A 26 year ban on uranium exploration overturned
In April 2012, the NSW O’Farrell government repealed 26-year ban on uranium exploration. Separate legislation is required to lift the NSW ban on uranium mining.
In particular, the NSW government removed the right of Aboriginal Land Councils to refuse access to their lands for uranium exploration.1 This is unacceptable. Uranium exploration must not be conducted without the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal custodians and landowners.2
What will happen next?
On Friday September 14th, applications for expressions of interest to explore for uranium opened. Expressions of interest close on November 13th 2012.
Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher receives these expressions of interest and must then consent to receive applications for uranium exploration.
What areas of NSW are likely to be targetted for exploration?
The NSW government says routine aerial geophysical surveys have identified low concentrations of uranium in parts of New South Wales, including the New England region, Western NSW particularly Broken Hill, Central NSW and Southern NSW. Of course, this covers much of the state – and other areas would also be affected by potential future tranportation of uranium and radioactive materials.
What are the risks from uranium exploration and mining?
Uranium is unlike any other mineral – it has uniquely dangerous properties and associated risks. Uranium mining is linked to the production of some of the world’s most toxic and long-lasting industrial wastes and the proliferation of the world’s most destructive weapons.
Uranium exploration and mining in NSW would result in severe environmental damage at and around any mine site, including the permanent contamination of water. It would increase health risks to workers and communities across the state through increased exposure to radiation from uranium ore and other materials like radon gas, heavy metals, acids and industrial chemicals.
What has been happening with the nuclear industry since Fukushima?
Since the beginning of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, governments and investors have been reconsidering and divesting from the uranium sector. Around the world nuclear power programs are being reviewed with many being reduced or closed.3 Despite this New South Wales recently removed a 26-year ban on uranium exploration: in the shadow of Fukushima we should not be opening our state to uranium mining.
The nuclear industry promotes nuclear power as a solution to climate change. It is not.4 We cannot solve one environmental and social problem by embracing another. Investment in renewable energy would create thousands of jobs, especially in regional Australia, without the health risks associated with uranium mining and nuclear energy.
What should happen in NSW?
New South Wales is at a crossroads in relation to uranium exploration and mining. The current push to allow uranium exploration is a direct threat to workers’ safety and the long-term health of our environment and communities. As history shows, uranium mining makes little economic sense and leaves a lasting radioactive legacy.
Our state’s future does not lie in the contested and contaminating uranium industry, but as an international leader in renewable generation and efficient energy use.
We call on all Members of Parliament to resist the push for uranium mining in NSW. The nuclear industry is high cost and high risk. Our shared energy future should be renewable – not radioactive.
1 Mining Legislation Amendment (Uranium Exploration) Bill 2012 – Schedule 5 Amendment of Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 No 42 — 2 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 32 at http://ow.ly/cWF5l — 3 The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012, Mycle Schneider Consulting, Paris, July 2012 at http://ow.ly/cWFj4 — 4 Dr Jim Green, Nuclear Power: No Solution to Climate Change, Australian Conservation Foundation et al, http://ow.ly/cWF82