Toro Welcomes Final Federal Government Environmental Approval Allowing WA’s First Uranium Mine at Wiluna
April 2, 2013 (Source: Toro Energy) — WA-focused uranium developer, Toro Energy Limited (ASX: TOE), has welcomed today’s Federal Government decision granting environmental approval for the Company’s wholly owned and advanced Wiluna uranium project in Western Australia.
The approvals decision was announced by the Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Hon. Tony Burke. It was the last major environment-based regulatory approval required to clear the way for the proposed A$269 million Wiluna uranium mine to become Australia’s sixth uranium producer and the first in Western Australia. The project is now subject to normal financing and final project investment determinations by the Toro Board.
The approval follows a similar Western Australian Government environmental approval for Wiluna given in October 2012 and completes the WA and Federal Government environmental assessment processes that have lasted almost three and a half years.
“Wiluna is the first new Australian uranium mine since mid-2009 to receive Federal and State government approval,” Toro’s Managing Director, Dr Vanessa Guthrie, said today.
“Completion of the environmental approvals delivers Toro the regulatory certainty needed to fully underpin our negotiating capacity and to now advance commercial financing arrangements and product off-take agreements with potential partners,” Dr Guthrie said.
“It also provides a clear pathway to complete detailed engineering design, infrastructure and cost estimates for Wiluna,” she said.
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“This work has been on hold since the Federal Minister initially deferred his decision on the project in November last year and then initiated a second deferral in December. “Subject to successful finalisation of financing and marketing arrangements and our design and cost work, Toro anticipates first production from the Wiluna mine by the end of 2015.”
Dr Guthrie reconfirmed Toro’s ongoing engagement with potential project finance partners in a negotiating environment she described as “very encouraging”.
“Wiluna is one of the few projects in the world capable of bringing new uranium production to the market in the medium term, when a shortfall is predicted from 2015 onwards,” Dr Guthrie said.
“The mine comprises two deposits (Lake Way and Centipede) processing 1.3 million tonnes per annum to produce approximately 780 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate based on up to 14 years of mine life.
“The rigorous government assessment of the mine proposal at both State and Federal levels has demonstrated that all impacts can be safely and sustainably managed. “During the assessment process, the public had four opportunities for input and Toro consistently takes into account the views of the community and government agencies in the Company’s continuing design work.
“We are confident the mine will deliver important benefits to the local and regional communities in particular, including training, employment and business development.
“The Company continues to negotiate a mining agreement with Traditional Owners through which Toro proposes to provide financial support for a range of Aboriginal community benefits.”
Toro’s Wiluna Uranium Project is located approximately 960km northeast of Perth in the Northern Goldfields region, 30 km south of the town of Wiluna.
The project comprises five separate calcrete-hosted uranium deposits, with a total regional resource across all categories at Wiluna (Measured, Indicated and Inferred) reported under the JORC code of 54 Mlbs. There is also significant upside in currently held but under-developed exploration tenements located throughout WA’s northern goldfields.
The Wiluna Project that is the subject of the environmental approval is based on the largest of these deposits, Centipede and Lake Way, which received WA Ministerial environmental approval in October 2012. These two deposits currently form the basis of the proposed operation that will be mined in a shallow, surface strip mining operation and processed through a conventional alkaline tank leach processing plant located at Centipede. Significant testwork including a full scale hydrometallurgical pilot plant and resource evaluation and water barrier trials over the past two years have proven this is the most effective economic recovery available.
With the testwork programs completed, Wiluna’s technical risks have been significantly reduced. Phase 1 of the DFS is complete and has finalised the processing design, major equipment lists and plant layout. Phase 2 of the DFS (engineering, infrastructure design and final cost estimates) is planned for completion during 2013. Further resource drilling is planned for 2013 to increase the confidence of the resource and enable the project to be subject to financing.
The remaining three deposits which form the regional resource still require environmental approval as proposed satellite mining operations before they can be included in the project. With these deposits included, the project has a life-of-mine of 20-25 years.
Toro’s economic modelling for the Wiluna mine based on the process engineering from the DFS, pilot plant testwork and revised mine plan, indicates a capital cost estimate of A$207 million in direct costs, $31 million in EPCM and $31 million in contingency for a total of A$269 million. C1 cash operating costs are currently estimated at US$37/lb U₃O₈.
Toro’s Wiluna project team has established a confidential data room enabling interested potential project partners to access information under a confidentiality agreement. Site visits to Wiluna and technical assessments at Toro’s project office have also commenced with interested parties.
The Wiluna Project has been the subject of environmental assessment since October 2009, and has been assessed at the level of an Environmental Review and Management Program.
Public consultation has been undertaken on four occasions throughout the assessment process, and Toro is continuing to negotiate a mining agreement with the local Traditional Owners who have native title claims over the area.
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