By Emma Webb
ADELAIDE — The federal government announced on March 18 that the Beverley uranium mine, in South Australia's far north, has been given approval. The mine is expected to begin full production next year. It will be Australia's third active uranium mine.
The SA Liberal government is expected to grant the necessary mining licenses within six weeks. Mine operator Heathgate Resources has agreed to pay about $850,000 a year to the four Aboriginal groups who have lodged native title claims over the area.
Heathgate Resources is a subsidiary of the US nuclear energy corporation General Atomics. Beverley will be the western world's first commercial sulphuric acid in-situ leach uranium mine. The technique involves dissolving uranium into ground water by pumping sulphuric acid and oxygen underground. The mix is then brought to the surface, the uranium extracted and waste water injected back into the aquifer.
Environment minister Robert Hill delayed approval for the mine late last year because of concerns that radioactive water could leak from the Beverley aquifer into surrounding ground water, including the Great Artesian Basin.
The Lafferty report, commissioned by the federal government and released earlier this year, proved the minister had been wrong in claiming there were no environmental reasons to prevent approval of the mine. The report showed Australia's uranium mining standards were below those of the US. Hill has now said he is satisfied after further environmental tests.
A Victorian University of Technology report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation, said in-situ leach uranium mining was "not controllable, is inherently unsafe, is unlikely to meet strict environmental controls and is not an environmentally benign method of uranium mining".
For more information about the campaign against the Beverley uranium mine, phone Adelaide Jabiluka Action Group on 8232 8595 or the Australian Conservation Foundation on 8232 2566.