PERTH (miningweekly.com) − The Australian Association of Mining & Exploration Companies (Amec) said on Monday that the Western Australian Labor Party’s decision to reaffirm its ban on uranium mining was “disappointing, short sighted and out of date”.
During a state conference over the weekend, the Western Australian Labour Party, led by Eric Ripper, passed a motion which made it clear that a future Labour government would be under no obligation to approve any mine, regardless of how close the mine was to completion.
"No Labor Minister, no public servant responsible to a Labor Minister will give any approval whatsoever ... to facilitate the continuation or the beginning of a uranium mining project," Ripper was quoted as saying.
Ripper said that no uranium mines would be allowed in Western Australia, and no compensation would be paid to companies that had already made investments in uranium projects, if Labour was elected into power in 2013.
The ban of uranium mining in Western Australia was lifted in 2008, when current Premier Colin Barnett took over the reigns.
“We do not know the underlying reasons behind the Labor Party decision to stick with its 30-year old policy, but they clearly have not considered the considerable economic and social benefits that a strong uranium mining sector will bring to the state and the nation as a whole,” said Amec CEO Simon Bennison on Monday.
“There will literally be thousands of job and infrastructure opportunities lost in many remote and regional areas throughout Western Australia.”
Bennison noted that the declaration of the Labour Party would have a significant detrimental impact on the state’s sovereign risk and attractiveness as a place in which to invest, and would also create uncertainty for any party considering investment in uranium exploration and mining in Western Australia.
“It is now time for the Western Australia Labor Party to catch up with their colleagues in other states/territories that already explore and mine uranium. They should also listen to the Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who has continuously provided his full support to uranium mining throughout Australia, and obviously recognises the benefits that uranium mines create in rural and regional communities across Australia,” said Bennison.
Bennison’s opinions were echoed by the Australian Uranium Association (AUA), which said that the Labour Party’s refusal to give backing to uranium mining in the state would increase the sovereign risk borne by Western Australian taxpayers.
“Western Australian Labor’s policy on uranium mining could cost the state export revenue and jobs,” said the association’s CEO Michael Angwin.
“We are not interested in litigation or compensation; we are interested in mining, in exports and in jobs. It’s a great pity the Western Australian Labor Party isn’t.”
Angwin said that it was “very disappointing” that Labor’s position flew in the face of what was happening in the rest of the world, as the world’s demand for uranium continued to grow.
“They [the Labour Party] are the ones who are out of step and don’t seem to appreciate the significant economic benefits that the removal of the ban on uranium mining has had over the past two and a half years with massive increases in exploration and development expenditure and future economic benefits to come,” Angwin said.
The AUA reported that the Western Australian uranium industry could earn as much as A$460-million in state revenue by 2030 and boost the state’s economic growth by A$3.2-billion over the same period.
Up to 2030, the state’s uranium exports would also assist countries in avoiding some 1.5-billion tons of greenhouse-gas emissions, while rural and regional communities benefitted from the long-term presence of wealth-generating uranium mines and their associated infrastructure and employment.
The AUA expected Western Australia’s four most advanced uranium projects would spend around A$1-billion to get into production. The first mine is expected to go into production by 2013.
The state is estimated to host some 207 000 t of uranium oxide, in over 30 separate deposits.
The Barnett government was reportedly seeking legal advice on the compensation issue, with state Mines Minister Norman Moore saying that the comments by Ripper were “extraordinary.
“Governments can’t simply deny mining companies compensation because they choose to,” he was quoted as saying by The Australian.