A proposed amendment to Spain's draft climate change and energy transition bill that would prohibit the exploration and extraction of uranium is unconstitutional, says Berkeley Energia. The Australian-based company is at an advanced stage in licensing its Salamanca uranium mine.The Salamanca project in western Spain (Image: Berkeley Energia)
The draft bill was originally presented to the Spanish Parliament in May 2020. A series of amendments to the bill were submitted on 14 October by the parliamentary groups of two political parties in the Spanish government: Unidas Podemos and PSOE. Berkeley says that, from a resource sector perspective, the bill focusses on fossil fuels, hydrocarbons and fracking with no reference to radioactive materials.
Under one of the proposed amendments, the investigation and exploitation of radioactive minerals would be prohibited in Spain and any open proceedings related to the authorisation of radioactive facilities of the nuclear fuel cycle for the processing of such minerals would be closed.
Berkeley said, "Prohibition of economic activities in Spain with no justified reasons is contrary to the Spanish Constitution and to the legal rights recognised by other international instruments."
The company currently holds "legal, valid and consolidated rights" for the exploration and exploitation of its mining projects, including a valid 30 year mining licence (renewable for two further periods of 30 years) for the Salamanca mine. "The approval of an amendment of such nature would imply a retroactive measure which expropriates the legal rights of Berkeley with no justification," it said.
Berkeley noted that it is currently only a proposed amendment to the draft bill, which must now be reviewed and approved or rejected by the Commission of Ecological Transition of the Parliament, and subsequently follow the same process in the Senate. In both the Parliament and Senate, the proposed amendment must be supported by a majority of votes in both Commissions for it to be approved. The amendment may not actually be included in the final draft of the bill, Berkeley said.
Following the granting of the Urbanism Licence in August by the Municipality of Retortillo, and more than 120 previously granted permits and favourable reports by the relevant authorities at the local, regional, federal and European Union levels, the Authorisation for Construction for the uranium concentrate plant as a radioactive facility is now the only pending approval required by Berkeley to start full construction of the Salamanca mine.
The Salamanca project has 59.8 million pounds U3O8 (23,000 tU) of measured and indicated resources as well as inferred resources of 29.6 million pounds of U3O8. According to a definitive feasibility study published by Berkeley in 2016, it would be capable of producing an average of 4.4 million pounds of uranium per year at a cash cost of USD13.30 per pound over an initial ten-year period.
The Retortillo deposit, together with the Santitad and Gambuta deposits, forms Berkeley's Salamanca project and is the first resource from which production is scheduled to begin.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News