MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian uranium mine approved despite looming corruption investigation

Published by MAC on 2015-03-08
Source: West Australian, ABC News

The Martu Aboriginal community of Western Australia did a deal with Canada's Cameco in 2012, to open up their territory to uranium mining.

This was after they mounted a vigorous international campaign, twenty five years ago, to kick all miners (including Rio Tinto) off their land.

It is a great shame that the Western Desert Land Council have agreed to the future irradiation of their lands. although it is now under investigation by the Office of Regional Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), for getting such a good return out of the deal.

For previous article on MAC: Aboriginal community takes "last stand" against world's most powerful miner


Pilbara uranium mine: Minister dismisses concerns over environmental approval

ABC News

6 March 2015

Western Australia's Environment Minister Albert Jacob has dismissed concerns about his conditional approval of a Pilbara uranium mine.

One of the world's largest uranium producers, Cameco, is proposing to build the Kintyre open-cut mine about 270 kilometres north-east of Newman.

Environmentalists have condemned the decision, citing concerns over the level of radiation monitoring required of the company throughout the Karlamilyi National Park, where the mine would be located.

Mr Jacob said Kintyre would be subject to a number of conditions, including ensuring endangered animals were not affected by radiation.

"This project has been through the most thorough level of environmental impact assessment," he said.

"It has been through more than four years of community consultation and I am extremely confident that with the conditioning that has been put around this project, that it can be constructed and operated in a way that will maintain the environmental values of this area."

However, the WA Conservation Council's Mia Pepper said the Government should ensure any animal which is consumed by traditional landowners, not just those that are endangered, also remain protected.

"In that area there is a lot of hunting and the big concern is around the radiological uptake in bush foods, which could impact public health," she said.

"Whether there's a big risk or a small risk, the point is that there should be monitoring and there should be evidence that the company can provide to the community to say that there is no risk."

Mr Jacob acknowledged the group's concerns but said they had already been evaluated.

"Those matters were looked at extensively through the appeals process," he said.

"They were all addressed in the letter which all of the appellants, including the Conservation Council, would have received in response."

Mr Jacob said the monitoring requirements for Kintyre were at a sufficient level to ensure bush tucker would not be affected by radiation.

"To the extent that bush food consumption would have to increase 100-fold, even to reach basic background [radiation] levels, so it's not even within the realm of being a concern," he said.

Traditional owners, the Martu people, signed a land-use deal with Cameco in 2012.

Kintyre now requires federal environmental approval.

The Conservation Council said environmental groups have vowed to continue to fight the project and will take their concerns to Canberra.

WA uranium mine approved despite looming corruption investigation

Steve Holland

West Australian

6 March 2015

WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob approved a controversial uranium mine proposal on Thursday despite a looming investigation into the dealings of representatives of the traditional owners of the land.

Cameco Australia, in a joint venture project with Mitsubishi Development, acquired the Kintyre uranium deposit in WA's remote Pilbara region in 2008 and the final stages of approval are edging closer.

But dealings of the representatives of the local Martu people, including the business practices of the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation, are currently under investigation by the Office of Regional Indigenous Corporations, or ORIC.

It is alleged that the Martu people, custodians of the land where the proposed uranium mine is located, received a raw deal while the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation enjoyed significant windfalls by negotiating mining rights to the land.

WA Greens uranium spokesman, Robin Chapple, said it was inappropriate for Mr Jacob to give his approval while ORIC was still investigating allegations of corruption levelled at the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation.

"The Minister should not have made any decision until the position of the Martu people, with regards to a uranium mine on their lands, had been absolutely clarified," he said.

"Instead, what Mr Jacob has done is slip this through quietly overnight with complete disregard for the investigation, or the mountain of appeals he has received in opposition."

Mr Chapple also said issues raised by environmental and Indigenous groups had fallen on deaf ears.

"Appeals submitted on the basis of threats to groundwater, radiological uptake by native flora, the lack of baseline studies and commitments to monitoring in key areas have been dismissed," he said.

"If this proposal ever wants to see the light of day it needs to be taken right back to step one and properly assessed."

Dave Sweeney, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the Kintyre uranium proposal directly threatened the unique desert environment of the Karlamilyi National Park and many endangered species.

"This decision sets a poor precedent for an under-performing industry that does not have bipartisan political or wider public support," he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Jacob indicated that the Minister was not concerned by the ORIC investigation.

"The role of the Minister for Environment was to assess the environmental and associated infrastructure proposed by Comeco Australia Pty Ltd," she said.

"The Minister has given environmental approval subject to strict conditions.

"Issues with the Office of the Registration of Indigenous Corporations have no bearing on whether the project is environmentally acceptable."

An ORIC spokeswoman refused to divulge details of the investigation.

The Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation has been contacted for comment but has not responded.

Approval is still required from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

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