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Australia’s Energy & Minerals to Raise Funds for Uranium Project

Australias-Energy-&-Minerals-to-Raise-Funds-for-Uranium-ProjectEnergy & Minerals Australia Ltd. plans to raise money within the next three months to fund Western Australia’s third-biggest uranium project and start production in 2013, the company’s Managing Director Chris Davis said.

The company may either sell shares, seek a joint venture partner, or find buyers for future production, Chris Davis said in Perth recently.

Western Australia’s ban on mining nuclear fuel was lifted after the Liberal and National parties formed a government in September, opening the state to miners such as BHP Billiton Ltd. and Cameco Corp., which own the state’s two biggest uranium holdings. Australia’s largest state has 10 percent of the world’s known uranium reserves, worth about A$40 billion ($30.3 billion), federal government figures show.

“We will look very carefully at equity, which leaves options open for sales of uranium later,” Davis said. “Joint ventures actually sterilize some of your sales because the partner has a right to take at cost,” he said. “The third option is to sell off-take.”

Energy & Minerals rose 17 percent recently on the Australian stock exchange after announcing that legal action seeking to declare exploration licenses on part of its Mulga Rock holdings null and void had been dismissed in the Supreme Court.

The shares, which have more than doubled since the beginning of the year, closed 8.8 percent higher to 37 Australian cents in Sydney, giving the company a market value of A$108 million.

“It’s a real high point for us because the litigation that was brought 12 months ago has stopped us being able to fundraise,” Davis said. “It’s now full-steam ahead.”

Energy & Minerals has three projects about 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Kalgoorlie, covering about 3,370 sq km. Mulga Rock, formally owned by a Japanese state-controlled company, is the most advanced.

“It isn’t going to be an enormously complicated process to get the project up,” Davis said. “We’ll start the scoping study toward the end of the year and finish by June 2010. We do have some amazingly high base-metal content in the project as well. They’ll be very simple to recover. These include copper, cobalt, nickel and zinc.”

Uranium demand may rise as the number of nuclear power reactors potentially jumps 30 percent by 2020, driven by India and China, the World Nuclear Association estimates. Australia is the second-largest producer of the nuclear fuel after Canada.

“There’s going to be shortage of supply of yellowcake” used to produce nuclear fuel in about five to eight years, Davis said. “China in particular has a very big nuclear reactor programme and they are now buying up off-take to make sure they have uranium supply in 10 to 15 years time. Once they start building nuclear reactors, there will be no stopping them.”