Background on the proposed uranium mine at Wiluna.
Calcrete deposit, estimated 11,000 tonnes uranium
Location:17- 45 kms from Wiluna, Goldfields WA,
The proposed Wiluna uranium mine is a long way from approved and final.
Toro have recieved a conditional approval from the Federal Government – with 36 conditions that require the company to complete a series of studies and management plans that the community have been requesting for over a year. In addition to the 36 conditions from the Federal Government, Toro still a mine closure plan, they still need 100% of mine closure costs upfront in bonds, the still need a suite of permits and licenses for land clearing, water, transport etc. and they need to secure a JV partner to fund the project.
Toro Energy is conducting exploration mining across WA, NT and SA.
- In 2011 – Toro submitted a draft Environmental Review Management Plan to the WA EPA − it was released for public comment in mid-2011. There were over 2060 submissions made to the EPA in opposition to the proposed mine. The ERMP was incomplete on release to the public and groups around the country are calling for the release of the ‘final’ ERMP for further public comment before the EPA completes its report.
- In 2012 – The EPA recommended approval of the project. There were then 9 appeals into the EPAs recommendation. The Appeal committee made a number of changes to the EPA recommendation. The State Environment Minister at the time – Bill Marmion (currently the Mines Minister) decided to give his approval.
- Also in 2012 – the Federal Environment Minister was due to make a decision about the proposal to mine uranium at Wiluna but deferred his decision because Toro had not submitted enough information. The decision was delayed again until the 30th March 2013 – when the Federal Minster gave conditional approval – with 36 conditions.
Toro is buying up tenements close to Wiluna and plans to develop those sites, so the Wiluna site could be the catalyst for a network of small dirty uranium mines around Wiluna. Toro is also exploring other sites further afield in WA, including the Birrindudu site in a joint venture with Cameco, Kintore on the WA/ NT border, Lake McKay in north-east WA. Toro also has exploration projects in the NT at Reynolds Range, Armadeus, Wiso and Tanami. Toro also has several uranium exploration mines in Namibia.
Uranium exploration in the Wiluna region in the 1980s left a legacy of pollution and contamination. Radiation levels more than 100 times normal background readings have been recorded despite the area being ‘cleaned’ a decade ago. Even after the ‘clean up’, the site was left with rusting drums containing uranium ore, and a sign reading “Danger − low level radiation ore exposed” was found lying face down in bushes.
Greens parliamentarian Robin Chapple said in 2000 that: “We found corroded drums of radioactive ore, piles of uranium ore and remnants of wire netting and fence posts. We found some of the most toxic material just being left to blow in the breeze.”
In August 2000, coordinator of the Wiluna-based Marruwayura Aboriginal Corporation Steve Syred said that until about 1993, 100−150 people were living at an old mission three kilometres from the spot where high radiation levels were recorded. Mr. Syred told the Kalgoorlie Miner that the Aboriginal community had unsuccessfully resisted uranium exploration in the area in the early 1980s. Since then many people had lived in the area while the Ngangganawili Aboriginal Corporation was based near the site. Elders still hunted in the area.
- Toro Watch: www.toro.org.au
- Toro Energy Ltd www.toroenergy.com.au
- WA Conservation Council submission to the EPA on the ERMP for Wiluna project (Word file)http://ccwa.org.au/sites/default/files/Wiluna%20ERMP%20Submission_Final.doc
- Historical info: http://web.archive.org/web/20060622155605/http://www.sea-us.org.au/no-way/lakeway.html
More information on the problems after uranium exploration in the 1980s:
- ‘High radiation levels ‘more than hundred times’ safe level at Wiluna mine’, West Australian, 21/7/2010, http://www.perthnow.com.au/business/high-radiation-levels-more-than-hundred-times-safe-level-at-wiluna-mine/story-e6frg2qc-1225895230599
- ‘Radiation high at abandoned uranium mine’, Sunday Times WA, 20/08/2000
- ‘Radiation fear at mine’, West Australian, 24/8/2000
- ‘Radiation reports prompt inspection’, Kalgoorlie Miner, 22/8/2000
- ‘Aborigines Irate Over Uranium Health Risk’, Kalgoorlie Miner, 23/8/2000