Trump’s $1.5bn uranium bailout triggers rush of mining plans

Trump’s $1.5bn uranium bailout triggers rush of mining plans
The Trump administration says it wants to break an over-reliance on cheap foreign uranium imports that undermines US energy security. (AP)
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Updated 15 February 2020

Trump’s $1.5bn uranium bailout triggers rush of mining plans

Trump’s $1.5bn uranium bailout triggers rush of mining plans
  • Administration alarm over energy security prompts moves to prop up production

SALT LAKE CITY: President Donald Trump’s $1.5 billion proposal to prop up the country’s nuclear fuel industry has emboldened at least one company to take steps toward boosting operations at dormant uranium mines around the West, including outside Grand Canyon National Park.

The company, Canada-based Energy Fuels Inc., announced a stock sale late on Thursday and said it would use the proceeds for its uranium mining operations in the US West.

The Trump administration asked Congress this week for $1.5 billion over 10 years to create a new national stockpile of US-mined uranium, saying that propping up US uranium production in the face of cheaper imports is a matter of vital energy security. Approval is far from certain in a highly partisan Congress.

Some Democratic lawmakers, and market analysts across the political spectrum, charge that the Trump administration’s overall aim is really about helping a few uranium companies that can’t compete in the global market, and their investors.

Demand for the nuclear fuel has languished worldwide since Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster. US uranium production has plummeted 96 percent in the last five years, the US Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday.

Energy Fuels Inc., a Toronto-based corporation that is the leading uranium mining company in the US, announced it was selling stock and putting the nearly $17 million in proceeds into its mining operations in Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas and elsewhere in response to Trump’s 2021 budget. Company spokesman Curtis Moore said Friday that could mean opening a mine about 15 miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance.

Environmentalists and Democrats have opposed uranium mining outside the national park, mainly over concerns it could contaminate water resources. Republicans say mining could bring much-needed jobs to the region.

Energy Fuels had been one of the main mining companies seeking US taxpayer support for domestic uranium mining. It also helped sell the Trump administration on cutting the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to open more land for possible future mining, and oil and gas development.

Energy Fuels has no mining claims or land inside the former territory of Bears Ears, Moore said Friday. “So, that’s a hard no,” he said, to any suggestion it planned any immediate uranium development there.

Launching operations at the company’s Canyon Mine claim outside the Grand Canyon is definitely on the table, however, if Congress approves Trump’s proposal, he said.

“Depending on how things go in the coming weeks and months, we may be in a position to use some of the money to put that small mine into production,” Moore said.

Trump made the request for a new national uranium reserve in his 2021 budget request this week. It was the latest illustration that trying to rescue the US nuclear and coal industries is a political priority for the Republican president, who often invokes national security as justification.

The move has a range of critics.

“It’s not the responsibility of the taxpayer to bail out an industry, whether that’s uranium, solar, coal, what have you,” said Katie Tubb, a senior energy policy analyst at the conservative Washington Heritage Foundation.

The Energy Department said the plan would boost work for at least a couple of the US West’s nearly dormant uranium operations. Residents near another of the mines, in Utah, say they fear an increase in radioactive threats.

“Whatever Trump does, we’ll be standing our ground to let the people know that we’re not going to give up,” said Yolanda Badback, a resident of White Mesa, a town of about 200 people who are members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe near a uranium mill in southern Utah.

Trump’s plan would need approval from a highly partisan Congress. Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has opposed Trump’s effort to make domestic uranium mining a strategic issue. His aides said they needed to see more details from the administration on the stockpile proposal.

Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, backed Trump’s proposal. “The United States should not be dependent on foreign imports of uranium. It is a risk to our national security,” Barrasso said in a statement.

Demand for nuclear and coal power sources has fallen against marketplace competition from ever-cheaper natural gas and renewable wind and solar. Trump has been unable to stop a string of coal and nuclear power plant closures.

The US nuclear industry has sought help from the Trump administration, including asking for taxpayer subsidies to promote use of US uranium. US nuclear power plants in 2018 got 90 percent of their uranium from Canada, Kazakhstan and other foreign suppliers and only 10% from US mines.

Trump in 2019 rejected a request from US uranium mining operators that he set a minimum quota for domestic uranium. But he agreed to set up a task force of national security, military and other federal officials to look for other ways to revive domestic production of the whole nuclear fuel supply chain.

That task force’s findings are expected within two weeks. Trump’s budget proposal would be part of an effort “to put the US back in the nuclear game around the world,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said on  Monday.

While Trump has called propping up US uranium mining essential to national security, the Energy Department acknowledged in its budget presentation that “no immediate national security need has been identified” for the uranium reserve. The same document contends that the funds aren’t meant to “disrupt market mechanisms.”

“That is exactly what it is designed to do,” said Luke J. Danielson, president of Colorado-based Sustainable Development Strategies Group, which advises foreign governments about mineral policies.

“The history of the government of trying to subsidize the energy sector and pick winners and losers is abysmal,” Danielson added.

Many Democratic lawmakers have challenged Trump’s security argument for domestic uranium. Existing uranium reserves and production and trade with allies Australia and Canada were already adequate to securing the US uranium supply, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat, said last year.

