Radioactive risks last longer than any politician and deserve real assessment, not backroom fast-tracking.
The Morrison Government’s quiet approval of a controversial uranium mine in Western Australia on the eve of the federal election being called is more evidence our national environment laws are broken, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says.
Environment Minister Melissa Price approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine on April 10, the day before the Prime Minister headed to Government House to call the 2019 federal poll. Ms Price did not announce the approval via a public release. Instead a notice was later placed on the Environment Department’s website.
The mine had been previously rejected by the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) because it could drive to extinction rare subterranean fauna species and do harm to other wildlife species like the Malleefowl, Princess parrot and Greater bilby.
The Yeelirrie mine, which is in Ms Price’s electorate of Durack, is still being legally challenged on appeal by senior Tjiwarl native title holders and conservationists. Ms Price had previously told media: “My department advised that it was prudent to wait for the result of the WA Supreme Court proceedings before finalising the federal assessment [for Yeelirrie].”
ACF Nuclear Free Campaigner, Dave Sweeney, said Yeelirrie could produce more than 35 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste, use up to 10 billion litres of groundwater, and require 2500 hectares of vegetation to be cleared for its nine-kilometre long open pit.
“The lack of respect for the Australian people and due process demonstrated by this clandestine approval under the cover of a national election is astounding,” Mr Sweeney said.
“The Western Australian EPA explicitly rejected this mine because it threatens rare native fauna with extinction and would harm other species. This prudent recommendation was overruled by the Barnett Government weeks before it lost the 2017 state election.
“Now the Morrison Government has performed the same trick, approving it hours before a federal election was called. This was done without regard for the Tjiwarl Traditional Owners, on whose land the planned mine sits, or the people of Esperance, who could have radioactive material shipped through their port.
“There are many with deep concerns about this project. Any move to mine at Yeelirrie will be actively contested.
“We thought the rushed approval of Adani’s plans to guzzle billions of litres of groundwater for its massive coal mine on the eve of the election was a new low. But somehow hours later this low point was dug deeper by Minister Price.
“Radioactive risks last longer than any politician and deserve real assessment, not backroom fast-tracking.
“For too long Australia’s environment laws have been abused and short-changed by politicians cutting deals that put the interests of big companies over nature, Traditional Owners and local communities.
“The assessment of this project has been deficient. This rushed rubber stamp must be reviewed by any future federal government.
“Australia needs new and stronger national environment laws that actually protect nature and take politics and undue influence out of approval decisions for major industrial projects.
“These laws should be overseen by an independent national EPA that is charged with making approval decisions free from the interfering hand of big businesses and their politician mates.”