An appeals court in Australia has dismissed a bid by traditional owners and the Western Australia Conservation Council to prevent the development of a controversial uranium mine in the state of Western Australia.
The state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had recommended against approving the Yeelirrie mine because it could result in 12 species of subterranean crustaceans unique to the area becoming extinct, The Australian newspaper reported. A former environment minister overruled the EPA recommendation.
Members of the Tjiwarl native title group and the Conservation Council made an application in 2018 to set aside that decision, but it was rejected by a Supreme Court judge.
Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed a further appeal against that ruling, which leaves the door open for Canadian-owned Cameco Australia to develop the site. The proposal to mine up to 7,500 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate a year from the Yeelirrie deposit, includes two open pits, processing facilities, roads, accommodation, stockpile and laydown areas, the EPA report states.
“This case has confirmed our worst fears – that it is legally admissible for a minister to sign off on a project against the advice of the EPA and in the knowledge that it would cause the extinction of multiple species, ” Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said.
“We are very pleased with this outcome,” Simon Williamson, general manager of Cameco Australia said in a statement. “Cameco Australia is committed to minimizing environmental impacts from its projects and we have duly followed the regulatory process, ensuring that the assessment was thorough and transparent. We will continue to work with the local community.”
Yeelirrie has been engaged in a protracted battle between its proponents and anti-nuclear and environmental campaigners supporting traditional owners. Uranium is a radioactive metal used as fuel in weapons and nuclear reactors.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest uranium producer, followed by Canada and Australia, according to the World Nuclear Association.