Victoria blocks prospect for uranium mining

Victoria’s Legislative Council Environment and Planning committee has flagged that it is unlikely that the state will change its stance on uranium mining.

In the committee’s its inquiry into nuclear prohibition report, the committee pondered Australia’s future for uranium mining and its usages in nuclear energy.

Victoria is currently the only Australian state not permitted to undertake uranium exploration, and mining of the commodity is only permitted in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania.

According to the report, the current Australian market for uranium or thorium products is receiving enough supply via international imports and the Lucas Heights open-pool Australian lightwater (OPAL) reactor in Sydney.

“In this report, the committee makes no recommendations and does not take a strong position on nuclear power as an alternative energy source in Australia and particularly in Victoria,” the committee stated.

“It is clear that currently, it is not possible to accurately cost nuclear energy as no nuclear energy industry exists in Australia and therefore any costing would be speculative and based on experiences of other countries with different infrastructure.”

The committee is not convinced that uranium and thorium exploration activities are economically or technologically viable in Victoria.

This was backed up by comments from the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) infectious diseases physician Tilman Ruff, who said export earnings did not even cover employment costs for miners.

“The industry has for over a decade never cracked close to $1 billion a year in export income,” Ruff said.

“They are a relatively small cohort. It employs, on the most recent estimates I have seen, a maximum of about 700 people.”

From the three operational uranium mines in Australia – Olympic Dam and Four Mile in South Australia and Ranger in the Northern Territory, which is closing in January – all uranium products are exported.

At present, the assessment and approval process for ministerial permission to develop a uranium mine takes at least three years.

With Victoria’s solid uranium mining ban, the Minerals Council of Australia stated that “Victoria effectively sends a message there is no point in investors considering Victoria in relation to uranium”.

Despite Australia’s cautious stance on uranium mining activities, the nation is the third largest producer of the commodity in the world, with an output of 7618 tonnes in 2018-19.

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