WA uranium chase: the race for approval

Proponents of uranium mines in Western Australia are racing to gain environmental approvals ahead of the state election, according to the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

The three projects in the Goldfields that are currently at various stages of assessment include Vimy Resources’ proposed mine at Mulga Rock, Toro Energy’s proposal to mine near Wiluna, and Cameco’s Yeelirrie project.

Mia Pepper, the Conservation Council’s anti-nuclear campaigner, said that companies were seeking security for the projects before the state elections in case the results go the Labor Party’s way.

“Certainly we are getting the sense that for the three uranium projects that’re under assessment … they’re clearly seeking some level of approval before the state election,” she said according to the ABC.

At this stage, here are where the three projects’ approval statuses lie:

  • The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended conditional approval for Toro Energy’s proposal, 30 kilometres south of Wiluna.
  • For Cameco’s project at Yeelirrie, 70 kilometres south-west of the town, the application was knocked back after the EPA said there was too much risk to the subterranean fauna.
  • Vimy’s project at Mulga Rock, 260 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, has had the green light lit since August with preliminary site works given the go-ahead.

Pepper has met the EPA appeals convenor, expressing concern about Mulga Rock, and said that if a project cleared certain hurdles, it would be harder to wind it back.

“An environmental approval is just one layer of approval that a uranium project requires. It’s a political and very contentious issue and certainly the companies are doing everything they can,” she said.

However, even after a positive EPA assessment, uranium projects still require state and federal ministerial backing as well as other approvals and licences.

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