PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Northern Territory government’s announcement to pull its support for a uranium mine, near Alice Springs, has caught Paladin Energy by surprise, CEO John Borshoff said on Wednesday.
“The Northern Territory government did not consult with Paladin in advance of the announcement. Neither has Paladin received any indication that the government might have adopted this view,” he said in a statement.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson announced on Tuesday that the government had withdrawn its support for the Angela Pamela mine, as there was a strong opposition from the community to uranium mining.
Paladin is exploring the uranium project near Alice Springs in a joint-venture (JV) with Cameco Corporation.
Borshoff said that the JV was considering its options in advance of further discussions with the state government.
Minerals Council of Australia CEO Mitch Hooke said that the opposition to the development of the Angela Pamela deposit added a new layer of sovereign risk for potential minerals projects in the Northern Territory.
A recent survey by Fraser Institute has found that Northern Territory had slipped from 12th to 25th place in the list of attractive mining destinations, mainly as a result of the super tax issue.
“Unilaterally ruling out the development of a minerals deposit rather than relying on sound science and proper government review will only serve to increase the Northern Territory sovereign risk,” he said in statement, adding that the decision sends a “dangerous signal” to potential investors in the state’s minerals industry.
In 2006, the Northern Territory government invited interested mining companies to apply for an exploration licence for the Angela and Pamela sites. Out of the 37 expressions of interest, Paladin and Cameo were selected as the preferred bidder.
Management plans were submitted and approved, said Borshoff, and in October 2008, the government granted the JV an exploration licence.
“Relying on encouragement and positive support from the government, Paladin pursued the JV in good faith, honouring the undertakings that it made during the selection process and spending many millions of dollars.”
Borshoff noted that the project was still at an exploration phase, and work has been progressing with environmental and hydrogeological studies.
“It was always Paladin’s expectation that the government would consider the project on its merits, which would include appropriate scientific studies and assessments,” he added.
Despite the Angela Pamela project losing its backing from the state government, the ultimate decision on whether or not to develop the uranium project would fall to the federal government.
However, Greens spokesperson Scott Ludlam has made a call to the federal government, urging it to support the state government’s decision.
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