JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Precious and green metals portfolio company Sibanye-Stillwater on Thursday presented new horizons for uranium, which it described as a significant element in its green metals portfolio.
Speaking after the company shot the lights out with record dividend-rich financial results, Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman flashed a slide on to screens that described uranium-using nuclear energy as a zero-carbon baseload generation option essential for global decarbonisation. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Froneman outlined how commitment to nuclear energy is growing especially in the Asia Pacific region and put the pipeline of new nuclear capacity at 125 GW.
Over the next five to ten years, Froneman sees the uranium market moving into deficit with the long-term uranium price forecasts exceeding $60/lb.
Sibanye-Stillwater has 100-million pounds of shallow and surface uranium resources at the Beatrix West mine in the Free State as well as uranium tailings at its Cooke asset in Gauteng, where it has established uranium processing infrastructure. Beatrix West was the Beatrix 4 shaft, which was originally the Beisa uranium mine.
“Not a lot of uranium mining was done there so there’s still substantial reserves that can be mined and we will be looking to do that. If you complement that with Cooke, which we purchased predominantly for its uranium potential, and with its uranium processing infrastructure, this puts us in a very good place to kickstart our uranium business. From a value perspective, we get zero value for these assets in any type of valuation,” said Froneman, who was speaking during a webinar covered by Mining Weekly,
Froneman announced that long-time associate and adviser Dennis Tucker would be leading Sibanye-Stillwater’s uranium initiative.
The plan is to create value out of existing reserves as nuclear energy plays its part in the future.
In response to an analyst during question time, Froneman said a final decision had not yet been made on the structure of the uranium business.
“We’ve got a couple of ideas. Our structure with DRDGold has remained very well, where it remains a separate listed entity where we have a controlling stake. We could do exactly the same with our uranium business.
“We certainly need to retain the credits from the exposure to green metals. That’s under consideration. If you talk timing, I think you will see movement in terms of more definition – and perhaps even an announcement as to how that will take place – within the next quarter or so.
“In terms of actually producing uranium, it’s probably still two years away. The Beisa uranium mine, or Beatrix 4 shaft, has got an operating shaft. It would require some predevelopment, some processing facilities, but on the West Wits we actually have those processing facilities. There’s no doubt some refurbishment would be needed and the biggest challenge on the West Wits is really deposition capacity, which is where we work closely with DRD. It’s a couple of years away but it’s certainly much quicker than starting a complete new mine,” said Froneman.