Four uranium projects excluded from Western Australia ban

21 June 2017

The Western Australian government has imposed a ban on future uranium mining leases, but says it will not stand in the way of four uranium projects approved by the state's previous government.

Mulga Rock project - 460 (Vimy)
The Mulga Rock project, which is not covered by the ban (Image: Vimy)

The ban was announced on 20 June by mines and petroleum minister Bill Johnston on behalf of the government, in fulfilment of an election promise to block future applications to mine uranium made by the Labor Party prior to the state election in March. At the national level, the Australian Labor Party supports uranium mining following its 2007 decision to overturn the so-called three mines policy.

The government said that the actions were consistent with the ban that existed in the state between 2002 and 2008, which it said proved to be "effective". The previous Liberal-National government had repealed the earlier ban when it came to power.

The government has said it "will not prevent" the progress of four uranium projects that received ministerial approval from the previous government, saying it had "clear legal advice it cannot legally deny secondary approvals for the purpose of frustrating approvals already granted." Those four projects are Cameco's Kintyre and Yeelirrie, Toro Energy's Wiluna, and Vimy Resources' Mulga Rock.

Johnston said the announcement supported the Labor Party's commitment to halt the expansion of uranium mining in Western Australia. "We made a commitment that all uranium mining projects with State Ministerial approvals will be able to continue, providing they meet all planning approvals," he said. "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."

Toro obtained state and federal environmental approvals for the Centipede and Lake Way deposits at Wiluna in 2013 and is now in the process of seeking extensions to incorporate mining from the Millipede and Lake Maitland deposits. Cameco's Kintyre and Yeelirrie projects received environmental approvals in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Vimy Resources received the final approvals required for work to start on Mulga Rock in March. The company said today that the government statement provided "absolute assurance" the project will be allowed to proceed, and would help to underpin the investment required to bring it into production. "Cabinet endorsement of Premier McGowan's long standing policy position on uranium refutes claims by those who sought to misrepresent the Premier's position and argue that Vimy had not achieved the necessary approvals. This announcement puts the issue beyond doubt," Vimy managing director and CEO Mike Young said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News