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Uranium sale talks at advanced stage

Australian official rejects reports of delay, and says move won’t slow down coal exports

Discussions are at a ‘well-advanced’ stage for Australia’s uranium sale to India, to fuel nuclear power plants in the energy-starved developing nation, according to an Australian government body’s top official.

Dismissing allegations that uranium supply was facing ‘delays’ due to the Australian coal mining sector ‘lobbying’ to protect its interests, the official, however, said coal exports will not slow down any time soon from Australia for use in India’s thermal power stations.

Leonie Muldoon, Minister Commercial and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, South Asia, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (or ‘Austrade’) told The Hindu that the process of uranium sale was progressing as anticipated by the two sides and without delays. She said: “In mid-July, we sent a sample [of uranium] for testing purposes, as was anticipated [at the bilateral discussions on the issue during the India visit of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in April].”

She added, “There are ongoing commercial discussions between Australian uranium exporters and the Indian Department of Atomic Energy for possible contracts in civil nuclear projects. These discussions are well-advanced. The amount [of uranium] that ultimately will be exported will depend on the commercial negotiations.”

Rejecting reports regarding the alleged efforts by Australian coal mining sector to ‘delay’ uranium supply to India, Ms. Muldoon said, “It’s [the allegations] more of a domestic issue in Australia… it’s not appropriate for me to comment.”

 ‘Coal, largest in exports’

“We are supportive of assisting India in meeting its energy needs… There is no [emphasis on] one particular resource or energy solution. We engage with India across a broad range of energy opportunities… Australia has much to offer with regard to coal, uranium and potentially clean energy solutions… [However] historically, our largest exports to India has been coal, and we see that continuing for some time,” said the senior official.

She said Mr. Turnbull and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a one-on-one meeting in April as they were enthusiastic about energy and energy solutions. On the coincidence of the Australia-India CEO Forum being co-chaired by Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group, and Sam Walsh, CEO, Rio Tinto Group, both with interests in coal mining, as well as the Adani Group’s planned multi-billion dollar coalmine project  in Australia, the official said, “We welcome Adani’s interest in Australia and Adani’s investment in the Australian coal sector.”

On the reported environmental concerns over such mining projects, Ms. Muldoon said, “In Australia, we have very tough environmental regulations. Therefore, Australian companies have developed a range of technology solutions to deal with these aspects and to ensure that the environment remains protected.

“We believe it’s something that they could share with India.” Her comments assume significance as they come ahead of the ‘Australia Business Week in India’ (ABWI) to be held between August 28-September 1 to “promote Australian capability and expand Australia’s trade, investment and education relationships.” In the ABWI, the mining sector will be a key focus area. Australia produces 60% of the world’s mining computer software that helps in improving the sector’s productivity, and in ensuring workers’ safety.

Source: The Hindu

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