Uranium approval a threat to WA
The Western Australian Environment Minister has given an important, but not final, approval for WA’s first uranium proposal. Toro Energy’s proposed Wiluna uranium mine still requires federal approval, a number of other state approvals and also faces possible legal challenge over its risks and impacts. Uranium mining is different from mining other minerals and is opposed widely by environment, community and Indigenous groups, many public health bodies and trade unions.
Uranium mining, processing, export and use pose unique and long lasting risks to people and the environment, both here and overseas. In October 2011 it was confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that uranium sourced from Australia was actually inside the Fukushima reactor complex when it melted down. Rocks from Kakadu and South Australia are the source of the radioactive fallout which continues to spread across Japan.
The Australian uranium mining industry has a record of failed standards, radioactive leaks and spills, unresolved long-lived radioactive waste problems, disproportionate impacts on traditional owners and health and safety risks for workers.
There is no bi-partisan state political support for uranium mining in WA and there is no place for this contested and contaminating industry in Western Australia.
Toro Wiluna uranium mine setting record lows
There are clear and continuing deficiencies in WA’s uranium mining regulations that could have serious consequences on our environment, workers and local communities. Some of these were highlighted by a Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) investigation and include inadequate plans to store the long term mine wastes or tailings, deep skill shortages and lack of independent training and expertise.
The Toro Energy proposal sets a low and dangerous precedent on uranium mining in WA and is a very long way from best industry practice.
This mine proposal directly threatens a number of protected and unique species. Advice provided to the EPA from the Department of Environment and Conservation has cautioned over grave risks to these flora and fauna species – in particular newly identified samphires and stygofauna. The EPA assessment has not adequately considered or addressed a range of critical environmental risks including the management of radioactive mine tailings, contamination of groundwater and the transport of radioactive material through WA communities.
The EPA and Toro Energy have conceded that they will run out of water for the project after 7 years. Despite this known shortfall and a lack of investigation into water sources and recharge rates the EPA has recommended the project proceed. Water is precious for both people and for the desert ecosystem and this precious resource needs better protection.
Workers, Community and Health
A disturbing aspect of Toro Energy’s approach is their promotion of fringe scientific views on the health impacts of radiation. In clear conflict with accepted international scientific opinion and industry regulation Toro has repeatedly facilitated industry advocates who claim radiation is not only safe but in low doses can be beneficial to your health.
This view has been rejected by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) and the US National Academy of Sciences.
The promotion of fringe scientific views is irresponsible and dangerous to public health. We need to ensure that communities and potential workers receive information consistent with world’s best practice and scientifically validated knowledge; not industry supported training that allows for these fringe scientific views to permeate into the work force and the corporate culture at the risk of workers and the wider community.
Uranium is unsafe, unwanted and unnecessary
We believe the current push to allow uranium mining in our state is a direct threat to workers’ safety and the long-term health of our environment and communities.
WA has an abundance of natural resources and highly resourceful people. Our state’s future lies not in the controversial and contaminating uranium industry but rather in being a national and international leader in secure safe and renewable energy generation and smart and efficient energy use.
The uranium industry is a high risk – low return sector. Whether you’re a shareholder, a tax payer or a worker an investment in this industry will cost you. West Australians have a choice between the path of broken promises, leaking tailings dams and a radioactive legacy or the path of secure, long term jobs in a safe energy future.
Other sign on’s include Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Nature Conservation Council NSW.