Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett has formally approved the new Four Mile uranium mine in South Australia, saying it poses no environmental risks.
Garrett described the decision as a difficult one to make. The proposals for the in-situ leach mine in South Australia were subjected to a "rigorous and comprehensive" assessment process. Two independent reviews not only concluded that the operation could go ahead without any significant lasting environmental impact, but also that it represented world best practice in uranium mining.
"I have not taken this decision lightly," said former environmental activist and uranium mining opponent Garrett. He went on to say: "I am certain this operation poses no credible risk to the environment."
However, the minister's approval of the Four Mile mine is subject to strict environmental approval conditions including a stringent long-term monitoring regime that will remain in place after mine closure to ensure ongoing environmental protection.
Rock star, activist, Minister
|'The time has come to say fair's fair'
(Images: Columbia, ultraflyweight)
Peter Garrett became a member of the Australian parliament, representing the Australian Labor Party (ALP), in 2004 and was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts following the 2007 election of the Labor government led by Kevin Rudd. Before becoming a politician, Garrett was better known as vocalist with Australian rock band Midnight Oil, renowned for actively campaigning on a range of contemporary Australian and global issues including indigenous land rights and the environment. The group once performed at a protest against development at the Jabiluka uranium deposit.
Prior to the ALP's 2007 decision to reverse its policy on uranium mining and allow new mines in the country, Garrett remained a staunch opponent of uranium mining. Now, however, the politician has publicly said that he accepts his party's decision whatever his personal opinion.
Michael Angwin, chair of the Australian Uranium Association, welcomed Garrett's decision as clear recognition that the country's uranium industry operates safely and responsibly to environmentally exacting standards. "Mr Garrett required that the mine was subject to a comprehensive, scientifically robust and transparent assessment process, and it passed with flying colours," he said. "It's a decision made on the mine's environmental merits," he added.
Four Mile comprises two deposits with known resources of some 28,000 tonnes of U3O8 at an ore grade of 0.35% and is close to Beverley, Australia's only operating in-situ leach uranium mine. It is being developed through a joint venture of Alliance Resources (25%) and Quasar Resources (75%), itself an affiliate of Beverley owner and operator Heathgate Resources. A satellite ion exchange plant will carry out initial uranium recovery at the Four Mile site, and the uranium-loaded ion exchange resin will then be trucked to the main Beverley plant for further processing. Processing wastes from the new mine will also be disposed of at Beverley.
"The Government is committed to world best practice environmental standards in uranium mining and in protecting the environment," said Garrett.