New Board Advances Uranium Project With Renewed Vigour

A newly appointed board of directors is advancing Australian mineral resources company Aura Energy’s Tiris uranium project, in Mauritania, with gusto. The new board was appointed in December, with members strategically chosen to focus on production.
In a statement on January 20, chairperson Phil Mitchell said the company had identified significant opportunities to expand the Tiris resource and would, therefore, progress the work immediately.
“I see Aura driving significant value in the Mauritanian economy . . . as we expand the resource and rapidly bring the project into production,” he added, noting that this would be the key strategic focus for this year.
He explained that, during 2021, the rapidly growing demand for nuclear power resulted in the spot uranium price increasing by more than 40% and Aura’s share price increasing by about 260%.
“Globally, countries are refocussing on the critical role that nuclear power plays as a baseload source of carbon-free energy, and we believe that we are only at the beginning of the uranium bull market,” Mitchell said.
For example, considerable progress has been made over the past few months in securing international alignment around recognising nuclear power as a sustainable investment.
Additionally, China and India have continued to expand the proportion of nuclear in their energy frameworks and, with continuing uranium supply pressures, the changing landscape presents an environment of significant upward pressure for uranium prices.
Mitchell pointed out that European Union (EU) countries have faced record electricity prices through winter as gas prices have soared and availability has been constrained.
Additionally, small modular reactors are being developed, which affords modular manufacturing and greater ease of transport, resulting in benefits of scale, speed of installation and reduced on-site construction work.
Crucially, on January 1, 2022, the European Commission proposed a green taxonomy for nuclear power, which will allow all EU States to provide a green label for EU State investment and environmental, social and governance-labelled investment in Europe, which will help in meeting the Net Zero 2050 target.
Mitchell noted that, in light of such positive market conditions, the Tiris uranium project benefitted from having much of the groundwork already undertaken to enable it to move forward.
Over the past year, Aura’s efforts to advance the Tiris project include restating the capital estimate in line with 2021 figures for the 2019 Tiris definitive feasibility study, reconfirming Tiris as a low capital expenditure (capex), low operating cost uranium project, with current and accurate estimates on input and operating costs.
In 2022, the company will focus on preparing for the final project financing. This will include the engagement of an engineering consultant to drive engineering design and procurement, and to prepare the project for construction.
Further cost reductions will also be pursued at Tiris, with a resource estimate currently under way to include vanadium by-product recovery in the Tiris processing circuit.
“This and other outcomes from the opportunity review hold the potential to further lower costs,” Mitchell said.
Moreover, planned resource expansion programmes and project development activities are expected to add further value to the Tiris project.
Aura will prepare to raise funds through a combination of debt, equity and offtake agreements to move the project into construction, complementing the existing $10-million offtake financing agreement with mineral trading company Curzon Resources, which includes an additional facility of up to $10-million, bringing the maximum financing available under the agreement to $20-million.
Mitchell said the potential to expand the resource at Tiris was “significant”.
Last year, Aura announced a resource upgrade of 10% or five-million pounds of uranium oxide (U3O8) – bringing the total Joint Ore Resource Committee-compliant resource to 56-million pounds at a 100 ppm U3O8 lower cut-off grade.
This followed a new resource estimate on the Sadi South zone to incorporate drillholes not included in earlier resource estimates.
Mitchell explained that the 2022 resource upgrade programme would include further drilling, seeking to upgrade more of the 56-million-pound resource from inferred to measured and indicated, and to identify further exploration targets within the tenure.
“The programme is designed to expand what is already one of the lowest capex and lowest operating cost uranium projects in the world,” he said, adding that the company aspired to expand the resource so that it supported the expansion of Tiris to ultimately produce three- to five-million pounds a year of uranium oxide.