30/04/2008 - 22:00

Explorers target Eastern bloc

30/04/2008 - 22:00

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Australian exploration companies are renowned for pursuing opportunities in all corners of the globe, seeking out regions that will give them a competitive edge.

Australian exploration companies are renowned for pursuing opportunities in all corners of the globe, seeking out regions that will give them a competitive edge.

Two West Perth uranium companies are seeking to lift the iron curtain in Eastern Europe, which was closed to Western investment during the Soviet era.

While Wildhorse Energy Ltd and Uran Ltd have ventured out to operate in the former Soviet bloc countries, continuing uranium prohibitions and bureaucracy have thwarted some of their development efforts.

Political instability, language barriers and vastly different legislation and operating policies have in the past forced both companies to appeal rejected exploration applications or seek drilling sites elsewhere.

Uran this month entered into an option to acquire all of the shares in Discovery Minerals Pty Ltd, a private company which is in negotiations to buy advanced and producing uranium properties in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

However, its plans to explore uranium deposits near the small town of Pribyslav in the Czech Republic were denied.

Councillors told Uran their decision backed a recommendation by the department of environment to reject the application.

Uran managing director Kate Hobbs said the rejection was no surprise because uranium mining was a political issue.

The company believes the Czech government will be reviewing its stance on the nuclear power sector, with a report expected to be handed down later this year.

Ms Hobbs said the report was likely to recommend the government increase nuclear capacity in the country.

She said the company was also retaining a strong focus in the Ukraine, where the political situation had stabilised since a new government came to power in late 2007.

“The government has strongly expressed its intention to encourage foreign investment and the minister for fuel and energy has taken the decision to facilitate foreign investment in uranium exploration and mining,” Ms Hobbs said.

Uran expects to receive and accept conditions issued by the minister for such foreign investments by next month.

Wildhorse Energy began drilling at its Bátászék Project in Hungary in February this year, and has three other projects in the southern part of the country.

Managing director Richard Pearce said at the time: “Commencement of drilling at Bátászék is an historic moment for uranium exploration in Hungary since the last drilling for uranium in this country took place almost 20 years ago.”

“The company is looking forward to contributing to the development of the Hungarian nuclear power industry.”

Wildhorse Energy has applied for exploration permits in southern Poland with the ministry of environment, outlining its interest in prospecting and exploration of a 1,980 square kilometre site in the Sudetes Mountains in the south-western corner.

The area has 12 underground uranium mines from previous explorations by the former Soviet Union and Polish state in the 1950s.

Wildhorse Energy’s primary focus also includes drilling in parts of Paraguay, in South America, but its main site is the Bátászék project where historical drilling identified a uranium bearing roll front of more than 3 kilometres with 83 drill holes.

Like most uranium explorers, the share prices of Wildhorse and Uran have fallen sharply from last year’s boom levels.

Wildhorse is trading at 63 cents currently, down from a peak of about $3.70, while Uran is trading at 22.5 cents, down from a peak of $1.40.

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