MAC: Mines and Communities

Australia: Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium mine proposal knocked back

Published by MAC on 2016-08-17
Source: WANFA, ABC (2016-08-04)

Uranium extraction near WA's Wiluna would threaten subterranean fauna, EPA finds.

Traditional owner and Chair of WA Nuclear Free Alliance, Kado Muir, said the decision was "great news" for local Aboriginal groups fighting against mining at Yeelirrie for 46 years.

See also:

2013-04-28 Australian uranium industry's poor record demands inquiry

2010-08-16 Australian Aboriginal communities want a stop to new uranium mining

Traditional Owners welcome Yeelirrie decision and re-affirm anti uranium mining position

WANFA Media Release - https://nuclearfree.wordpress.com/media/

4 August 2016

Traditional Owners at Yeelirrie have fought against uranium mining for over 40 years. The decision from the EPA comes as welcome relief but Traditional Owners remain wary.

Richard Evans Koara elder and co-founder of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance has said “The EPA decision to protect subterranean fauna is a good decision and the right decision and we are happy with the outcome. But we believe the EPA has underestimated the risk to bush foods, public health and water and most importantly our cultural heritage and our community’s opposition to the mine.”

“I invite the Minister (who has never spoken to us before) to come and meet with us the Traditional Owners of Yeelirrie before making a decision about our country. No Minister has come to talk to us about that country. Yeelirrie is an important place in our culture, it is a dreaming site it important to us and other tribes around us. In the short time since WA was colonised there has been drastic changes to the ecosystem and the country.”

“Uranium is different, it is poison, it is dangerous and stays dangerous for thousands of years. Long after the company is gone, long after the Minister is gone there would be impacts from a uranium mine that would pose a threat for every generation to come. I’m here to protect that country, for me and my grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

“It’s not just about protecting this country for us – but uranium threatens communities and country from the cradle to the grave, at home and overseas. This is our responsibility and we take that responsibility seriously. We have to leave this poison where it is.”

“Australian uranium was used at Fukushima, uranium from South Australia and the Northern Territory. I don’t want uranium from my country to be in the next nuclear disaster. I don’t want that responsibility on my shoulders. What I want is for the Minister to come and meet with us, listen to what we have to say, listen to what the EPA has said and say no to Yeelirrie”

Media Comment:

Richard Evans – Co-Founder of WANFA



Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium mine proposal knocked back in WA Goldfields

Western Australia's environmental watchdog has knocked back a proposed uranium mine in the state's Goldfields, at the site of Australia's largest uranium deposit.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-03/uranium-mine-proposal-knocked-back-in-wa/7685538

3 August 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency said Cameco Australia's Yeelirrie Uranium project could not meet one of the nine key environmental factors.

The Canadian company sought to mine up to 7,500 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate per year from the Yeelirrie deposit, about 420 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and 70km south-west of Wiluna.

The facility was to include two open pits, processing facilities, roads, accommodation, stockpile and laydown areas.

It would have transported the uranium oxide by road for export through the Port of Adelaide.

The authority's chairman, Dr Tom Hatton, said the assessment process was extensive and involved public consultation and a site visit.

EPA Chairman Tom Hatton says Cameco had put forward well considered management strategies for the site but there was too much risk to the area's subterranean fauna.

"The project happens to be located in a particular place that is very rich in underground, stygofauna we call it, the animals that live in the groundwater," he said.

"And in the case of three of those species in particular, the risk to their viability as a species was just too great for us to recommend the project go ahead."

Environmental concerns can be 'managed'

In a statement, Cameco said it believed it could overcome the EPA's concerns.

"We believe that with further sampling and research, subterranean fauna can be appropriately managed at Yeelirrie and we will work with government agencies and stakeholders to find a way forward," Cameco Australia managing director Brian Reilly said.

"Cameco believes the long-term fundamentals of the nuclear industry are strong and we are taking prudent steps to prepare our uranium projects for improved market conditions."

The proposal had attracted protests, including from traditional owner and Chair of WA nuclear free alliance Kado Muir, who argued there was no broad community support for uranium mining in Western Australia.

Mr Muir said the decision was "great news" for local Aboriginal groups fighting against mining at Yeelirrie for 46 years.

"The message that we have is by standing strong for country, we're able to show that mining industry doesn't always win and that Aboriginal people who stand up for their country can succeed, as well as working with the environmental movement on protecting important species," he said.

Mr Muir said Cameco's argument that it could manage the species was not possible.

"If you destroy a habitat, and that's where this entire species has evolved and continued to live in isolated pockets beneath the earth, there's no way in the world that you can manage and take them elsewhere and introduce them elsewhere," he said.

Leader of the Koara people, Richard Evans, said he was ecstatic about the decision because the area was a sacred site.

"The place is not a go-zone for anybody and yet foreign people going in there," he said.

"They're wanting to mine it but we're very happy that they're not going to mine it now."

The EPA put the proposal up for public comment for 12 weeks, attracting 169 responses and a further 2,946 pro forma submissions.

A final decision on the proposal rests with the Environment Minister.

The EPA gave a proposal for Western Australia's first uranium mine the green light in 2012, the first to be approved since the lifting of a state ban on uranium mining in 2008.

But the project, put forward by South Australian mining company Toro Energy, has stalled on the back of falling demand and global prices for the commodity.

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