Uranium Mining

In March 2015, newly appointed Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Lynham announced that a uranium prohibition, one which had stood in place from 1982 until 2012, will be reinstated. In 2008 the Barnett Government lifted the ban on uranium mining in Western Australia. Since then, a number of companies have been exploring uranium deposits throughout the state.

Between then and now, the uranium industry has continued to spread. Approval was granted for Kintyre mine by the WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob in early March 2015.

Toro Energy sought for an expansion of their Wiluna mine in October 2014 and is currently waiting on environment assessment.

At Yeelirrie mine, the Canadian company Cameco Corporation restarted the environmental approval process already completed by previous owners BHP because they wish to double the amount of ore approved to process.

WA environment minister Albert Jacob
WA environment minister Albert Jacob

Uranium mining is different to other mining; it consumes large volumes of water, contaminates groundwater and leaves behind a legacy of radioactive mine waste on our country, putting workers and the community at risk. All Australian uranium mines have had a history of leaks, safety breaches and failed rehabilitation[1].

A survey was conducted in 2012 on Australian public opinion of nuclear power after the Fukushima accident. Indeed, there was a change from 41% to 50% of people who viewed nuclear power unfavourably. The strongest change was from people who were previously ambivalent who developed strong opinions on nuclear power after the accident [2]. This shows that the Government is pursing uranium mining in WA without public support.

There are many aspects of uranium mining that the Government and EPA should consider when making decisions about proposed uranium mines:

  • Weapons proliferation
  • Radioactive waste and product stewardship
  • The long term environmental hazards from radioactive mine waste and potential costs to the Government and tax payers
  • The failure of rehabilitation at other uranium mines throughout Australia
  • The many breaches of environmental and workers' safety requirements at operating uranium mines in Australia
  • The inability to monitor workers for radon gas inhalation,
  • The weight of medical evidence that suggest there is no safe dose of radiation; and 
  • The phenomenally unfair burden of the nuclear industry on Indigenous communities[3]

To date, there have been more than 200 reported spills, leaks and breaches at the Ranger Uranium mine near Kakadu National park, the latest being more than a million litres of toxic sludge spilling from a waste tank on 7 December 2013[4].

This demonstrates that the uranium industry has failed to meet public expectations, failed to meet government regulations and failed to operate safely.

For information regarding the WA Greens policies on Nuclear issues click here

MAP: Government of WA, Department of Mines and Petroleum, Uranium in WA, http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/9997.aspx

[1]CCWA, 2013, No Uranium at Wiluna, http://www.ccwa.org.au/nuclearfreewa

[2]Energy Policy, February 2014, Nuclear power in Australia: A comparative analysis of public opinion regarding climate change and the Fukushima disaster http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513009713

[3]CCWA, 2013, Wiluna Uranium Proposal, http://www.ccwa.org.au/wiluna

[4]The Sydney Morning Herald, December 14 2013, Tim Elliott, ‘Kakadu Uranium Leak: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’”, http://www.smh.com.au/national/kakadu-uranium-leak-ive-never-seen-anything-like-it-20131213-2zcy5.html



Media Releases

4 March 2015, "Sneaky approval of questionable Uranium proposal"

6 October 2014, "Wiluna Uranium Extension not fooling anyone"

12 August 2014, "Uranium miner Areva quizzed over Royalties for Regions payment"

17 July 2014, "Marmion wants a radioactive state"




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