Queensland prepared for uranium mining

01 August 2014

The government of the Australian state of Queensland says it is now ready to accept applications for uranium mining projects following its announcement of a new regulatory framework. The state lifted its long-standing ban on uranium mining in 2012.

Mine minister Andrew Cripps today released "a modern and robust" framework to ensure that uranium mining in Queensland is carried out according to the world's best environmental protection and safety standards.

The government said the framework "provides regulatory efficiency and investment certainty" for uranium mining in Queensland. It "adopts the same obligations that apply to existing mineral tenure holders, including compliance with land access and native title laws."

Under the framework, applications for uranium mining projects will be assessed by the Queensland Coordinator-General, while environmental assessments and approvals for projects will be completed jointly by the state and Australian governments. Any uranium mined in Queensland will only be exported to countries that have a bilateral safeguard arrangement with Australia. Uranium will be exported through existing licensed ports in Darwin and South Australia as there are currently no ports in Queensland licensed for the export of uranium.

The Queensland government has established the Uranium Mining Oversight Committee (UMOC) to facilitate open discussions between state government departments and to oversee the development of the uranium industry in Queensland. It said a stakeholder committee will also be established "when there is more certainty about the development of a uranium mine."

"The framework paves the way for new investment opportunities, taking into account all relevant issues across the uranium mining life cycle such as strict environmental standards, safe handling, transportation and risk management for safety and health," the state government said.

Cripps said, "It is now up to industry to decide when to lodge applications for uranium mining and those decisions will be influenced by a number of factors including global commodity prices, market supply and demand and mining costs."

Lifting the ban

Uranium was first mined in Queensland in the 1950s, but no uranium has been mined there since the closure of the Mary Kathleen mine in 1982. In 1989, the election of a state government led by the Australian Labor Party effectively saw uranium mining, but not exploration, prohibited in the state until the election of a Liberal-National Party led government in March 2012. Seven months later, the ban on uranium mining was lifted.

"Labor's ban on uranium mining was purely ideological," said Cripps, "but we have taken steps to ensure this valuable resource is unlocked for the benefit of all Queenslanders."

Queensland's department of natural resources and mines estimates the uranium resource potential of the state at 165.95 million tonnes of ore with a total uranium oxide content of 107,000 tonnes (90,730 tU).

Cripps also announced the release of the former Mary Kathleen uranium mine for competitive tender for rare earths exploration.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News