A conscientious administration of uranium mining and processing is critical within all stages of activities and planning, incorporating decisions from exploration through development, operations and construction, as well as the terminal decommissioning.
A conscientious administration of uranium mining and processing is critical within all stages of activities and planning, incorporating decisions from exploration through development, operations and construction, as well as the terminal decommissioning. Any current actions and decisions will affect present and future global societal interests, as well as those directly involved in uranium mining and processing. Exploration companies, mining operators, contractors, utility providers and regulators should make every effort to achieve the highest levels of excellence in these fields of responsible stewardship of uranium resources. It will only be through a commitment to the framework of internationally shared common principles and continued dialogue with multiple interest groups that future responsible mining will be possible.
As this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), some stakeholders will be in Austria next week for a conference on the safe and secure transport of radioactive material.
The top 5 global producers of uranium combined are responsible for 67 percent of the total uranium production and have all demonstrated respective positions on responsible mining. Cameco (TSX:CCO), Areva Group (EPA:CEI), Kazatomprom, Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) and Atomredmetzoloto JSC (ARMZ) all maintain some interest in cultivating a public perception of consistent sustainable practices; however, investors will note that the global image of at least some of these members have faced public adversity with resource disputes including joint venture partnerships.
Uranium exploration and mining practices from a responsible and sustainable development perspective are similar to other mining activities. Associated activities require environmental permits and approvals preceding development. These developments are all individually obligated to comply with relevant environmental, occupational, health and safety requirements. They are progressively becoming more heavily regulated by global standards and audited by external contractors.
The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has outlined ten principles which form the basic framework to apply for any resource development. Regarding uranium specific mandates the principles should include emphasis on management accountability, transparency in operations, excellence in professional skills, and an overarching recognition of the congruency of good business and sound environmental practices.
Additional consideration should be undertaken to adhere to basic guidelines which have been summarized in the safety standards for the Management of Radioactive Waste from the Mining and Milling of Ores established by IAEA.
Health and safety concerns
Ensuring suitable protective precautions for communities and the environment as well as all employees and contractors is a critical aspect of responsible mining. These practices would include planning for mining safety, radiation stewardship, personal protective equipment, ventilation, water quality and overall ecological consideration.
In an exclusive interview with Uranium Investing News, Paul Robinson, Research Director for the Southwest Research and Information Center indicated compliance as an important role of regulators. “Compliance is the concern of regulators. Compliance activities are harder when there are shortages of staff resources, monitoring sites and data from those sites, irregular inspection cycles, poorly deleted reclamation plans and poor financial assurance instruments.”
Explaining that uranium mining or exploration practices may not be universally consistent as situational contexts are diverse Robinson clarified, “junior exploration companies typically don’t seek mining permits, they explore. Exploration requirements vary widely among jurisdictions. Full funding of agency programs by fees or cost recovery, regular inspections, regular collection of monitoring data and effective bonding for well developed reclamation plans are the keys to effective exploration compliance monitoring.”
Securities Disclosure: I, Dave Brown, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.