THE ban on uranium exploration in NSW could soon be lifted, with legislation recently introduced to Parliament in an attempt to bring the state in line with the uranium development stance held by WA, Queensland and South Australia. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Resources and Energy minister Chris Hartcher released a joint statement in mid-February announcing that they wanted their state to have the same
mineral exploration opportunities as other Australian states which now have bipartisan support for uranium exploration at a federal level.
“It is time for NSW to look at every opportunity to join the mining boom which is delivering enormous profits and jobs to Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia,” Mr O’Farrell said in the statement.
“We want to be part of the boom. The first step is to establish the size, quality and location of any potential uranium deposits in NSW,” he added.
According to the Australian Uranium Association (AUA), uranium exploration expenditure in Australia had increased from $10 million in 2003-2004 to more than $200 million in 2010-2011. It reported that after bans in WA were lifted in 2008, uranium exploration expenditure there quadrupled to more than $100 million in three years.
The AUA also stated that the extent of the uranium resource in NSW was unknown because there had not been any exploration in that state in a generation, however, AUA chief executive officer Michael Angwin said in a statement that: “What we do know…is that the more we explore, the more we find.” Mr Hartcher suggested that the most valuable deposits were likely to exist in the west of NSW, given the abundant resource across the border in South Australia.
Mr O’Farrell pointed out one potentially positive impact the decision could have on the state, saying that revenue from uranium mining could
be funnelled into improving state infrastructure such as roads, rail and hospitals.
“People are already moving in big numbers to Queensland and Western Australia because there are well paid, secure jobs in the mining areas.
“We want people to start moving to NSW because this is the state which can offer the attractive jobs that people want to secure,” Mr O’Farrell said. Mr O’Farrell and Mr Hartcher agreed that the decision to overturn the uranium moratorium was not taken lightly. “We are not about to rush into mining uranium until we have carried out the necessary environmental and exploration checks, and have had a mature and
sensible discussion about utilising this resource, but we would be crazy not to look at whether this is a viable industry which would deliver jobs and revenue to NSW,” Mr O’Farrell said.
According to Mr Hartcher, there would be no uranium exploration in traditional mining areas: “This is a new area of
exploration and a new opportunity to create an industry which will give the NSW economy a real boost. “This exploration policy is supported
by former Premier Bob Carr, AWU [The Australian Workers Union] boss Paul Howes and Federal Labor Resources minister Martin Ferguson,” he said.
Mr Angwin said he expected that uranium exploration companies would go out of their way to engage honestly, openly and transparently with the communities in which they intended to explore.
“During the last five years, a number of uranium projects has [sic] been approved under environmental law. The Commonwealth minister giving the approval has each time emphasised the best practice involved and lack of credible threat to the environment,” he said.
“That shows that the uranium industry can meet all the environmental