Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Uranium Country Notes
Exploration activities between 1947 and 1961 led to a number of uranium discoveries, including the deposits at Mary Kathleen (Queensland), Rum Jungle (Northern Territory) and Radium Hill (South Australia). A decrease in uranium requirements for defence purposes induced a virtual cessation in exploration between 1961 and 1966. Activity picked up again during the late 1960s, as civilian export demand accelerated, and numerous major deposits were located.
In 1983 the Government introduced the so-called 'three mines' policy, which permitted uranium exports only from the Nabarlek, Ranger and Olympic Dam mines. This restrictive measure, with its dampening effect on uranium exploration, lasted until 1996. Exploration expenditure and drilling activity rose in the latter half of the 1990s, but declined to historic lows in 2001 and 2002. Exploratory activity increased sharply in 2003-2005, and was concentrated on parts of the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Australia produced 9 519 tonnes of uranium in 2005, up significantly from previous years' output, bringing cumulative output to more than 131 800 tonnes since 1954. Three uranium production centres were in operation in 2005: Ranger (open-pit mine, production capacity 4 660 tU/yr), Olympic Dam (underground mine at present, possibly also open pit in the future, current production capacity 3 930 tU/yr) and Beverley (in-situ leaching, production capacity 848 tU/yr). In August 2005 BHP Billiton began a two-year environmental assessment of the proposed expansion of its Olympic Dam operation. A new centre with a production capacity of 2 290 tU/yr has been constructed at Jabiluka, but the facility has been on a standby and environmental maintenance basis since 2000. An ISL production centre is planned for the Honeymoon deposit, with production expected to begin in early 2008, according to the owners, sxr Uranium One Inc.
Total Australian production dropped to 7 593 tU in 2006, primarily because of pit flooding and acid-plant problems at Ranger early in the year.
Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR) are reported in the Red Book as
714 000 tonnes at less than US$ 80/kgU and 33 000 tonnes at US$ 80-130/kgU. Inferred Resources (IR) recoverable at these cost levels are 360 000 and 36 000 tonnes, respectively. Compared with the levels in the 2004 Red Book, there were increases at the less-than-US$ 80 level in both RAR and IR, reflecting a revised assessment of the resources at Olympic Dam, the world's largest uranium deposit.