Toro given green light for $270m Wiluna project
Australia's next uranium mine is a step closer to reality after Toro Energy secured crucial approvals for its Wiluna project from the federal government.
Environment Minister Tony Burke gave his long-awaited blessing to the plan on Tuesday, allowing Toro to finally move to lock down financial partners in the project.
But Mr Burke's approval came with 36 conditions, including a demand Toro pay a bond that covers the costs of rehabilitating the mine once its life is complete.
The company will also have to submit an "environmental management plan", which outlines how radiation and other impacts will be monitored by the company, as well as more detail about the site's eventual closure and rehabilitation.
Those extra requirements prompted some environmentalists to label the approval "conditional".
But Toro described Mr Burke's approval as "the last major environment-based regulatory approval" required, leaving just the company's own investment decision to come.
Toro chief executive Vanessa Guthrie said talks had already been held with potential financial partners in Japan, Korea, China and India, and she hoped to take a final investment decision before Christmas.
Toro has predicted the mine will cost $269 million, but that number is based on "industry benchmark costs".
Ms Guthrie said more detailed work on cost estimates, design and infrastructure would now take place, but she was confident there would be no significant blowout.
Environmental campaigner David Sweeney said he was very sceptical that Toro could build the mine that cheaply, and said the company's projections about improvements in the uranium price were based more on enthusiasm than evidence.
"Far bigger companies with far deeper pockets, like BHP Billiton and Cameco, have put Australian uranium projects on the shelf in recent times. There are major financial hurdles that face this company," he said.
Wiluna, deep in the West Australian outback, would be Australia's sixth approved uranium mine after Ranger, Olympic Dam, Beverley, Honeymoon and Four Mile.
It would be the first uranium mine in WA.
Shares in Toro rose 1.5¢ to 13¢.
Toro's biggest shareholder is Melbourne-based copper and gold miner OZ Minerals, but the announcement did nothing to boost its share price, which continued its recent slide by slipping 21¢ to $5.12.