The mining industry has welcomed the strengthening of environmental conditions for the state's proposed first uranium mine after an independent review of appeals.
The board of Adelaide-based Toro Energy aims to make a decision on whether to proceed with its Wiluna project by the first half of 2013.
The project was recommended for approval by the state Environmental Protection Authority in May and nine appeals were reviewed ahead of a decision by the state's environment minister Bill Marmion on whether to approve the planned mine.
Mr Marmion said today that an independent committee considered 21 grounds of appeal and recommended several changes to the EPA's draft conditions that would strengthen protection of stygofauna and groundwater dependent vegetation, and better address surface water flows, dust management and rehabilitation.
"I am satisfied the appeals committee has carefully considered all the matters raised in the appeals and have accepted their recommendations," he said.
"My next step is to consult with decision-making authorities and other agencies, including the ministers for mines and petroleum and indigenous affairs; and the Radiological Council, which assists the minister for health, on whether they agree that this proposed uranium mine should proceed and, if so, what conditions will be set."
Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the announcement was an important step forward for the uranium sector in WA.
“The high level of scrutiny and thorough consultation on this project should give the community confidence that the Uranium industry is committed to meeting all environmental and safety requirements.
“With increasing understanding we hope to see public opinion leading to greater acceptance, underpinned by the State government’s commitment to a world best practice uranium mining industry.”
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison said the stringent approvals process for the Wiluna mine would ensure there was no credible threat to the environment.
“AMEC looks forward to continuing to work with the government in further developing the uranium exploration and mining sector in WA in order to provide jobs and significant revenue streams that can be used in providing additional community services such as hospitals, schools, police and essential services” Mr Bennison said
The Liberal state government in 2008 lifted a six-year ban on uranium mining imposed by the previous Labor government.
The state opposition remains opposed to uranium mining, but will not stand in the way of any planned uranium mine that has received approvals if the party wins the state election in March.
There are no other uranium projects in Western Australia that would be fully environmentally approved by the time of the election.