Decision nears on Greens Bill

A PRIVATE members’ Bill under scrutiny by mining companies and industry groups could lead to the outlawing of uranium and thorium exploration within WA’s borders at a time when world uranium markets are picking up.

The Greens WA Bill, which prohibits both the exploration and mining of uranium and thorium and restricts quantities obtained incidentally in the mining of mineral sands, also prohibits the construction or operation of processing facilities and the transportation of nuclear material, and proposes penalties of up to $500,000 for a single offence.

Read twice in parliament, the Bill now awaits a decision by the Government, which has a policy of bringing private members’ bills to caucus.

The Government was elected earlier this year under an environment platform of prohibiting the importation of radioactive waste into WA, as well as the mining and export of uranium, and making safe residual stockpiles from past exploration and mining.

Greens MLC Giz Watson said WA’s nuclear waste prohibition legislation was inadequate in the area of transportation.

“The proponents of the Pangea waste dump proposal have said they could drive a truck through the loopholes in that legislation,” she said.

But the Greens want more. They believe community and political climates are right to prohibit all nuclear activity and say their stance is in no way unique, maintaining the Nuclear Activities Prohibition Bill is modelled on legislation in place in Victoria since the 1980s.

“We have done all we can to give the Labor Party all the information there is,” Ms Watson said. “There is strong community support for this type of legislation.”

Both the Greens and State Development Minister Clive Brown have sent the Bill to companies and industry groups and are awaiting responses.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive officer Tim Shanahan said that, while the CME was still in the process of determining a position and formulating a response to both the Greens and the Government, it viewed any level of constraint on exploration in the current climate as undesirable.

Mr Shanahan said the CME had found members keen to consult on the issue.

A Paladin Resources spokesperson said while uranium prices had picked up significantly during the past year, the company had no immediate plans to develop its Manyingee prospect 100 kilometres south of Onslow, near the Ashburton River. Rather, Paladin is concentrating its efforts on developing its Kayelekera uranium operation in Malawi, Africa.

“It’s much more politically friendly in Africa,” he said, adding that with the right climate, it would take Paladin only four years to develop its WA deposit into a going concern.

And Paladin cannot foresee a downturn in demand for uranium. Despite high set-up and liability costs, the spokesperson said England was upgrading nuclear operations and France was producing 70 per cent of its power from nuclear sources.

The Community Anti-Nuclear Network of WA, one of 10 member groups of the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, has released a statement saying the proposed legislation “should help WA turn the corner into truly clean, high technology, rapidly expanding industries, with the potential to create thousands of safe jobs based on renewables science and technologies, without the risks that go with nuclear industry involvement”.

p More Resources, For the Record, page 22.

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