The Liberal National Government has granted environmental approval for Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium project, subject to 17 strict conditions.
One of Australia’s biggest new uranium mines has been approved by the Barnett government. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett yesterday gave the green light to Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium mine in the remote northern Goldfields. Environmental approvals have been finalised for the Yeelirrie yellowcake mine, despite environmental watchdogs proposal to block the project over concerns for the survival of a rare species of microscopic underground shrimp-like creatures.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob stood by the Cabinet decision, saying the Government had to take in broader considerations than just environmental ones and the approval came with strict conditions. Cameco must conduct surveys to find out whether stygofauna — tiny invertebrates that live in groundwater — were found elsewhere. Conditions have also been applied to the proposal requiring Cameco to undertake further surveys and research to improve knowledge of underground fauna and measures to minimise impacts on these species.
Premier Barnett said WA has significant uranium reserves and that the Yeelirrie deposit was particularly large by world standards. The Premier said the approved uranium proposals in WA which includes four mines, Vimy’s Mulga Rocks, Toro Energy’s revised Wiluna uranium proposal and Cameco’s Kintyre and Yeelirrie sites. The mines have the potential to create 1,500 jobs and $1 billion a year for WA's export industry.
Under Cameco’s plans, the company wants to produce up to 7,500 tonnes of uranium oxide a year at the Wiluna mine which it bought from BHP Billiton for $US430 million. Cameco’s Australian boss Brian Reilly hailed the decision as a “significant step forward” for the proposal. Mr Reilly did not say when the project would proceed amid a languishing uranium price.
The opposition government is opposed to Uranium mining in Western Australia. Mr Barnett commented:
Australia has been producing and exporting uranium for peaceful purposes for more than 30 years and it is high time that Western Australia with our significant reserves, became part of that industry. Australia's international treaties guarantee that uranium can only be used for peaceful purposes. We should also remember that nuclear medicine is also an important part of our health care system."
State Development Minister Bill Marmion said uranium was an important industry for Western Australia.
Clearly, this project has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits to the State should it proceed. The Liberal National Government supports a well-regulated uranium industry for the jobs and economic growth potential it provides and for the clean energy production it supports." Mr Marmion said.
In the Yeelirrie uranium project report, the Environmental Protection Authority advised the proposal met eight of the nine key environmental factors. However, it recommended against approval because there was potential for the loss of species of stygofauna and troglofauna in the project area.
Mr Barnett said he welcomed the approval of the Yeelirrie uranium project and looked forward to Western Australia becoming a significant uranium producer. The Yeelirrie uranium project will have an operational life of 18 years. It is expected to employ an average of 225 people during operations and up to 1,200 people during peak construction
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