Gov't considers restarting uranium mining

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Hungary's government has decided to consider restarting uranium mining in the Mecsek hills in the framework of a joint venture with private sector partners, the National Development Ministry said.

Economic and social considerations will be taken into account in the review. A government resolution published in the latest issue of official gazette Magyar Közlöny gives the national development minister until July 15 to see to that state-owned Mecsek-Öko, Mecsekérc, the state-owned Hungarian electricity company MVM and - depending on the stand of MVM - the Hungarian nuclear power plant Paks Atomerőmű participate in a joint venture to be established by Australia's Wildhorse Energy.

Wildhorse's Hungarian unit was awarded exploration licences for uranium in the region in 2006. Mecsek-Öko and Mecsekérc signed a cooperation agreement with Wildhorse Energy on the start of uranium mining in the Mecsek hills, business daily Napi Gazdaság said in February.

Wildhorse CFO Chris Dinsdale told the paper that a joint venture would be established in the near future that gives Wildhorse extraction rights for 38.5 tonnes of Uranium and its state-owned partner rights for more than ten tonnes.

Zsolt Páva, the mayor of Pécs, which lies near potential mining sites, said a week earlier that efforts would be undertaken to determine whether the area is suitable for uranium production from the social, sociological, technological and environmental protection points of view.

The matter of possibly relaunching the mining came up because of the rise in the price of uranium on global markets, state secretary for climate and environmental protection affairs Pál Kovács said at the time. The government will consider the restart if a review shows the mining is profitable and presents no threat to the environment or to the health of locals, he added.

The government wants to involve local governments and local citizens in a decision on the issue, he said. Uranium was mined in the Mecsek hills from the 1950s until 1997, when the activity became unprofitable.

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