Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New South Wales Opens Door To Uranium Miners

Published on Wednesday February 15 2012 (AEST)

LEGISLATION to allow mining companies to explore for uranium in NSW will be introduced to Parliament after state cabinet agreed to overturn a decades-old ban.

The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, will announce the decision today, arguing it will help boost the state economy.

''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," Mr O'Farrell said.

He said the first step was to establish the scope of uranium deposits in NSW. The ban on exploration has prevented a clear understanding of potential deposits but the government says it is aware they may exist around Broken Hill.

''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,'' Mr O'Farrell said.

The opposition and the Greens oppose the decision, saying Mr O'Farrell is betraying his earlier opposition to uranium exploration in the state.

The Herald revealed last year that Mr Hartcher was considering dumping the ban, after a meeting with the Australian Uranium Association in June.

Mr Hartcher and Mr O'Farrell initially denied they had plans to overturn the ban, but Mr O'Farrell told a conference in December that the government would ''review'' the ban, describing it as ''hangover legislation from the 1970s''.

He linked the decision to the announcement days earlier by the federal Labor Party to overturn its ban on uranium exports to India.

The legislation will pass the Legislative Assembly, where the government has an overwhelming majority, but will be opposed by Labor and the Greens in the upper house, leaving its passage in the hands of crossbench MPs from the Shooters and Fishers and Christian Democratic Party, who share the balance of power.

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, condemned the move to overturn the ban.

''This is a massive backflip by the Premier, who only months ago declared his emphatic opposition to uranium mining and exploration in NSW,'' Mr Robertson said.

''The people of NSW didn't vote for Barry O'Farrell so he would set up uranium mines in their backyards.''

The Greens mining spokesman, Jeremy Buckingham, said Mr O'Farrell did not take the proposal to the election. ''He should seek a mandate before repealing the prohibition,'' he said.

A campaigner with Greenpeace Australia, Julien Vincent, said the decision was ''obscene''.

The chief executive of the Australian Uranium Association, Michael Angwin, said recent uranium mining approvals by the federal government showed uranium projects could meet stringent environmental standards. ''[The approvals] have emphasised a lack of credible threat to the environment,'' he said.

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