Australia has been a world leader among countries involved in uranium production for many years. It is currently the third largest uranium–producing country after Kazakhstan and Canada, but Australia has the largest known reserves of any country.
Cameco does not currently produce uranium in Australia. However, through the Kintyre joint venture project in Western Australia which we entered in mid–2008, Cameco is advancing towards the feasibility stage to determine whether a uranium mine will be built in that part of Western Australia.
The Kintyre project is located in the state's Pilbara region, some 1,250 kilometres north of Perth. Cameco's partner in the joint venture is Mitsubishi's Australian subsidiary, Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd.
The joint venture has made substantial progress in the three years since acquiring Kintyre. Cameco published a resource estimate for Kintyre early in 2011. The project's initial environmental referral document was filed in 2010, followed in 2011 by the environmental scoping document. As well, Cameco is engaged in ongoing negotiations with the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation which represents the interests of the Martu, the traditional owners of the Kintyre project area.
Long before the Kintyre acquisition, Cameco Australia had been involved in uranium exploration work in Australia. Since 1997, we have assembled an extensive land position – approximately 1.7 million hectares – in several highly prospective areas of the country.
Originally operating from an office in Darwin, Cameco Australia has spent more than $80 million on early stage exploration activities, mostly in the Northern Territory. These projects are located within land positions adjacent to large uranium minesites, both past and present. Currently, one of Cameco's largest exploration projects is the Wellington Range prospect, located within Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. It is Cameco's northern most exploration project in Australia.
Cameco Australia has recently taken on early–stage exploration work on exploration tenements adjacent to the Kintyre project in Western Australia through a joint venture with our Australian uranium partners. In addition, we have taken up two new tenements — the Lakes and Lake Blanche projects – in South Australia.
The company recently moved its Australian exploration office to Perth, the acknowledged hub of Australia's mining industry. Cameco's exploration expenditures in Australia comprise the company's second largest country program within Cameco's global uranium exploration budget.
Between the Kintyre joint venture project office and the new exploration office in Perth, Cameco Australia employs more than 30 exploration professionals, project planners and support staff.