While Prime Minister Tony Abbott sealed a deal in New Delhi to export uranium to India, the Queensland government granted six mining development leases to two companies on September 5.
No uranium has been mined in Queensland since 1982 and has been banned since 1989. However in October 2012 the QLD government lifted the mining ban.
Summit Resources was granted four of the mining development leases and Fusion resources were granted two. The leases cover areas near Mount Isa and are the latest stage in Premier Campbell Newman’s plan for the uranium industry.
The Courier Mail said on September 5: “The resources hold an estimated $4 billion of uranium, but only a fraction of this can be economically mined and a mine may still be years away.”
The article also reported: “Summit Resources boss Brendan O'Hara said his company had spent about $40 million in exploration.
“’But the uranium price is too low so we are not moving at a terrific pace,’ he said. Summit's shares jumped 12% on the news.”
The decision to grant licences has been heralded in some quarters as an economic boost to north-west Queensland. The North West Star quoted Mt Isa Mayor Tony O’Grady on September 5: “For the government to issue these [mineral development licences] is the first step before a mining lease is granted and then development work starts.
“That’s when we will see the hundreds of new jobs in our area leading on to the permanent jobs once the mines start production”
But the economic benefits are illusory. In an opinion piece in the Courier Mail on September 8, Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Jim Green wrote: “Vanessa Guthrie from Adelaide-based uranium explorer Toro Energy, who is accompanying Prime Minister Tony Abbott on his trip to India, claims that by 2018-19 the uranium industry could generate 10,000 jobs.
But according to the most generous estimate, that of the World Nuclear Association, uranium mining and exploration account for just 1700 jobs in Australia — that’s 0.015 per cent of all jobs. So Guthrie anticipates a sixfold expansion in just five years, at a time when global nuclear power capacity is stagnant?"
Opposition spokesperson Jackie Trad said that a future state Labor government would move swiftly to reinstate the ban.
“It remains our view that the risks and hazards inherent in uranium mining far outweigh the economic benefits. In fact, independent reports show a uranium industry would support just 150 jobs in Queensland.
“Even if all known deposits of uranium were mined the expected royalties would only be around 1% of the State’s current royalty revenue. Uranium mining simply doesn’t stack up on either economic or environmental grounds.
“The LNP has produced no case to justify this potentially catastrophic policy U–turn.”
Friends of the Earth Brisbane has started a campaign of lobbying MPs and will soon announce action plans.
Townsville community activists have been mounting a concerted campaign against the re-opening of the Ben Lomand mine near Townsville. The mining lease for Ben Lomand is up for grabs in December. If mining were to go ahead in this area it would place yet another nail in the coffin of the Great Barrier Reef.
[For more information, visit No to a Uranium mine at Ben Lomond near Townsville on Facebook.]