Gold and PGM miner Sibanye-Stillwater plans to tap into its existing asset base for uranium production as it expands its green footprint. The worldwide shift towards green energy has ignited a hunger for uranium production in Sibanye-Stillwater, with the company exploring opportunities in the resource which it says has long been unloved.
Sibanye shipped its first uranium oxide in 2014 from its Ezulwini plant. Speaking to financiers on Thursday, CEO Neal Froneman said the growing commitment to nuclear energy especially in the Asia Pacific region, including its appeal as a green energy resource. He stated Sibanye had “significant uranium resources” at its Beatrix West and Cooke Tailings, as well as processing infrastructure.
“We have a significant asset base to build on our uranium aspirations. Nuclear energy has emerged as an alternative zero carbon-based generation option to complement renewable energy…. and we will be progressing our uranium strategy.”
Beatrix West was originally a uranium mine, but was turned into a gold mine after the collapse of uranium price collapse in the 1980s, the CEO said. Uranium is primarily sold as part of longer-term contracts with power utilities – and longer-term contract prices remain significantly higher than spot prices. Uranium is now slowly moving toward being recognised as a green metal. Major producers of uranium in Africa are Namibia, South Africa and Niger.
Uranium is currently trading at around $33 per pound but Froneman expects the market to move into deficit within about five years. He expects the long-term forecast to exceed $60 per pound.
Sibanye-Stillwater hopes to be carbon neutral by 2040 and has outlined a plan which includes a shifts towards renewable energy and a 50 MW solar project for the company’s gold operations (near the Kloof operations).