PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has called for a reform of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, to allow Australia to benefit from uranium mining.
In a paper commissioned by the MCA, environmental assessment expert Lachlan Wilkinson recommended the Act be reformed to streamline environmental approval of uranium projects while retaining environmental protection.
His analysis of the EPBC Act explored two issues linked to uranium mining: radiation safety and nuclear proliferation, finding that radiation safety is not unique to uranium and is comprehensively assessed and regulated by state bodies, with further federal review adding cost for no added benefit.
The analysis also found that proliferation concerns were dealt with by other legislation and treaties.
“With the second statutory 10-year review of the EPBC Act due next year, it’s time to end the Act’s discrimination against uranium, which is adding unnecessary delay and cost to uranium projects and handicapping Australia’s world-class uranium industry,” MCA executive director for uranium, Daniel Zavattiero said.
“Under the EPBC Act, two mines with identical impacts are treated differently merely because of the commodity that is being mined.”
“Australia can reform its treatment of uranium under the EPBC Act – which requires that all uranium projects obtain federal environmental approval, regardless of size or impact – without any additional environmental cost and allow the industry to prosper and create more jobs at home, while producing fuel for zero emissions power generation abroad,” Zavattiero said.
The analysis suggested that if the Australian government wished to retain uranium mining and milling as a nuclear action, it should make a number of amendments to the EPBC Act and regulations, including changing the nuclear action trigger so it only applied if the radiological aspects of a proposed action are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, and limit the Act assessment of uranium to the radiological aspects of the proposal.
Australia has almost a third of the world’s uranium, yet produces just 10% of world production.
“We are missing out on future investment, jobs and exports while countries like Kazakhstan and Canada exploit continued expansion in the global nuclear industry,” Zavattiero noted.
He pointed out that no federal environmental conditions in relation to the uranium projects approved to date have related to uranium-specific issues that were not already covered by the state approval process.
“The EPBC Act should be amended to remove the handicap on our world-class uranium producers, developers and explorers who want a greater share of growing global demand,” he added.