PERTH (ResourceInvestor.com) --The undercurrent for uranium prospects in Australia is getting stronger as prospectors realise the political barriers and public perception issues are changing.
The prime reason why Xtrata plc is making an unwelcome takeover of WMC Resources Ltd is its world-class Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia.
The driver for Xtrata and all others now scanning Australian is strong proof for major deposits. By early 1970 about 26% of world uranium reserves had been outlined over a few years of hectic activity in Australia and generally as high grade deposits compared to most others then known around the world.
Elsewhere junior companies are now espousing the potential for uranium on their properties, some of which have been anything else than uranium targets in recent years.
One company that appeared to be struggling to reach listing on the Australian Stock Exchange, Marathon Resources Ltd, has produced a brief supplementary prospectus that gives more detail on the potential for uranium on its prospects. This may well get Marathon over the line.
Its Mount Gee prospect in the Curnamona Craton of the SA's remote north east takes in a resource of 5.33 million tonnes grading 1% U3O8 from work undertaken in the 1960s by a company called Exoil and subsequent work by CRA Exploration (now integrated into Rio Tinto Ltd) picked up wider intercepts of high grade uranium. The major also intersected good grades of molybdenum with an uranium to molybdenum ratio of about 4:1.
At Mount Painter East on the same Marathon licence there are several million tonnes of lower grade uranium - also delineated decades ago before political wraps were put on and maintained on uranium developments by a succession of governments in Canberra.
Marathon has two respected geoscientists Dr John Santich who played a generative board role for successful SA explorer Minotaur Resources Ltd and has consulted to the World Bank on initiatives in Papua New Guinea, and Wieslaw (Vic) Bogacz who has helped generate targets for both majors and juniors around Australia. He also directed a group of inexperienced geologists in Uruguay working for an Australian-managed outfit towards a significant gold find on the doorstep of a seemingly worked out mining area.
In the supplementary prospectus Marathon said it had received expressions of interest in Mt Gee from a number of sources including a listed Canadian company. The company has a broad package of prospects including fully owned prospects and joint ventures for copper-gold in SA's central Gawler Craton and north Gawler Craton, and gold and copper-gold targets in western Victoria.
While many of the Australian companies either gave up or mothballed their uranium prospects, one junior Paladin Resources Ltd appears to have stolen a march on others by not waiting for political or bureaucratic green lights for its Australian prospects. It went to southern Africa and generated projects that are now in advanced development.
Paladin Resources Ltd has the Langer Heinrich project near Walvis Bay in Namibia that it plans to be ramping up to +2.2 million lbs uranium annually from mid 2006 and, soon after, hopes to have its Kaylekera project in Malawi operating on a slightly lower scale.
Paladin's managing director John Borshoff said utilities keen to utilise this uranium from Africa include major American utilities.
Paladin is also listed on four German bourses.
Managing director of Summit Resources Ltd, Allan Eggers, said the change in public opinion in Australia appears to have been quite profound. Whenever the uranium issue is raised today in Western Australia there is the occasional anti-uranium protesting letter to the editor compared to column upon column a decade ago.
Nevertheless, Eggers is acutely aware that the political road to opening up Australia's uranium riches is still a rocky one and, as a junior company with limited funds, Summit must sit in the background and allow the heavyweights to undertake the lobbying.
However, because Summit is sitting on three significant uranium deposits near the inland copper mining city of Mount Isa the company will undertake more work to upgrade the resource picture to await a change.
Summit has an equal partnership on the Valhalla and Skal deposits with Resolute Mining and fully owns the Anderson project. Boutique broking house Martin Place Securities estimated last November that these provide summit with an attributable resource of 68 million pounds of U308with a potential in-ground value of $A1.8 billion.
South Australia ranks as the second largest supplier of uranium after Canada, through WMC Resources Ltd's world-class Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold mine, Heathgate Resources' in-situ leach operation at Beverley near Lake Frome and Southern Cross Resources Inc's Honeymoon project near Broken Hill.
There is also the maturing Ranger mine in the Northern Territory (NT) run by Energy Resources of Australia Ltd which also holds, in the same region one of the sleeping giants, Jabiluka with a proven probable 13.8 mt at 5.1 kilograms/tonne U308 and a measured-inferred 31 mt @ 5.244 kg/t U308. Jabiluka, discovered by the original Pancontinental Mining company back in the 1970s also has a shallow gold cap containing 500,000 ounces.