Good uranium times will return: ERA


The good times will return for uranium miners, insists ERA, despite it posting heavy losses in a an environment where nuclear power is on the nose.

Making a buck isn't easy these days for uranium miners, but Australia's largest producer insists it is set to cash in when the good times return.

Current prices for the key nuclear power source are less than a third of the $US135 a pound 2007 peak.

Rio Tinto-owned Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) said on Tuesday the sub-$US50 a pound current prices were preventing new projects from entering production.

One example is mining giant BHP Billiton's cancellation last year of the $US30 billion Olympic Dam expansion - it would have been the world's largest uranium mine.

That's good news for other uranium producers such as ERA, with the caveat that it must extend the life of its declining Ranger Mine through its new underground Ranger 3 Deeps Project it hopes will come online from 2016.

"Given the long lead times required to establish new mines, ERA would be in a strong position to play a lead role in providing a reliable and competitive uranium supply to the world," the company stated in it's 2012 annual report, released on Tuesday.

ERA is spending $120 million to drill deeper there this year.

It has been a disastrous couple of years since Japan's nuclear disaster of March, 2011, with ERA posting a full year loss of $219 million for 2012 in what is currently an unprofitable mine.

Before the disaster and shutdown of Japan's reactors, the country represented 11 per cent of global demand. Currently only two of its 54 units are operating.

However ERA says looking globally, nuclear power was a key element of worldwide global energy supplies, with 436 reactors operable worldwide in 2012, 62 under construction and 167 planned for operation by 2030.

"Nuclear power is the only low carbon emitting generation technology that delivers large volumes of base load power," the company said in the report.

Three new nuclear power projects were recently approved in coastal areas in China, with another 40-50 to be built this decade, lifting demand.

Japanese reactors would also re-start, with supply shortages and higher prices hopefully coinciding with Ranger 3 Deeps coming online, it said.

Ranger is one of three producing uranium mines in Australia.

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