Berkeley Energia hopeful of Salamanca approval after supportive election result, gains new exploration licences

Berkeley Energia ASX BKY Salamanca approval election result new exploration licences uranium
Berkeley Energia has welcomed an election result in Spain which saw supporters of its controversial Salamanca uranium mine win four out of five council seats.

Aspiring uranium miner Berkeley Energia (ASX: BKY) could be closer to the green light on its Salamanca uranium project in Spain following a favourable election result in the project’s municipal area of Retortillo.

The company today welcomed the result, which saw candidates that were supportive of its controversial uranium project win four of the five council seats.

Berkeley managing director and chief executive officer Paul Atherley said the company looks forward to working with the new council to achieve the outcome the community wants.

“We are pleased for the villagers who have been campaigning hard for the investment to now be so well represented on the municipal council,” he said.

Project hurdles

There is a lot of interest surrounding the Salamanca project since it has the potential to be Europe’s only major uranium mine.

A 2016 definitive feasibility study indicated the project could produce an average of 4.4 million pounds of uranium per year at a cash cost of US$13.30 per pound over an initial 10-year mine life.

Berkeley has faced multiple setbacks with several environmental groups filing various appeals to licences and permits and politicians in both Spain and neighbouring Portugal voicing opposition to the project.

The Spanish government also recently proposed four new board members to the country’s Nuclear Safety Council, with one being an environmental activist.

Various legal challenges are currently in progress with Berkeley stating in late April it was awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on the legality of these appointments.

The company also said it was awaiting a recommendation report from the Nuclear Safety Council.

Meanwhile, Berkeley has recently received a number of favourable assessments from various regulatory bodies including two from the Nuclear Safety Council relating to pre-operational surveillance plans for radiological and environmental effects, and the control of underground water.

Despite some opposition, the company believes much of the surrounding community are supportive of the project as it will create a substantial number of local jobs and will support local businesses.

“Villagers from Retortillo and the surrounding community have consistently campaigned Si a la Mina [which translates to ‘yes to the mine’],” the company stated.

“The demand for clean technology metals to support the global battery and electric vehicle (EV) industries is taking off,” Mr Atherley said.

“The urgent need to explore for these critical metals to provide reliable supply within the EU comes at a time when some commentators are suggesting that governments are threatening to restrict supply of these important components of the green energy revolution,” he added.

New exploration blocks

In today’s market announcement, Berkeley also said it has been awarded three new exploration licences prospective for battery and EV metals.

The licences cover 266sq km and are located about 40km from the village of Retortillo.

According to the company, previous geochemical analysis using ionic leach methods has indicated the licence areas are prospective for lithium, cobalt, tin, tungsten and rare earth elements.

Ionic leach processing, which involves using ultra-high detection levels of mobile metals ions in the soils at surface, is a new technique for analysing metals at depth without drilling.

Berkeley said this is the first time the technology has been utilised in Spain.

The company is now accelerating plans to further define and test drill the targets identified in the analysis.

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