Toro uranium mine approved
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. This included a demand for Toro to pay a bond that covered the costs of rehabilitating the mine once its working life was complete.
The company will also have to submit an "environmental management plan" that outlines how it will monitor radiation and other impacts, as well as extra details around the eventual closure and rehabilitation of the site.
Those extra requirements prompted some environmentalists to label the approval "conditional".
But Toro described Mr Burke's clearance as "the last major environment-based regulatory approval" required, leaving just its 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".
Dr 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.
"Our expectation is that number is not going to move much from there," she said.
Environmental campaigner Dave Sweeney said he was very sceptical that Toro could build the mine that cheaply.
He 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.
Located deep in the West Australian outback, Wiluna 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 Western Australia.
Shares in Toro rose 1.5¢ to 13¢.
Toro's biggest shareholder is Melbourne copper and gold miner OZ Minerals, but the announcement did nothing to boost OZ's share price, which continued its recent slide by slipping 21¢ to $5.12.