Wednesday, October 10, 2012

State Approves WA's First Uranium Mine - Toro Energy

Published on Wednesday October 10 2012 (AEST)  

Environmental approval has been granted for what could be Western Australia's first uranium mine. Environment Minister Bill Marmion today announced Toro Energy Limited's proposed uranium mine near Wiluna, in the northern Goldfields had been granted final environmental approval, subject to conditions. Mr Marmion said his decision followed three weeks' consultation with other decision-making authorities following the draft environmental approval. 

"In reaching this agreement I took into account comments made by agencies, including the Department of Environment and Conservation, resulting in even tighter conditions," he said. The new conditions are designed to strengthen protection of stygofauna; fauna that lives in groundwater systems and groundwater-dependent vegetation as well as better address surface water flows, dust management and rehabilitation. "Toro will also be required to research the water requirements of groundwater-dependent vegetation and more closely monitor stygofauna in the three calcrete ecosystems to be partially impacted by the proposal," Mr Marmion said. Toro Energy's Vanessa Guthrie who is the executive general manager of the Wiluna project said the company had seen the conditions and was comfortable Toro could work within them. The project still has a number of hurdles to pass before construction for the project begins. 

Ms Guthrie said the project was still subject to federal government approval which she anticipated would be completed by the end of the year. The mine would have to go through a project financing phase and go before Toro's board before a final decision on going ahead with the mine would be made. "This would be in mid 2013 and we anticipate construction could start at the end of 2013 before production could start in late 2014." Nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dave Sweeney said there were concerns about the mining of uranium in general as well as the capacity of Toro to manage this project. He said the foundation would join with other concerned parties in an effort to convince the Federal Government not to approve the mine. 

 "There is no transport plan, no adequate water plan and no closure plan," Mr Sweeney said. "How can you sign off on a project if you don't know how to ship the product off? "They've acknowledged they'll be out of water within a decade but have no answer to that. "Our concern is corners will be cut." The mine is expected to produce up to 1200 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate per year across an anticipated mine life of 10 years. Currently, WA has no operating uranium mines. 

In 2008, the Liberal state government lifted a six-year ban on uranium mining that was imposed by the previous Labor government. The opposition still opposes uranium mining but says it will not stand in the way of any planned mine that has received approvals if the party wins the state election in March. There are no other uranium projects in WA that would be fully environmentally approved by the time of the election. 

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