Environmentalists fear new uranium corporation risks Mulga Rock

The Mulga Rock uranium project, east of Kalgoorlie. Photo: NS Energy

Environment groups are concerned about the recent merger between Western Australia uranium hopeful Vimy Resources and Deep Yellow.

Deep Yellow was founded by John Borschoff who, in 2013, described public concerns around Fukushima as a “sideshow”. Borschoff is an enthusiast of less mining regulation. He told the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that Australia and Canada’s regulations are “overly sophisticated”. Borschoff has been proposed as the new CEO.

The proposed new chair is Chris Salisbury, a former head of Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore group who exited following the widespread backlash after Rio destroyed ancient Aboriginal cultural heritage at Juukan Gorge in May 2020. That public outrage has also led to greater community scrutiny on the wider costs and impact of mining operations.

Borschoff and Salisbury are now in charge of the Mulga Rock uranium project, east of Kalgoorlie. The former CEO and Managing Director of Paladin until 2015 are now the CEO and Managing Director of Deep Yellow.

Paladin’s operations in Malawi and Namibia were plagued with worker fatalities, inadequate personal protection equipment, spills of uranium concentrate and other problems.

There have been reports of waste water flows into rivers from Kaylekera, industrial disputes at two African mines and an incident in 2009 where workers were assaulted with tear gas by local police.

Nuclear-free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation Dave Sweeney said: “We have no reason to believe that Deep Yellow will operate any differently to how Paladin did in the bad old days.”

The WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said in December the Mulga Rock project, the only WA-based uranium project, was a development possibility. Environment groups say work at the site has been destructive, but in the absence of the required funding or any board level Final Investment Decision to develop the mine, does not demonstrate “substantial commencement”.

Mia Pepper, from the Conservation Council of WA, said: “We fear Deep Yellow will be no different, or even worse, in addressing the Traditional Owners’ rights and interests, and their opposition to the planned mine.

“We are also deeply concerned about the survival of the endangered sandhill dunnart [a small carnivorous Australian marsupial], as this is one of just three areas left in the country where it is known to exist.

“WA’s regulations and regulatory regime are not fit for purpose when it comes to operators who prioritise cutting costs and corners,” she concluded.