While Australia has the world’s largest known reserves of uranium, it accounts for only 11 percent of global output. Uranium mining was banned in the late 1980s in Queensland, although exploration continued. The Queensland government now plans to resume uranium mining as early as next year.
Queensland Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said in a report by United Press International that the state government has accepted the determination by the Uranium Mining Implementation Committee (UMIC), an independent committee established to examine the responsible development and operation of uranium mining in Queensland.
According to UMIC recommendations delivered in March, uranium mining could resume under existing industry regulation and radiation safety systems with some adaptations.
“With the reforms announced today, Queensland will create conditions under which its uranium industry can increase its competitiveness in a very challenging economic environment,” Mr Michael Angwin, CEO of the Australian Uranium Association (AUA), said today in a media release.
“These are very challenging times for the uranium industry, but we know that over the coming decade there will be a supply gap around the world for uranium.”
“By establishing an efficient and transparent regulatory framework for uranium projects now, Queensland is ensuring that the State is as well placed as possible to take advantage of the supply gap as it emerges over the coming years,” he said.
Queensland government believes that its existing systems for regulating mining and radiation safety are “robust and can accommodate uranium across the mining cycle”, providing a firm platform to deal with the assessment of uranium mining in the state.
The state’s plan to advance uranium mining, however, is in conflict with Coalition’s commitment that federal government would retain control of uranium mining.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said in response to the state’s plan, “Uranium mining is an issue of national interest and importance and is rightly a matter for the active consideration of the national government.”
“The Queensland environment and community deserves better than the inadequate and ill-considered plan released today.”
Queensland’s uranium endowment accounts for 2% of the country’s total uranium endowment, valued at about $18 billion.
Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said in a Queensland Times report that the government would begin considering projects by mid-2014.