Uranium extraction rights up for grabs

AN INTERNATIONAL competitive tendering bid for the rights to extract radioactive uranium from Portuguese soil is attracting the attention of 20 companies.

The uranium, which could be used in either nuclear power stations or weapons, is in Nisa in the upper Alentejo.

Competition for the mining rights will remain open until December 2007, while the terms of the competition will be presented in May or June.

Luís Martins, the National Engineering Institute’s Director of Metal Mineral Prospecting, believes that exploiting the uranium rich deposits would be clearly positive for Portugal given the current energy needs in various countries.

“Portugal is not a rich country and simply cannot waste its resources,” he told Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manhã.

In the first phase, the winner of the competition will be able to carry out prospecting works to gauge the financial viability of getting the mineral out of the ground. Then it will have to present a mining project including three studies: an economic viability study, mining plan and an environmental impact study.

It will be at this phase that the Ministry of the Environment along with the Ministry of the Economy will give the green light for the uranium to be extracted and sold on to processing centres, ultimately to be sold to nuclear power stations in the EU and the US.

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