The Western Australian Supreme Court of Appeal has overturned the Traditional Owner’s legal appeal against the approval of Cameco Australia’s Yeelirrie uranium mining proposal in the northern Goldfields.
The Tjiwarl Native Title group has reportedly fought against the proposed Yeelirrie development for over 40 years, protecting its “sacred lands and culture” from uranium mining, according to Conservation Council of Western Australia director Piers Verstegen.
The CCWA is planning an appeal of the supreme court’s decision, threatening Cameco of “a long, expensive process” should it continue to pursue its uranium mining plans at Yeelirrie.
Cameco received a state nod for the project during the final days of the then-Colin Barnett government in 2017 despite recommendations from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA found that the project would cause the extinction of multiple species of subterranean fauna and a species of saltbush, suggesting the proposal couldn’t meet the state’s environmental legislation.
Yeelirrie has been proposed to involve an open mine pit and processing plant, clearing of 2421 hectares of native vegetation and 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste stored in open pits, according to the CCWA.
Then-state environmental minister Albert Jacob, however, said the government had considered broader economic and social matters, as well as the environmental factors, in deciding to grant approval.
“Further surveys may identify that the species currently only found within the project area are more widespread. I have therefore mandated as part of this approval further survey work and investment in research,” Jacob said.
Cameco also received approval from the WA Department of Environment and Energy in April.
“We have worked with the (Department of Environment and Energy) over the two-year process to demonstrate how we will reduce and manage any environmental risks,” Cameco general manager Simon Williamson said.
Cameco stated that any decisions to advance its projects in Western Australia would depend upon market conditions.
The company acquired the Yeelirrie project from BHP in 2012. More than 10,000 historical and recent drill holes have been completed by prior owners.