The sale of Australian uranium to India is set to dominate talks as Julia Gillard visits New Delhi.
Gillard’s arrival in New Delhi last night is the start of a three-day visit which will include meetings with Indian prime minister Mamohan Singhm and other senior ministers to discuss trade and cultural ties.
Last year the Labor Government overturned a 30-year ban on selling uranium to India, despite the country not having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
At the time Gillard said it was not in Australia’s best interests to be the only country denying uranium trade to India.
Shortly after arriving in the country, Gillard confirmed talks would incorporate the trade of uranium and pointed to India as holding great opportunities.
"I think India is a wonderful example of everything we have been talking about as the possibilities of the Asian century," Ms Gillard told The Australian.
Although India is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is believed talks will centre around the 22 safegaurd agreements around the sale of uranium.
Gillard said the International Atomic Energy Agency would be involved and India would have a protocol with the IAEA in any agreement.
Gillard also pointed out that Australia had negotiated agreements in the past under the proviso "that Australian uranium is only used for peaceful purposes".
Any safeguard agreement is expected to take years to negotiate meaning a final export deal is not expected any time soon.
However, the negotiations do not come without contraversey. Greens nuclear policy spokesman Scott Ludlam said selling uranium to India would be ‘mistake.’
"I'm extremely concerned that Australian uranium will find itself one way or another fuelling a sub-continental arms race," he said.
While Australia is uranium rich, with over 40% of the world’s recoverable uranium, we currently only export 19% of this to the world market.
The Uranium Association of Australia (AUA) predicts that if the uranium industry was able to reach its full potential, exports would increase from 10,000 tonnes a year to 28, 500 tonnes a year. This would equate to between a $14.2 billion to $17.4 billion net value to the Australian GDP.
Uranium mining in Australia has been under the spotlight of late as the NSW government recently announced it was open to expressions of interest from miners wanting to explore Group 11 minerals, which includes uranium and thorium.
NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher said the exploration of uranium in NSW will ‘give the states economy a real boost.’
Uranium mining is also heating up in Queensland. The Uranium Association of Australia along with The Queensland Resource Council (QRC) are lobbying the liberal government to have the uranium ban overturned.
Resources Minister Andrew Cripps has called for a discussion surrounding the issue.
Yesterday, mayor of Mount Isa Tony McGrady said the uranium ban in Queensland was ‘ludicrous and ridiculous’ and should be lifted immediately.
"This ancient policy means Queensland is being denied the jobs, the training, the royalties and the infrastructure that this new industry will provide to our state," he said.
"As Mayor of Mount Isa city in the heart of the Carpentaria mineral province, which is regarded as one of the most successful mining areas in the world, I call upon the Queensland State Government to initiate an inquiry into why the uranium mining ban can't be lifted in Queensland," he said.