Uranium mine: 'more than the issues we'll lock on to'

Protest outside Toro energy office, 11 October. Photo by Shane Guthrie

Twenty-four hours after telling the world that "people need to start showing some respect for the environment they live in", WA environment minister Bill Marmion showed what he meant by that statement by approving Western Australia's first uranium mine.

The October 9 decision gives state approval to Toro Energy for its Wiluna uranium mine. The mine still requires approval from the federal Labor government, but the state approval is considered to be a major hurdles passed.

The state Labor opposition tries to walk both sides of the street, claiming it is opposed to uranium mining but promising not to close down any mines approved by the current government. This stance contrasts with the policy WA Labor had under its previous leader and is a marker of the shift to the right under Mark McGowan.

Socialist Alliance candidate for Willagee Sam Wainwright said this is a mistaken policy. "Labor should be threatening to reverse approval for the mine and promising to utilise every democratic means possible – including the power of the people – to avoid paying a cent in compensation.

"At the moment, Labor is just giving comfort to the uranium industry and promising to give them a toe-hold to maintain their existence – just as the Bob Hawke government did in 1983 with their 'Three mines policy'.

"Socialist Alliance will be taking a policy to the next state and federal elections that the whole mining sector should be brought under public ownership.

"This will mean we can immediately stop uranium mining, plan a rapid phase out of fossil fuel extraction and manage other mining projects in a way that protects the environment and allows the wealth generated to be used for the benefit of the community."

Forty people protested outside the offices of Toro Energy on October 11 against Marmion's decision.

Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA spokesperson, Marcus Atkinson told Green Left Weekly that after protesting at Toro, the group moved to state parliament where they were joined by Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney who spoke against the approval.

Other speakers included former Greens senator Jo Vallentine and anti-nuclear campaigner Mia Pepper.

ANAWA is planning to contest the mines development in every possible way, including a possible legal challenge.

Toro managing director Greg Hall dismissed the threats, saying there would always be groups opposed to uranium mining that would "lock onto anything they can do to stop it".

Atkinson told GLW Hall should be prepared "because we're going to 'lock-on' to more than just the issue" of uranium mining.