Thorium may surpass uranium - ex-Uranium One CEO Froneman

24th November 2008 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) –Thorium may in time surpass uranium as a nuclear fuel, says former Uranium One CEO Neal Froneman.

While remaining bullish on uranium, the current Gold One CEO says that thorium has a fuel cycle of its own.

"You will hear a lot more about thorium from an energy point of view in the not-too-distant future," he adds.

He says that Gold One's iron-oxide-copper-gold deposit at Etendeka, in Namibia contains both uranium and thorium, and is "very much an Olympic Dam-type deposit".

Gold One has an exclusive prospecting licence over the 65 000 ha in the Outjo district of north-western Namibia.

In addition, many of the reefs within the Aflease Gold portfolio, out of which Gold One is being formed through a reverse takeover of BMA Gold of Australia, are uranium-bearing.

While Gold One is not currently uranium focused, Froneman says that uranium continues to have "a good long-term future, and thorium will become more and more important in the nuclear fuel cycle".

Moreover, Froneman may not do business in uranium at this point in time, as he is under a restraint of trade until February next year.

"I look forward to that date," he says.

"At this point in time, the rest of the world is not set up to use thorium, but thorium could well, in the next 15 to 20 years, become a replacement for uranium, and we would like to be on the front foot if that turns out to be the case," Froneman adds.

Results at Etendeka show "very high" thorium grades.

DOMINION URANIUM

Froneman, as Uranium One CEO, was instrumental in developing Dominion, but the Klerksdorp uranium project has since been placed on care-and-maintenance.

"What has happened at Dominion is disappointing, but perhaps all I can say is that the Dominion orebody is exactly the same orebody we thought it was, the plant works, and I look past Dominion to the rest of Uranium One, and see a very bright future for Uranium One," he says.

He surmises from Uranium One's own reports that the ramp-up of the Dominion project took longer than expected and was consuming scarce cash.

Froneman believes that the decision to place the mine on care-and-maintenance until the financial markets change may yet prove a "smart" decision.

He remains a "strong believer" in Dominion and says that he continues to find uranium "as attractive as ever".

To see a video on Neal Froneman's comments on uranium and thorium, go to www.miningweekly.com and click first on ‘Multimedia" and then on ‘Video Clips'.