Queensland to lift ban on uranium mining

22 October 2012

A 23-year-long ban on uranium mining in the Australian state of Queensland is to be overturned, premier Campbell Newman announced, 22 October.

“It’s been 30 years since there was uranium mining in this state, and in that time Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia have carved out successful uranium industries that deliver jobs and prosperity to their regions,” Newman said in a statement.

Queensland’s known uranium deposits are worth an estimated $10 billion, according to Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps. Industry group, the Australian Uranium Association (AUA) put the value even higher, at $18 billion, using projected prices and current exchange rates.

Permitting the development of new uranium mines would provide a significant boost to the economies of north and northwest Queensland, AUA said.

“That $18 billion resource in the ground has the potential to generate as much as $900 million in royalties for the State when it is mined,” said Michael Angwin, the Chief Executive of the AUA, which described the annoucement as 'a major victory.'

The news was also welcomed by industry. Paladin Energy, which owns deposits in the region, commended the decision, describing the ban as ‘an ideological relic from a previous time.’

Angwin said that uranium companies would likely respond to the legalisation of mining in Queensland with an immediate boost in exploration spending. When uranium mining was permitted in Western Australia in 2008, uranium companies there responded with a record $100 million spending blitz, according to the AUA.

Potential uranium projects in Queensland include Laramide Resources' Westmoreland project, formerly owned by Rio Tinto. That deposit hosts an estimated 51.9 million pounds U3O8 (NI-43-101 compliant), and is expected to produce over 3 million pounds U3O8 a year, according to the company's website.

Uranium mining has not occurred in Queensland since 1982 and has been effectively prohibited since the election of the Goss Labour Government in 1989. A three-member implementation committee will now oversee the resumption of uranium mining in the state, and is expected to report to the state government in three months.

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