Uranium mining inevitable: MP

Thursday, 18th October, 2012

By Erica Visser

There had been no local backlash against a State Government move to allow companies to explore for uranium and it was only a matter of time before it would be mined, according to State MP John Williams.

The comments follow NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell's decision to overturn a 26-year ban on uranium exploration in NSW earlier this year.

Mr Williams defended the decision yesterday after a representative of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) visited the city to warn about the dangers of mining uranium.

NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher has been adamant that legalising uranium mining was a separate issue to allowing exploration.

But Mr Williams yesterday said that permitting mining would be the next logical step.

"It's where the market is probably heading and there's no doubt that the opportunity to explore for uranium allows us to play a part in the market," he said.

He also said that the trend for "clean" energy would not be enough.

"Certain people would have you believe that the renewable energy is a replacement but the fact is base load energy is very important.

"Base load allows us to ensure that we've got electricity available on demand but unfortunately with sources of renewable energy we don't have that luxury."

While the uranium market had dropped following the Japanese Fukoshima disaster, Mr Williams said it would pick up and nuclear energy would eventually be used in Australia.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited India this week to negotiate to the sale of uranium to that country.

"We could find that South Australia could...start generating nuclear energy," Mr Williams said.

South Australia mines uranium at the Honeymoon mine, about 75km north-west of Broken Hill.

"Places like South Australia need to start considering nuclear power. The coal resources at Leigh Creek are nearly depleted," Mr Williams said.

If a nuclear plant was developed near Broken Hill it would be completely safe, he said.

"You've got to understand that the protocols that surround the establishment of nuclear plants are designed to remove any risks," he said.

"The situation in Japan actually advised engineers to build the tsunami wall to a greater height and they didn't; the nuclear plant didn't fail."

Australian Geologist Professor Ian Plimer said that Broken Hill was rich in uranium but it was not known whether it had the geology for a uranium mine.

"Uranium is much richer in Broken Hill than the rest of NSW but uranium exploration doesn't necessarily mean a uranium mine," he said.

"Most uranium exploration is unsuccessful. I think unless exploration is successful, talking about uranium mining is premature."

Comments by ANFA Project Co-ordinator, Natalie Wasley, that there would be little money in uranium mining for the city, were "uninformed", Prof. Plimer said.

"You can't comment on economics until you know the percentage of uranium in the rock. They're uninformed comments there's no data to support it."

He said that if the decision to legalise exploration created even one job in Broken Hill it would be a positive.

"One job in Broken Hill is a hell of a lot more than one job in Melbourne.

"There's always jobs created through exploration and Broken Hill is one of those places with a lot of exploration skills."

Applications for uranium exploration licences close next month and company's could be granted a licence by next year.