Will uranium be shipped through Esperance?

With the uranium industry gaining momentum in WA, Canadian miner Cameco has suggested Esperance as an export hub for products.

Cameco’s Yeeleerie project, billed as the largest in WA, is located near Wiluna some distance from Port Adelaide and Darwin, the only two ports in Australia approved for shipping uranium.

While the Yeeleerie project has been slowed to wait for commodity price recovery in the post-Fukushima uranium market, Cameco Australia managing director Brian Reilly said all options for shipping would be considered.

“This is a region that needs the next wave of projects and the uranium sector can deliver four, five, six projects down the track and make a significant difference to WA," Reilly said.

"The product we ship is a high-value, low-volume product and as it sits today most uranium goes to the port of Adelaide.

"Why wouldn't we contemplate a WA port when we get a business case and a number of other projects up and running?"

So far two uranium mines have been approved in WA since the 2008 lifting of the ban on uranium mining: Cameco’s Kintyre Project in the Pilbara, and Toro Energy’s Wiluna Project.

Toro Energy has already outlined plans to ship product through Port Adelaide, a 2700km journey by truck.

The issue of transporting radioactive rare earths materials came up in 2012 when Lynas Corporation rare earth shipping activities through the Port of Esperance were strenuously opposed by Greens member for Fremantle Adele Carles.

The Kalgoorlie Miner reported that Reilly was optimistic about the Asian market’s potential to drive up the price of uranium, with 23 reactors under construction in China and six on the way in India.

China already has 26 operating reactors, and India has 21 in service.

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