20/06/2017 - 15:04

Uranium projects avoid state ban

20/06/2017 - 15:04

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The state government has been condemned by conservation groups for allowing four uranium projects with existing approvals to be developed.

The state government has been condemned by conservation groups for allowing four uranium projects with existing approvals to be developed.

The state government said today it had implemented a ban on uranium mining on all future granted mining leases.

But four already approved projects – Toro Energy’s Wiluna project, Cameco’s Kintyre and Yeelirrie projects, and Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rock project – will not fall under the ban for legal reasons.

“The government has clear legal advice it cannot legally deny secondary approvals for the purpose of frustrating approvals already granted,” the government said in a statement.

“In making this decision the government has carefully considered future sovereign risk and financial implications for the state.

“If we were to attempt to stop these four projects, then we would potentially open up the state to significant legal liability that taxpayers would be responsible for.

“For that reason, we cannot stand in the way of projects that have been granted state ministerial approval.

“The actions being taken are consistent with the ban that existed between 2002 and 2008, which proved to be effective.”

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the decision would halt the expansion of uranium mining in the state.

“In making this decision, the McGowan government has carefully considered the potential liability risk for WA taxpayers,” he said. 

"We made a commitment that all uranium mining projects with state ministerial approvals will be able to continue, providing they meet all planning approvals. 

"The various Western Australian agencies will continue to stringently regulate the industry and ensure the four mines meet their regulatory and environmental responsibilities if they proceed."

The decision won't be welcome news for the state’s anti-uranium mining groups, which believed these four projects would be covered by the ban under a Labor government.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia and the Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance were among the groups that considered Labor’s win at the recent election a first step in the abolition of Toro, Vimy and Cameco’s proposed uranium mines in the state.

CCWA director Piers Verstegen said the decision to allow the four mines to proceed was a clear broken promise and a kick in the guts for communities and the environment.

“This terrible decision is a betrayal of the many people, communities, traditional owners, trade unions, churches, and environment groups who placed their faith in Labor to keep WA uranium free,” he said.

“The decision by the McGowan government to allow those approvals to stand without so much as an inquiry to investigate them, and without even consulting the local communities, workers, and traditional owners who voted for them in good faith, sends a very bad message about the government’s commitment to protecting our environment.

“We believe there are serious legal flaws in the way these approvals were granted by the Barnett government and we will continue to contest them at every stage of the process, including through pursuing legal options to protect our communities and environment from this toxic and unwanted industry.”

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