Australia must end uranium confusion

17 March 2008

Australia's uranium industry has vented its frustration at state and federal governments, saying the "pathetic" political situation has to change.


Uranium oxide concentrate 
Uranium oxide concentrate
Speaking at the Paydirt 2008 Uranium Conference in Adelaide, Michael Angwin, executive director of the Australian Uranium Association, said Australia has an incomplete policy and incomplete regulatory regime for uranium mining and the industry has not broadened to become country-wide.


"Despite a welcome shift to bipartisan support, we have considerable ground to cover before Australia is seen as a political friendly uranium country. We have not yet consolidated our political role," said Angwin.


Uranium mining operations in Australia's various regions are licensed - or not - by local governments. Currently uranium mining activity is focused in South Australia and the Northern Territory where between them all of the country's uranium is produced. Australia itself accounts for about 19% of the world's supply.


The managing director of Toro Energy, Greg Hall, said, "there is a confusing mixed bag in peoples' minds about what is possible and what is not possible in Australia," and that "There needs to be a much higher appreciation that a modern uranium industry is a lot different than something Western Australia and Queensland's policy thinkers learnt in the 1970s."


Uranium analyst Warwick Grigor went further, saying the situation was "just as pathetic as it was a year ago." He added: "There has been no backing down of the anti-uranium stance in Western Australia, and the Queensland government continues with the pathetically parochial and anti-environmental view that it does not want to stand in the way of the development of its coal industry."


Hall connected Australian uranium exports with the global push for more nuclear power as an emissions-free alternative: "We as a country have to be able to start other uranium mines if there is international demand and an increasing reliance on these countries for nuclear energy to cut greenhouse emissions."


"As we stand, these markets are only getting access to 50% of potential Australian uranium production so the political impasse has to change."