Approval for Yeelirrie uranium project

by WA Government News | Jan 16, 2017
  • Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium project approval subject to 17 strict conditions
  • Western Australia's four uranium projects have the potential to create 1,500 jobs and a $1 billion per year export industry 

The State Government has granted environmental approval for Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium project, subject to 17 strict conditions.

The decision follows a rigorous environmental assessment process, significant public consultation and agreement between Environment Minister Albert Jacob and the Ministers for Water, Mines and Petroleum, Aboriginal Affairs and State Development.

The Premier Colin Barnett said Western Australia had very significant uranium reserves and the Yeelirrie deposit was particularly large by world standards.

"Australia has been producing and exporting uranium for peaceful purposes for more than 30 years and it is high time that Western Australia with our significant reserves, became part of that industry," he said.

"Australia's international treaties guarantee that uranium can only be used for peaceful purposes.  We should also remember that nuclear medicine is also an important part of our health care system."

State Development Minister Bill Marmion said uranium was an important industry for Western Australia.

"Clearly, this project has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits to the State should it proceed," Mr Marmion said.

"The State Government supports a well-regulated uranium industry for the jobs and economic growth potential it provides and for the clean energy production it supports."

In its report on the project, located in the northern Goldfields, the Environmental Protection Authority advised the proposal was acceptable for eight of nine key environmental factors, including protecting human health.  However, it recommended against approval because there was potential for the loss of species of stygofauna and troglofauna in the project area.

Stygofauna and troglofauna are small creatures, predominantly crustaceans, that live permanently underground in water and in soils.

Mr Jacob said in deciding to grant approval, the Government had considered broader economic and social matters, as well as environmental factors.  Conditions have been applied to the proposal requiring Cameco to undertake further surveys and research to improve knowledge of underground fauna and measures to minimise impacts on these species. 

"Further surveys may identify that the species currently only found within the project area are more widespread.  I have therefore mandated as part of this approval further survey work and investment in research," he said.

Mr Jacob said he had also taken on board input from public appeals against the project and advice from the departments of Water and Parks and Wildlife, and would tighten conditions on flora and vegetation, offsets and the public availability of management plans.

"The State Government is committed to ensuring this and the other three uranium mines approved for construction and operation in Western Australia are subject to best-practice environmental and safety standards," he said.

If they proceed, the approved uranium proposals - Vimy's Mulga Rocks, Toro Energy's revised Wiluna uranium proposal and Cameco's Kintyre and Yeelirrie projects - will create about 1,500 jobs and a potential $1 billion a year export industry in Western Australia, based on prices rising to economic levels.

State premier Colin Barnett said he welcomed today's approval and looked forward to Western Australia becoming a significant uranium producer as was already the case in South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Fact File

  • The Cameco project will have an operational life of 18 years and capital and operating costs of $5 billion
  • It is expected to employ an average of 225 people during operations and up to 1,200 people during peak construction 

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