Energy Fuels called the Trump proposal “a good lifeline for the industry.” Moore, the spokesman, said the company is likely to benefit since it has operating mines in east-central Wyoming and southern Utah.

Moore said the program should lead to production of 2.5 million pounds of uranium per year. US uranium mines produced less than 174,000 pounds in 2019, according to Thursday’s Energy Information Administration report. That’s down from 4.9 million pounds in 2014.

Energy Fuels recently laid off nearly one-third of the company’s 79 employees at the White Mesa Mill and La Sal Complex mines, both in Utah, he said.

At White Mesa in Utah, Badback and other nearby residents participate in a yearly protest walk to draw attention to negative impacts the mine has on an otherwise wide open and remote stretch of land.


Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

Saudi Arabia to auction mining licenses in 2022

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to auction two major mining licenses in 2022 for commodities including gold, copper and zinc, as the Kingdom aims to triple the mining
sector’s contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP) to SR240 billion ($64 billion) and double the number of jobs to 470,000 by 2030.
The auction was announced by Vice Minister for Saudi Mining Affairs Khalid Al-Mudaifer during an interview with S&P Global on the sidelines of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) Leaders Forum in Dubai this week.
Looking ahead, Al-Mudaifer said: “We expect to see an increase in international investment in mining, particularly because demand for minerals around the world is growing fast.
According to geological surveys dating back 80 years, the Kingdom has an estimated reserve of untapped mining potential valued at $1.3 trillion.” Saudi Arabia’s mining industry has already attracted some major foreign investors. American industrial corporation Alcoa has a 25.1 percent stake in two companies, Ma’aden Bauxite and Alumina and Ma’aden Aluminum, as part of $10.8 billion joint venture with the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) located in Ras al-Khair Industrial City in the Eastern Province.
The Mosaic Company, a fertilizer producer, has a 25 percent stake in the $8 billion Ma’aden Wa’ad Al-Shamal Fertilizer Production Complex located in Wa’ad Al Shamal Minerals Industrial City in the north of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Barrick Gold has a 50 percent stake with Ma’aden in the Jabal Sayid underground Copper Mine and Plant.
Al-Mudaifer said that a new mining law, which came into force on Jan. 1, 2021, will help attract more foreign investors because it treats them equally with local investors.
“We have already received a number of applications for exploration licenses from locals and are also in conversations with a number of international mining businesses,” he said.
Speaking at the GPCA forum, Al-Mudaifer described how the Kingdom’s mining sector remained resilient throughout the pandemic.
“The government’s robust response to controlling the pandemic, paired with our thoughtful approach to executing the country’s mining strategy, has enabled us to continue moving forward with our industry transformation,” said Al-Mudaifer.
He also highlighted the launch of the National Geological Database, which provides online access to 80 years of national records of geological, geophysical and geochemical information, and the introduction of a new web-based platform called Ta’adin, which will be the single point of access for mining license applications, issuance and information.
Saudi Arabia plans to launch a comprehensive geological survey to map the country’s mining potential. “The mining sector recently invested $500,000 to launch our Regional Geological Survey Program, designed to collect the essential data required for mineral exploration in the Kingdom,” Al-Mudaifer told S&P Global.
“The five-year program will conduct geophysical and geo-chemical surveys and create detailed mapping of more than 700,000 square kilometers of the mineral-rich Arabian Shield area in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Vision 2030 reform plan identified the mining sector as a potential third pillar of the Kingdom’s industrial growth, alongside petroleum and petrochemicals. The country is investing SR14 billion to develop the sector.
“We have emerged more confident than ever that mining in the Kingdom is on the fast track to becoming the third pillar of Saudi industry.” the vice minister said.
About $45 billion in private and public sector investments have gone into the mining sector over the past decade, mainly in phosphate and aluminum production.
“Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s largest reserves of phosphate, and so we are investing in major phosphate projects such as Ma’aden’s large-scale phosphate complex, Phosphate 3,” Al-Mudaifer said.
The $6.4 billion Phosphate 3 expansion will make Ma’aden one of the top three global phosphate fertilizer producers and Saudi Arabia the second largest phosphate fertilizer exporter worldwide.


Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022

Egypt to start electric car production from mid-2022
  • Thirteen electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month

CAIRO: Egypt will begin testing electric cars on the country’s streets from July, ahead of plans to launch full-scale production of the vehicles from mid-2022.

Thirteen imported electric vehicles will be tested on Egyptian streets from next month, Hisham Tawfik, minister of the Egyptian public enterprise sector, said while attending the launch of the Nasr E70 electric car.

Nine of the electric cars will be tested by drivers nominated by Uber, the global ride-hailing company, he added.

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company, an affiliate of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector’s Metallurgical Industries Company.

Tawfik said that the ministry began studying the electric car production project in mid-2019 as part of efforts to reform and develop its affiliated companies, including the revival of El Nasr Automotive Company.

FASTFACT

E70

The Nasr E70 is scheduled to start production in mid-2022 with the El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company.

The project is in line with the global move toward electric cars and aligns with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s directives to localize the manufacture of vehicles used for clean energy.

