board updates uranium prospecting rules
Can Powertech live with them?
The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board Aug 12 established new rules affecting in-situ uranium mining. The new, stringent requirements were opposed by Powertech (TSEW:PWE) and other uranium miners, but in a statement to the news media Aug 13, the Richard Clement, Powertech CEO, said the miner can "achieve what the board wants."
The new rules require in-situ leach uranium mine applications to protect groundwater to existing conditions or to state ground water standards. Also, the application must demonstrate the proposed mining technology has been used at five other locations without harming groundwater quality. The application must include detailed baseline hydrology information.
In the area of public notice, the new rules make public all prospecting notices and the public can comment on them. Miners have objected to these requirements because of the possible release of confidential business information. The new rules also give third parties the right to demonstrate legal standing to appeal prospecting decisions by the Board.
In a hearing held prior to the adoption of the rules, John Fognani, an attorney representing Powertech, told the FCW the new rules would require miners to test groundwater before beginning their prospecting work. "It's a Catch-22," he said.
"You can't gather this information without doing the prospecting work."
The original draft of the new rule only required miners to conduct the groundwater studies prior to the start of mining operations.
Fognanni said the Centennial project can meet the requirements, but the new regulations, "make things more difficult." He added he expects the new rules will be challenged by both miners and green groups.
"We hope that environmental regulations will be used to protect human health and not to frustrate or delay legitimate ISR projects."
Jeffrey Parsons, an attorney for the Western Mining Action Project, an environmental group, told FCW Powertech's objections are "silly." He said the state has always had the authority to require the miner to test the water before prospecting work begins.
"Now these regulations make this authority explicit."
But Clement said that the discretion the Board gave to the state agency means rules can be interpreted "to the point where you can't accomplish the goals in the regulations" before starting operations.
In the end, Clement said Powertech will live with the new rules. But he called them "higher standards than in other states."
Theo Stein, a spokesman for the mining board, told FCW that Powertech's updated statement that the rule as not "fatal" to ISR mining indicates "that perspectives evolve during the ruling making."
Powertech is developing its Centennial ISR mine near Nunn, Colo., about 15 mile east of Ft. Collins. Centennial covers 7,320 acres of uranium mineral rights in Weld County, Colorado. Prospecting activity included 1 million feet of drilling in 3,000 holes. An updated June 2009 NI 43-101 compliant technical report outlined two key uranium deposits with total inferred resources of 11,465,500 pounds of U3O8.
The new rules implement legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly last year. The bills were introduced after legislators from the Ft. Collins area responded to fears the Powertech mine in Nunn would negatively impact property values and contaminate drinking water supplies.
Science columnist praises novelist
John Horgan, a columnist for Scientific American, wrote in his Aug 16 column that after reading Gwyneth Cravens’ book 'Power to Save the World,' that he “feels a lot better about living near Indian Point," Entergy's twin reactor site on the Hudson River just north of New York City.
Horgan’s column highlights his surprise at the depth of accessible detail in Cravens’ book about radiation, the Chernobyl disaster, depleted uranium, and other nuclear topics.
“I've always had a knee-jerk distrust of nuclear advocates, just as I have of right-wing Congressmen, psychiatric-drug shills and string theorists. But I trust Cravens and the experts she interviewed—including physicists, engineers and epidemiologists—over many years of reporting. If you're agonizing over whether to support nuclear energy, read Cravens's book . . .”
Cravens began work on her book as a skeptic about nuclear energy. She interviewed leading nuclear scientists and engineers, and experts in related fields like public health. She told FCW that she came to the conclusion, "nuclear energy can be a safe energy source and an essential deterrent to global warming."
Scientific American regularly covers nuclear energy issues though often from the perspective of nonproliferation analysts. More recently, the magazine has been paying attention to nuclear utilities. Horgan’s column, of course, represents his opinion, but the magazine printed it and that’s welcome news.
Cravens first disclosed her dialog with Horgan, and the tour of Indian Point, in a private social media discussion forum. She said she especially appreciated Horgan's distinction between "shills" and people who educate the public.
Bravo Ms. Cravens. Well done.
# # #