Cameco received an important approval from the Australian Federal Department of Environment and Energy last week to advance the Yeelirrie uranium site.
Uranium miner Cameco (TSX:CCO,NYSE:CCJ) received an important approval from the Australian Federal Department of Environment and Energy last week to advance the Yeelirrie uranium site.
Located in the remote Northern Goldfields region of Western Australia, Yeelirrie is one the country’s largest undeveloped uranium deposits.
Cameco acquired the project in 2012 from BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BBL,LSE:BHP) and was granted approval for the project in 2017 from the government of Western Australia.
“We welcome this decision,” General Manager of Cameco Australia Simon Williamson said in an announcement. “This has been a rigorous and extensive environmental assessment process, and we have worked with the Department over the two-year process to demonstrate how we will reduce and manage any environmental risks.”
Uranium production and its use is a controversial topic on the continent; a nuclear energy ban was enacted in 1998 and the country only has a small contingent of uranium mines and projects despite holding some of the largest high-grade uranium deposits on Earth.
Cameco’s 2017 federal approval is currently being challenged in the Western Australia Supreme Court by the Tjiwarl people, who are concerned about groundwater contamination and effects on biodiversity.
The Tjiwarl people are also upset that the decision to approve the project was made on April 10 by the government, but wasn’t announced until April 24, after a federal election was declared.
“We just wonder when will things change. We’ve done everything in good faith, putting in submissions, going to court, following the law, but the politicians keep changing the rules,” Vicky Abdullah, a Tjiwarl woman and representative, told the press. “We will continue to protect our country any way we can.”
Despite the recent approval, Cameco is in no hurry to develop the project, noting that spot prices need to be higher to make development enticing.
“While we are happy to have this approval in place, current market conditions are challenging and we expect them to remain so in the near term,” said Williamson.
Low U3O8 spot prices were behind the Canada-based company shuttering its McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill last year. McArthur is among the largest and most prolific uranium mines in the world.
Shares of Cameco were flat on Monday (April 29), trading at C$15.05 on the TSX.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.