27/08/2008 - 12:23

Outcry over WA ALP uranium mining ban

27/08/2008 - 12:23

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Premier Alan Carpenter's pledge to impose a legislative ban on uranium mining has prompted an outcry from mining lobby groups and the traditional owners who hold land rights over the major Kintyre uranium deposit.

Premier Alan Carpenter's pledge to impose a legislative ban on uranium mining has prompted an outcry from mining lobby groups and the traditional owners who hold land rights over the major Kintyre uranium deposit.

Mr Carpenter has consistently opposed uranium mining but until yesterday maintained there was no need for legislation.

He said he had changed his mind after speaking with groups opposed to uranium mining which convinced him of the need to enshrine the policy in law.

The backflip has prompted several representative groups to label the move as disappointing, including the Western Desert Lands Corporation (WDLAC) which acts on behalf of the Martu people.

WDLC chief executive Clinton Wolf said the Labor Party's new position will affect the Martu people who hold a number of significant uranium deposits including the massive Kintyre uranium deposit.

Kintyre was formerly owned by Rio Tinto before being sold to Camceo Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation for $US495 million earlier this month.

Mr Wolf said while the Martu people have not yet had a chance to properly consider uranium mining, the group does not oppose to it in principle.

"We strongly believe that uranium mining could be an opportunity for our people to generate equity and commercial benefit and importantly play an important part in the development of significant resources projects for this state," he said.

"By proposing to ban uranium mining, the Premier and State ALP Government is effectively robbing one of the most poor and disenfranchised people in this country of the right to earn a living and potentially achieve an equity stake in a major mining project."

The views were echoed by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies' outgoing chief executive Justin Walawski.

"There has been a great deal of mischievous scare mongering on the issue of uranium in WA and there will be serious long term consequences for indigenous people and WA as a whole," Dr Walawski said.

"However, the wider effect of this policy will be to reinforce the growing international perception that WA's mining policies are not conducive to investment.

"Uranium and other mining companies will be reconsidering their plans to invest in WA today."

A similar statement was made by the Chamber of Mineral and Energy where chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the ban is at odds with the aim of maximising the value of WA's minerals and resources, and potentially creates uncertainty amongst investors in the sector.

"CME is calling for the government to not proceed with such legislation if it is re-elected," Mr Howard-Smith said.

"The future of uranium mining in Western Australia should be considered in the context of strategic resource development planning in WA and as part of a wider debate around future energy supplies and greenhouse gas abatement".

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed out that the ban puts the state ALP at odds with its federal counterparts which last year lifted its long standing ban on the development of uranium mines.

"CCI is also disappointed that the ALP in WA has declared that nuclear power has no future in WA without undertaking a sensible and rational debate on the issue," the organisation said.

The Australian Uranium Association said while it was disappointed, if the Labor Party is re-elected, it would welcome the opportunity for a full debate on the benefits of uranium exports before the legislation was introduced.

"Such a debate would be the opportunity to expose the misconceptions and misleading statements about uranium mining that are being put about in Western Australia," AUA executive director Michael Angwin said.

He added that the state's uranium could help the world avoid about 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions globally between now and 2030 which was equivalent to WA being carbon-free for up to 20 years.

He said that uranium mining could boost WA's gross state product by about $3.2 billion and add some $460 million to state revenue between now and 2030.

"There is great demand for West Australian uranium from our traditional trading partners, China and Japan. China, in particular, is hungry for uranium from Australia to help it reduce its reliance on high-carbon electricity from black coal," Mr Angwin said.

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