(MENAFN - ProactiveInvestors - Australia) Toro Energy (ASX: TOE) is expecting a Federal Government decision on the approval of its Wiluna Uranium Project before the end of 2012.
Once this has been received Toro will make a final investment decision for the project in the second half of 2013, with construction slated to begin shortly after and first sales anticipated in the 2014-15 financial year.
The project timeline is also subject to project financing and uranium market conditions.
Last month, Wiluna, which comprises the Centipede and Lake Way deposits, was granted WA Ministerial environmental approval, paving the way to potentially become the first uranium mine in the state.
Erica Smyth, chair of Toro Energy, told the company's AGM today: "In May this year, the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority completed its assessment of Toro's Wiluna Uranium Project, and recommended approval of the project to the State Environment Minister.
"On 10 October this year, post the financial year close, the Minister gave his final approval for the project, and we anticipate a Federal Government decision on the project prior to year end."
Smythe told investors as the first uranium project proponent to reach this stage since the Western Australian Government's policy change in late 2008; Toro has received more scrutiny than many much larger projects.
"We have been treated no differently from a major resource company in the extent to which our proposals have been assessed by government.
"Toro's Wiluna Uranium Project has been through a very rigorous three year environmental assessment which has included four opportunities for the public to make comment to government about Toro's proposals.
"We have been able to pursue our approvals with a much smaller team than a major would use."
Importantly, there has also been strong interest from potential joint venture partners seeking a strategic investment position and offtake arrangement, with technical and financial review underway.
Toro has now established a confidential dataroom for the Wiluna Project, to enable interested potential project partners to access information under a confidentiality agreement.
Since the recommendation for approval by the WA Environmental Protection Authority in May 2012, and the WA Environment Minister approval in October 2012, interest and engagement from potential JV partners has considerably improved.
Site visits to Wiluna and technical assessments at Toro's Project office have begun with interested parties.
Smyth remains upbeat on the mid to long-term outlook for uranium.
"We have a firm belief in the strength of the mid to long term uranium market. Post-Fukushima Japan has now put in place an independent Nuclear Safety Authority, and once this Authority has completed its policy work, it is forecast that many of Japan's idled power reactors will re-start operations.
"Along with the substantial new nuclear reactor build program still underway around the world, this will be a signal to the market regarding demand upswing, and an instigator in the improvement of uranium prices."
Toro's wholly-owned, flagship Wiluna Uranium Project is situated in the Wiluna region in Central Western Australia, and comprises a series of shallow calcrete-hosted uranium deposits.
The project is the most advanced of the new generation of uranium projects in Australia.
Wiluna is anticipated to produce 1.7 million pounds of U3O8 per year with a project life of up to 14 years and the opportunity to extend mine life on successful brownfield exploration.
The total regional uranium Measured, Indicated and Inferred JORC resource is 54 million pounds across five deposits, with significant upside in currently held but under-developed exploration tenements.
Significant testwork including a full scale hydrometallurgical pilot plant and resource evaluation and water barrier trials over the past two years have proven this is the most effective economic recovery available.
With the testwork programs completed, Wiluna's technical risks have been significantly reduced.
The process engineering phase of the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) is complete and has demonstrated viable processing plant design.
Detailed engineering design, infrastructure and cost estimates will begin once the only remaining environmental approval by the Federal Government is complete.
This phase of the DFS is expected to be completed during 2013.
An updated project economic model has been completed, based on the process engineering from the DFS, pilot plant testwork and revised mine plan.
This indicates a reduced capital cost estimate of 207 million in direct costs, 31 million in engineering, procurement and construction management, and 31 million in contingency for a total of 269 million.
C1 cash operating costs are currently estimated at US37 per pound U3O8.
A commitment to negotiate a mining agreement with Traditional Owners and the local Aboriginal community has been signed.
It is anticipated that this agreement will be finalised during 2013.