Miners may soon be able to explore for uranium in NSW as the state government overturns the ban.
NSW premier Barry O’Farrell will most likely overturn the ban today.
"It is time for NSW to look at every opportunity to join the mining boom, which is delivering enormous profits and jobs to Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia," O’Farrell told the Sydney Morning Herald.
However, he stated that the first job is to outline the size of the state’s uranium deposits.
"We are not about to rush into mining uranium until we have carried out the necessary environmental and exploration checks and have had a mature and sensible discussion about utilising this resource.
"But we would be crazy not to look at whether this is a viable industry which would deliver jobs and revenue to NSW."
O’Farrell originally put forth the motion to remove the ban in December last year after he said in August that the government would not consider repealing the uranium ban.
Responding to a question by opposition leader John Robertson on whether the government is considering a repeal on the ban, O’Farrell tersely stated ‘No’.
Today’s move has drawn criticism from the Greens, with Northern Territory senator Scott Ludlam branding the move ‘a random act of colossal stupidity’.
The Greens spokesperson for nuclear affairs stated that O’Farrell should have stuck to his previous position on mining prior to being lobbied by uranium groups and Federal resources minister Martin Ferguson.
“In August 2011 it was revealed that resources minister and nuclear fanatic Martin Ferguson had urged Premier O’Farrell to lift the ban and the Australian Uranium Association had lobbied state resources and energy minister Chris Hartcher to do their dirty work. Asked in parliament if the government was considering lifting the ban, the Premier said no," Ludlam said.
“Uranium mining in the Northern Territory has a long and sorry history. More than forty years after Rum Jungle’s closure, the Federal Government recently committed eight million dollars over four years just for an attempt to figure out how to clean up the mess.
“Australian uranium was used in every reactor at Fukushima. Why would the O’Farrell Government want New South Wales to be complicit in the next disaster?”
However the announcement was welcomed by the NSW Minerals Council, which called for a sensible debate over uranium in the state.
"We support the responsible exploration and scientific discovery of all of the State’s mineral resources, including uranium," NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said.
"A number of other States already allow the exploration of uranium and the Federal Government has recently updated its policy position to permit exports to India for energy generation.
Galilee went on to say that existing laws in the state have prevented the development of a uranium resources database.
"The Government can now start building its understanding of any potential uranium deposits so our policy makers can make informed decisions about all of the State’s assets in the future."
Uranium mining is legal in South Australia and the Northern Territory, where Energy Resources Australia operates the Ranger uranium mine.
Western Australia also recently legislated uranium mining in the state.
Martin Ferguson has also called on Victoria to lift its ban.
”Uranium exploration and mining have long been banned in Victoria. This limits our knowledge of potential deposits in these states,” he said.
”The issue of uranium exploration and mining is something I believe the incoming governments in Victoria will need to consider.”
But the Victorian Energy Minister, Michael O’Brien does not agree with the suggestions made by the federal minister, saying the state would not be relaxing its ban on uranium exploration or mining.
Australia‘s uranium output is expected to double in the next four years and quadruple within 20 years.