EPA recommends strict regulation for uranium mine

Release date: 
July 28, 2014

The Environmental Protection Authority has rigorously assessed and recommended conditional approval for a new uranium mine on the Little Sandy Desert.

EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the Kintyre Uranium Project had been scrutinised throughout the Environmental Review and Management Programme, the highest and most thorough level of environmental impact assessment.

This is equivalent to the current Public Environmental Review level of assessment.

“The EPA carefully and methodically examined this proposal and the potential impacts to key environmental factors. Following assurance from key regulatory agencies that the mine could be managed to protect human health, the EPA concluded that approval could be recommended subject to several conditions,” Dr Vogel said.

Cameco Australia Pty Ltd’s project will be located 270 kilometres north east of Newman, in the Shire of East Pilbara on the Little Sandy Desert.

With an expected mine life of about 13.5 years, the proposal includes the construction of associated infrastructure, including mineral processing facilities, offices, accommodation and the discharge of waste to a Tailings Management Facility.

The project also includes the upgrade and construction of 90 km of access road to allow the transportation of uranium oxide concentrate to the Western Australian/South Australian border on route to the Port of Adelaide.

Dr Vogel said the Radiological Council, and the Department of Mines and Petroleum were responsible for ensuring radiation risks were managed within international and national standards to protect human and environmental health.

“The DMP and the Radiological Council are responsible for regulating the mining, processing, packing, handling, storage and transportation of uranium oxide concentrate. The Commonwealth is also responsible for the transportation of uranium oxide concentrate,” Dr Vogel said.

“The EPA consulted with these agencies and in order to ensure clear roles and responsibilities for managing these very important issues, the EPA has decided to not duplicate these statutory regulatory arrangements.”

Dr Vogel said the EPA also provided significant advice to other agencies on the key environmental factor of Rehabilitation and Closure which integrated with the key environmental factors of Inland Waters Environmental Quality and Human Health.

“However, the EPA has recommended a set of conditions for the proposal to meet the EPA’s objectives for Terrestrial Fauna,” he said.

Dr Vogel said the conditions would ensure the project was implemented so that it did not affect the viability of conservation significant fauna, with the proponent to prepare a Conservation Significant Fauna Management Plan.

“The management plan will monitor and manage the requirements for fauna including the Bilby, Mulgara and Rock Wallabies to ensure the impacts to significant species of terrestrial fauna are minimised throughout the construction and operation of the mine, Dr Vogel said.

“The proponent will also need to assess and manage any potential radiological impacts to plants and animals through a risk assessment approach using Australia species information in accordance with best practice requirements.”

Dr Vogel said the EPA noted during the assessment that rehabilitation and closure of the site was a complex task and should be conducted in accordance with best practice approaches.

“The EPA has provided significant advice to DMP on rehabilitation and closure of the site,” he said.

“The EPA has advised that the DMP needs to work closely with the Commonwealth Department of Environment’s Supervising Scientist, a world leader for sustainable closure approaches on uranium mines, when assessing the long term closure of the site. Mine closure plans should also be made publically available where it is legally possible.

The EPA’s report to the Minister for Environment is now open for a two-week public appeal period, closing August 11, 2014.

Appeals are administered by the Appeals Convenor and can be made at www.appealsconvenor.wa.gov.au.

The Minister for Environment will determine the appeals.

This proposal is being assessed under a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth Government.

Both State and Federal Ministers for the Environment will make a decision under their respective legislation.

EPA Report 1522 is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au

Media Contact: Nadia Miraudo 0400 866 450

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