The Athabasca basin of Canada hosts some of the world’s largest and highest-grade uranium mines of similar aged rocks. Last week Fission Energy Corp. and its 50% joint venture partner ESO Uranium reported a significant anomalous radioactivity was encountered in the final hole of the companies’ Patterson Lake South property exploration program.
The Fission exploration follows a find by Hathor Exploration Ltd.. But Fission has a much superior land holding and their find so close to Hathor, which is following the Hathor strike suggests that Fission may have the bulk of the uranium reserve.
Fission is chasing a 2011 high-grade uranium boulder field discovery in hopes of finding the originating vein of basement bedrock holding the hoped for reserve. This past winters drill program appears to have successfully refined the boundaries of the uranium boulder field source target area to the west of Canada’s Patterson Lake. Where those high-grade radioactive uranium rich boulders on the surface came from is the million-dollar question.
Fission Energy is only the latest in a series of high-grade uranium discoveries in the Athabasca region of Canada.
Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh, India, may have one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world. India has been importing uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants from across the world. A new processing plant has been commissioned to handle the new discovery – or more accurately, upgrade on the known reserve.
New studies indicate that Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh is endowed with one of the largest uranium reserves in the world, some 10 times the original estimates. They have shown that the Tummalapalle location in the district could have reserves of 150,000 metric tons of uranium.
The reserve in India is very different from the Canadian one. Instead of base rock laden with uranium the Indian reserve is dolomite limestone based uraniferous ore. The Indian effort follows the 2004 discovery of the uranium ore.
Botswana in Africa is also a new hotbed of activity. The first discovery came in 2006 with the Lethlakane deposit near Serule. This is no small project either, with a 261-million-pound uranium oxide resource at a grade of 150 parts per million in the rock. The district exploration is still early as well. Three other new deposits and a new emerging discovery at the Red Hills prospect have started exploration.
The Lekabolo deposit, discovered in 2010, is at an advanced exploration stage, although a resource is yet to be defined. Drilling indicates that the deposit has the potential to host about five million pounds of uranium oxide at a grade of 150 ppm, a similar grade to that of the Letlhakane deposit, only 20 km (12.5 miles) away.
Small deposits have been found at Mosolotsane and Morolane, each probably hosting about two million pounds of uranium oxide at a similar grade to that of Lekabolo.
An even more curious discovery is at Red Hills. Here is a large alteration system that indicates large uranium bearing mineralized systems occuring in rocks much older than the Karoo-aged sandstone and mudstone at Letlhakane. The large Red Hills alteration system is about 1 km × 1.5 km and about 200 m thick. It contains a significant amount of low-grade rare-earth elements and uranium, as well as base and precious metals, namely lead, zinc and silver.
The operating company Impact Minerals calls the Red Hills area a ‘halo’ that could be pointing to a large high-grade uranium deposit. The system may be similar to the high-grade uranium deposits found in similar aged rocks in the Athabasca basin of Canada, which hosts some of the world’s largest and highest-grade uranium mines.
Meanwhile in the major exporting country Kazakhstan, Inkai, a joint venture between Canada’s Cameco Corp. and Kazakhstan’s state-run miner Kazatomprom, is seeking the Kazakh government’s approval by the end of this year to boost uranium output by 33 percent. Inkai wants authorization to increase production from 1,500 metric tons to 2,000 tons.
Inkai is feeling the heat from all the new competition. Kazakstan is already a major exporter and means to hold markets share while dozens and soon hundreds of new reactors come on line in the coming years.
It’s going to take along time for even a large growth of reactors to burn through all this uranium. All the plans to date are for comparatively inefficient reactors getting, optimistically, 5% efficiency.
While the U.S. dawdles over its hysteria and political inhibitions, India can build cheaper nuclear reactors – than even South Korea. Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, said India can now manufacture nuclear reactors at $1,700 per unit.
Banwejee said, “Indian companies manufacturing components and systems for nuclear reactors can now do the same work for much less cost. For instance, he said, L&T, which supplies many critical components for the Indian nuclear and defense sectors, can make the large reactor vessel in their new Hazira plant. This is something of an achievement because it’s traditionally been the preserve of Japanese engineering expertise.
There’s plenty of uranium fuel and it looks like hundreds of reactors are going to get built. For a lot of the world economic development and growth are going to be powered and grow quickly with very cheap electrical power.
So be it, while the U.S. left its nuclear gold standard to be picked to pieces by the competition, billions of dollars in sales and thousand of jobs were lost. Not to mention the incredible risks of proliferation spreading planet wide.