Remediation efforts continue at abandoned uranium mine

Queensland officials inspected the abandoned uranium mine at Mary Kathleen last week, as part of an ongoing assessment of the site’s remediation status.

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps announced last year, the government would assess opportunities for mining at the site, which contains millions of tonnes of ore tailings.

“Rare earth elements in the North West are commonly found in conjunction with copper, gold and uranium mineralisation,” Cripps said at the time.

Unlocking these resources would prove to be an extremely lucrative project for the Queensland government.

It is estimated rare earth minerals at the site could be worth up to $4 billion, with a potential royalty to the state of $100 million.

However Cripps said last week’s visit was part of regular monitoring of environment issues at the mine, Townsville Bulletin reported.

"(Officers) will undertake in-depth field assessments later this month, including drilling at the tailings dam," Cripps said.

"This work will enable the department to gain a much better understanding of the current condition of the abandoned mine."

A spokesperson for the minister said the inspection was not connected to an assessment of opportunities for future mining at the site.

The Mary Kathleen mine is under a Restricted Area 232 status, meaning exploration and production are both prohibited.

"Remediation and environmental management issues are critical factors for the Queensland Government to address prior to any future consideration about whether or not to release land from Restricted Area 232," Cripps said.

Cripps said Abandoned Mine Lands program officers from the Department and the Geological Survey of Queensland would undertake field assessments later this month, including drilling at the tailings dam.

"This work will enable the Department to gain a better understanding of the current condition of the abandoned mine," he said.

The Greens North Queensland spokesperson Jenny Stirling, said "toxic" tailings at the mine meant that uranium mining had made the site useless for other purposes.

"They are looking to mine rare earth and, if they had the good sense that God gave them, they would know that they would have to deal with the toxic tailings of uranium mining at Mount Kathleen," Sterling said.

"It's just a highly problematic situation."

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