Western Australia Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore
State Budget 2010-11: World’s Best Practice Will Rule Uranium Sector
Victor P Taffa
The State Government intends to help deliver world’s ‘best practice’ regulation of Western Australia’s future uranium mining industry with expenditure of $700,000 in 2010-11.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore announced today that funding allocated to the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) for uranium mining and exploration would provide about $300,000 in operational funding.
The remaining $400,000 will fund three positions to increase capacity and ensure delivery of best practice regulatory services.
“Almost 18 months ago the State Government unlocked WA’s extensive uranium resources when it announced it had lifted the ban on uranium mining in WA.” Mr. Moore said.
“The decision was not made lightly and the State Government has clearly stated its intention that best practice regulation will govern any future uranium mining.”
“We already have the benefit of about 40 years of experience in regulating the mining of radioactive minerals such as mineral sands.”
Uranium mining activities in WA are subject to regulation by agencies such as the DMP (the main regulator), the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Environmental Protection Authority, the Radiological Council, the Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Water.
“In addition to our own very rigorous regulatory regime, uranium is subject to comprehensive regulation and oversight by several Commonwealth agencies to ensure there are no adverse impacts on workers, the community or the environment.” the Minister said.
“This is consistent with other aspects of the State Government’s approach to implementing effective and efficient regulation of mining activities in WA.”
“This includes the introduction of the ‘lead agency’ approach to project approval announced in October 2009 and the Reform and Development at Resources Safety (RADARS) strategy that is currently being implemented.”
Since the State Government reversed the ban there has been significant uranium exploration across the WA.
“WA has uranium resources in excess of 445 million pounds, or more than 201 kilotonnes, in nearly 30 separate deposits across the State.” Mr. Moore said.
“The State is also highly prospective for further uranium discoveries, which has attracted exploration in Greenfield areas.”
The increase in exploration comes as three companies push to establish the first uranium production project in WA.
BHP Billiton, Toro Energy and Mega Uranium, with joint venture partners Japanese Australian Uranium Resources Development Company and ITOCHU Minerals Energy Australia, are seeking to establish the first three uranium mines in WA.
The projects are now in the State and Commonwealth environmental approvals process, with others likely to follow in the coming years.
The Minister said the first uranium mine in WA could be in production by 2012, with the potential for annual exports of about 5,000 tonnes if the three mines were in simultaneous production.
“The value of uranium exports in WA could potentially be more than $450 Million a year and the industry could provide much-needed jobs.” Mr. Moore said.
“These annual exports, when used to generate electricity at nuclear power stations, could help avoid an estimated 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gases that might otherwise be emitted each year by existing fossil-fuelled power stations in Europe, Asia and North America.”