Toro Energy (ASX: TOE) can now progress its goal of becoming Western Australia's first uranium producer after the Federal environmental approval for its Wiluna Mine passed without challenge during the 28 day appeal period.
The appeal period had applied from 17 May 2013 when Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Tony Burke published his Statement of Reasons for environmental approvals for the Project.
"Wiluna is the first new Australian mine since mid-2009 to receive Federal government approval and the first in Western Australia since the government lifted the ban on uranium mining in 2008," managing director Dr Vanessa Guthrie said.
"With no appeal lodged, Toro is now able to fully focus on bringing Wiluna - WA's first uranium mine - to market.
"Toro's commitment to the approvals process over the past four years has positioned the Wiluna Project well against its peers to deliver potential new supply sources in the second half of this decade.
"While the current spot market is soft, there are positive signals of an improvement in prices as the longer term market fundamentals for uranium pricing remain very strong.
"Toro can now focus its full attention on completing all technical and commercial studies required to support an investment decision for the Project whilst continuing to seek strategic partner support for the development capital needed.
"Regulatory certainty and the end of any appeal period elevate the Company's commercial engagement with potential project partners and financiers."
Toro expects to complete a revised Resources estimate during the September 2013 quarter after completing infill drilling designed to convert Inferred Resources to the higher certainty Indicated category.
Guthrie said these results will assist in the ongoing mine optimization and scheduling work that are key workstreams within the Wiluna Project Definitive Feasibility Study.
Phase 1 engineering work for the DFS estimated a capital cost for the project at $269 million with C1 cash cost of about US$37 (A$38.75)
Completion of the DFS is expected in 2014 after the company elected to defer the start of engineering and design work for the proposed plant and infrastructure until after the completion of mine optimisation, planning and scheduling.
Subject to successful project financing and following the completion of the DFS, first production from Wiluna is targeted for 2016 onwards when a global supply shortfall is expected and the long-term price is forecast to improve.
Toro expects to drawdown the final $4 million available under the Macquarie Bank financing facility by 30 June 2013 and will have about $11million in working capital to fund the ongoing feasibility activities.
Wiluna has a current Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resource of 54 million pounds of U3O8 in five calcrete deposits with significant upside in currently held but under-developed exploration tenements located throughout WA's northern goldfields.
The largest of these deposits, Centipede and Lake Way, currently form the basis of the Wiluna resource that will be mined in a shallow surface strip mining operation.
The project would process 1.3 million tonnes per annum of ore to produce about 820 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate.
With no federal court appeals made during the appeal period for the Wiluna Uranium Mine, Toro Energy is now free to progress the project towards development.
Catalysts going forward include the completion of a Resource upgrade, securing a strategic partner and completion of the Definitive Feasibility Study.
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