Peninsula Energy, the Australian company bankrolling the Karoo uranium mining venture, has announced it is pulling out.
Peninsula had been seeking through its South African partners Tasman Pacific Minerals, Beaufort West Minerals, Lukisa JV Company and Tasman Mmakau JV Company to launch three uranium mines between Beaufort West and Aberdeen: Rhyst Kuil and Kwaggas Fontein in the Western Cape, and Kareepoort in the Eastern Cape.
Peninsula MD Wayne Heili said the company “has decided to exit and sell its interests in the Karoo … to focus on our Lance Projects operation in Wyoming in the US.
“The company does not wish to devote further capital progressing its less advanced secondary project.”
The Kareepoort environmental impact assessment is being considered by the Eastern Cape mineral resources department with their ruling expected by mid-December.
But it was hard to see how the project could progress, SA Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) science adviser Stefan Cramer said.
“The resource is not good enough compared to other world-class deposits and the cost of production in the Karoo is too high. SA’s mining sector is not attracting any foreign investment at present. Peninsula hopes to sell its assets. But how do you sell a house you yourself do not want to live in?”
While Peninsula has committed to helping its South African partners acquire a licence to establish the proposed mines, indications are that attracting another investor may not be easy and this could be the end of the venture.
The news has sparked delight from farmers and Safcei, which has been opposing the bid. It is the second cause for celebration in less than a week for Karoo farmers who on Tuesday were handed victory by the High Court in Grahamstown in their bid to have the environmental regulations for fracking formulated by the mining minister as opposed to the environment minister scrapped.
Chris Hayward, who has been heading the agri-forum opposing the uranium mine application, said farmers were “delighted and grateful”.
Ferret Mining and Environmental Services, appointed by the mining firms to assess their application, has recommended that the project should go ahead and has stated the environmental risks are “insignificant”.
The project opponents have raised a number of concerns, including toxic effluent from waste dams escaping into rivers during flood rains and uranium dust accumulating in the lungs of people and livestock.
Source: Business Day