“Good housekeeping”: Controversial uranium mine approved day before election call

Adani uranium
Environment Minister Melissa Price

The Morrison Government signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before the Prime Minister called the federal election.

The government did not publicly announce the move until the environment department uploaded the document on April 24.

The Yeelirrie Uranium mine, which would be located 500km north of Kalgoorlie in WA still requires state approval, which is currently being fought in WA’s supreme court by Tjiwarl traditional owners.

The world’s largest uranium producer Canadian company Cameco is seeking to develop the mine.

In 2016, Western Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended the mine should not go ahead, citing out of nine key environmental factors one – subterranean fauna – was unable to be satisfied by the EPA.

A rock with uranium precipitating out of it

EPA Chairman Dr Tom Hatton said the stygofauna (any fauna that live in groundwater systems or aquifiers) habitat at Yeelirrie is particularly rich, with 73 species recorded – more than anywhere else in the northern Goldfields.

It also happens to be home to one of Australia’s largest uranium deposits.

“Despite the proponent’s well considered management strategies, based on current scientific understanding, the EPA concluded that there was too great a chance of a loss of species that are restricted to the impact area,” he said.

Groundwater levels would reportedly drop by 50cm and they would not completely recover for 200 years, but a spokesperson for Environment Minister Melissa Price said the approval was subject to 32 strict conditions to avoid and mitigate potential environmental impacts.

The proposal to mine up to 7500 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate (UOC) per year from the Yeelirrie deposit includes two open pits, processing facilities, roads, accommodation, stockpile and laydown areas.

General Manager of Cameco Australia Simon Williamson told The ABC he was pleased Ms Price had approved the mine before calling the election.

“Yeah, that’s likely to raise questions about rushed decision and all that stuff, but the state [government] made their decision in January 2017,” he said.

“The timing was such that all of [the assessment] was completed to allow her to sign off before the election. I think it’s quite appropriate and I think the minster would want to sign off on projects on her plate before she goes to an election.

“I think it’s good housekeeping.”