The Dongfeng Corporation, one of the largest automobile producers in China, is partnering in the production of the Nasr E70 vehicle, the minister said.

An agreement between El-Nasr and Dongfeng was signed in June 2020 following months of negotiations.

The Ministry of Public Enterprise Sector recently released images of the first electric car of its kind in the country.

El Nasr CEO Hani El-Khouly said that three types of electric car models will be available in Egypt, based on battery capacity.

Batteries initially will be made in China, with production later shifting to Egypt.

Trials of the imported cars will continue for up to four months under a range of Egyptian conditions and with different drivers.

The Nasr E70 can reach a speed of 145 kilometers per hour and travel up to 400 km on a single charge.

El-Khouly said that a delegation from China will arrive in Egypt in July to follow up on the tests.

Government subsidy of the car will total about EGP50,000 ($13,333) to support the local market, he said.


From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
Updated 18 June 2021

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services

From Australia to Hong Kong, internet outages disrupt services
  • Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.
  • Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief

SYDNEY: A wave of brief Iinternet outages hit the websites and apps of dozens of financial institutions, airlines and other companies across the globe Thursday.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange said in a post on Twitter Thursday afternoon Hong Kong time that its site was facing technical issues and that it was investigating. It said in another post 17 minutes later that its websites were back to normal.

Internet monitoring websites including ThousandEyes, Downdetector.com and fing.com showed dozens of disruptions, including to US-based airlines.

Many of the outages were reported by people in Australia trying to do banking, book flights and access postal services.

Australia Post, the country’s postal service, said on Twitter that an “external outage” had impacted a number of its services, and that while most services had come back online, they are continuing to monitor and investigate.

Many services were up and running after an hour or so but the affected companies said they were working overtime to prevent further problems.

Banking services were severely disrupted, with Westpac, the Commonwealth, ANZ and St. George all down, along with the website of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Services have mostly been restored.

Virgin Australia said flights were largely operating as scheduled after it restored access to its website and guest contact center.

“Virgin Australia was one of many organizations to experience an outage with the Akamai content delivery system today,” it said. “We are working with them to ensure that necessary measures are taken to prevent these outages from reoccurring.”

Akamai counts some of the world’s biggest companies and banks as customers.

Calls to Akamai, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but has global services, went unanswered.

The disruptions came just days after many of the world’s top websites went offline briefly due to a problem with software at Fastly, another major web services company. The company blamed the problem on a software bug that was triggered when a customer changed a setting.

Brief internet service outages are not uncommon and are only rarely the result of hacking or other mischief. But the outages have underscored how vital a small number of behind-the-scenes companies have become to running the internet.


Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
Updated 18 June 2021

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh

Saudi and Russian business officials propose Russian bank in Riyadh
  • Russian ambassador to the Kingdom says new commercial attache at the embassy will help Saudi businesses

RIYADH: A proposal to open a Russian bank in Riyadh was presented at a meeting between Saudi and Russian officials on Thursday.
The move would facilitate trade and economic exchange between the two countries, a meeting of the Saudi-Russian Business Council of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) was told.
Russia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, Sergei Kozlov, said he promised to support and study the proposal to open the bank in Riyadh.
He said a commercial attaché had been appointed at the embassy in Riyadh to help Saudi business owners overcome obstacles.
Ajlan bin Abdulaziz Al-Ajlan, president of the CSC, said the meeting provided strong impetus toward developing more trade and economic relations.
Chairman of the Saudi-Russian Business Council Tariq Al-Kahtani said it was important to strengthen economic and trade cooperation.
The meeting also dealt with some challenges that contributed to the weak volume of trade exchange between the Kingdom and Russia, including the lack of a direct shipping line to facilitate import and export operations.


International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister
Updated 17 June 2021

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister

International companies to invest in Egyptian green hydrogen projects, says minister
  • Egypt has signed MOU for 1GW green hydrogen project
  • Other EU companies set to partner with Egypt's private sector

RIYADH: International companies are interested in investing in green hydrogen production in Egypt, according to Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker.

“There are companies from the European Union that will enter into partnerships with the Egyptian private sector,” he said.

The Egyptian government has signed an MoU with Siemens for the first project to produce green hydrogen with a capacity of 1 megawatt, doubling to 2 megawatts over five years, he said.

“Green hydrogen will be the world’s fuel in the next few years, and I see that Egypt started early in this field,” he added.

Work is currently underway to develop and formulate a strategy for the hydrogen industry in Egypt through a ministerial committee in which the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources participates as a main member, according to previous statements by the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla.

Egypt is planning to invest up to $4 billion in a project to generate green hydrogen gas through water electrolysis, Shaker said this week.

The project is currently in the feasibility studies stage, in consultation with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt and a group of concerned ministries, and will be presented next week, he said.

The United States is planning to increase funding to Egypt to help it convert to solar energy and move away from fossil fuels, US special envoy for climate John Kerry said in Cairo on Wednesday.

Egypt is planning to double the state’s funding for green projects to 30 percent of its overall investment plan during the fiscal year 2021/2022 and to raise it to 50 percent by 2024/2025.