Greens fight Pilbara uranium mining

The Greens want the federal government to reject the proposal by Canadian company Cameco to mine uranium in Western Australia on environmental grounds and say they will fight the bid.

The company needs government approval to mine uranium from its Kintyre deposit in the Pilbara.

The mine, near Telfer, would transport up to 3600 tonnes of uranium oxide per annum to a planned hub near Kalgoorlie, about 1900 kilometres away.

It would be transported between the mine and the hub by truck, but then be shipped by rail to Darwin or Adelaide for export.

The Greens are seeing red over the proposal, partly because the deposit, near the Ruddall River, used to be a part of the nearby Karlamily National Park, before being excised in 1994, according to Greens Senator Scott Ledlum.

“So as you can imagine,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald, “it is pristine natural area and it has environmentally sensitive wetlands in the vicinity.”

He said it was one of the worst possible sites for a uranium mine, due to the risk of groundwater contaminating wetland and is also concerned about using trucks to transport the uranium through Newman, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet and Leonara.

It could potentially be transported through Kalgoorlie if the hub is delayed and fails to be completed by 2013.

Ludlam said this was of great concern to the party, as it would mean uranium oxide would be transported down unsealed gravel roads between remote goldfield towns, Wiluna and Meekatharra, and there are already thousands of truck accidents every year in Western Australia.

"(It’s) particularly provocative now that we’ve got a Canadian/Japanese joint venture proposing to mine uranium out of what used to be a national park while we’ve still got a nuclear plant smouldering in Japan,” he said.

He has accused the WA government of being unconcerned with public health for removing legislative protection and said lead transportation had failed because there are not adequate state laws to regulate it.

That is part of the reason radiation material should not be transported, Ludlam claimed.

The Greens remain optimistic that Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke may reject the mine, but “those debates are yet to be had,” he said.

"We’ve got a new environment minister who hasn’t had one of these things on his desk before.

"We’ve got three or four of these proposals in WA alone now working their way through environmental impact assessments."

Image: The ABC

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.