Conditional environmental approval for Kintyre

28 July 2014

Western Australia's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed its assessment of the proposed Kintyre uranium mine, recommending state approval for the joint Cameco Australia-Mitsubishi Development project. A development decision will rest on future market conditions.  

Kintyre (Image: Cameco)

Cameco submitted its proposal to build and operate an open-pit mine at Kintyre to the EPA in September 2010. The proposal includes the construction of the open pit mine itself plus associated mine infrastructure, including processing facilities, offices, accommodation, a tailings management facility and an access road. The project would have an expected mine life of 13.5 years.

The EPA has scrutinised the project through its Environmental Review and Management Program, seeking input from regulatory agencies as well as considering Cameco's responses to submissions gathered during a public review. The 71-page EPA report notes the "considerable work" Cameco has undertaken to address the key environmental factors related to the proposal and to "avoid, minimise and rectify environmental impacts." The EPA has therefore concluded that the project "can be managed to meet the EPA’s objectives."

"We are taking prudent steps to prepare Kintyre for a development decision when market conditions signal new uranium production is required. This means advancing the project through the environmental approvals process, continuing to build strong relationships with stakeholders and exploring for additional resources that could improve project economics."

Brian Reilly,
Cameco Australia managing director

The EPA has set several conditions, most of which focus on compliance and reporting issues. Two conditions highlighted by EPA chairman Paul Vogel centre on steps to ensure the protection of fauna, requiring the operator to prepare a Conservation Significant Fauna Management Plan and also to assess and manage any potential radiological impacts to plants and animals through a risk assessment approach in line with Australian best practice.

Kintyre has measured and indicated resources of 23,700 tU and was acquired by Cameco and Mitusbishi from Rio Tinto in 2008, with Cameco holding 70% and Mitsubishi holding 30%. Cameco welcomed the EPA recommendations, although development at Kintyre has effectively been on hold since the completion of a prefeasibility study in 2012 which indicated that current market conditions would not see the mine break even. The company wrote down $168 million on the project in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Nevertheless, Cameco says it is taking "prudent steps" to prepare its Australian projects for development "when market conditions signal new uranium production is required," and Cameco Australia managing director Brian Reilly has welcomed the report and recommendations. "We are confident the project can be constructed, operated and closed in a way which maintains the ecological functions and environmental values in the area and will ensure all regulatory conditions, including those recommended by the EPA are met," he said.

The EPA report is now open to public appeal until 11 August.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News