The world is in need of good uranium mining projects. Many of the deposits being explored and developed globally are marginal. Up to three orders of magnitude lower in grade than the world's top uranium mines.
This provides an opportunity to "poach the cost curve". Any reasonably high-grade discovery would almost certainly rank amongst the lower-cost producers in the world. Making such a deposit very valuable to the world's uranium-producing companies.
The highest-grade uranium deposits known on the planet are "unconformity-style". These generally occur beneath sandstone cover at the boundary between Proterozoic (kind of old) and Archean (very old) rocks. In places like Canada, Australia and Russia, these deposits are some of the richest known.
The challenge with unconformity-type mineralization is it's difficult to find. These deposits are small, and usually located deep under cover. It can take a lot of drilling just to hit on a discovery hole. And then a great deal more to define and prove up the deposit.
Here's the opportunity. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a lot of research completed looking at what other areas on Earth might host unconformity-style deposits. But after the uranium price crashed in the 1980s, most of this work was forgotten, never having been put into practice.
We're aiming to do that.
Although I've been busy with other projects (gold and copper in Colombia, most notably), headway is being made. The initial desk studies are underway looking at potential, under-explored locations prospective for unconformity deposits.
There are challenges with this work however, beyond the geological.
In choosing what areas to pursue, politics also plays a big role. When setting out on this project, my associates and I made an initial decision to only focus on regions that currently mine uranium. The feeling was that yellowcake can be so controversial that trying to build a mine in an inexperienced jurisdiction would simply be a set-up for decades of red tape and ill will.
Seeing events the last couple of weeks, I think this is the right choice.
At the beginning of the month, the Canadian territory of Nunavut announced it will hold public forums across its breadth to gather public opinion on Areva's proposed Kiggavik mining project (one of the world's higher-grade development projects, hosting over 100 million pounds of uranium at 0.22% U).
The Nunavut forums were partly spurred by anti-uranium protests from some communities in the territory (albeit small groups, somewhat distant from the project). Illustrating the sensitive nature of uranium mining.
A more graphic example of anti-uranium sentiment popped up this week in Australia. The government of the Northern Territory informed uranium producers Paladin Energy and Cameco that it will not support development of the two companies' Angela and Pamela deposits. This after considerable expenses from both companies in drilling and studying these ore bodies.
The quash from this government is particularly eye-opening, given uranium is already being mined in the Territory. Suggesting that even uranium-mining regions may not be as uranium-friendly as might be believed.
Yes, there will be uranium discoveries in virgin parts of the planet. Some of them will probably become mines at some point. But given the sensitivities around yellowcake, building a uranium industry from scratch is going to be a long and involved process.
Which is why picking your targets is as much about sociology and politics as it is about geology. We're looking at a few places where both factors seem to align. More news as this story develops.
By. Dave Forest of Notela Resources