Australia is home to around 40% of the world’s uranium reserves and currently supplies around 20% of the global market, with exports of around 10,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (yellowcake) each year.
There are three uranium mines commercially operating in Australia:
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA, majority owned by Rio Tinto) operate Ranger mine in Kakadu;
BHP Billiton run the Olympic Dam (Roxby) mine in northern South Australia; and
Heathgate Resources run the small Beverley mine, also in South Australia; and
Honeymoon is an approved mine owned by the Canadian company Uranium One and located near Beverley in SA. The mine has commenced production but not full commercial operations.
Another uranium mine, Toro Wiluna, is currently under consideration in Western Australia. It has been given pending approval by the WA state government, but still requires Commonwealth approval and a number of other State Approvals that the EPA has deferred. ACF is currently campaigning against this plan.
All the operating mines have a history of leaks, spills and accidents. In fact, a damning investigation by the Australian Senate in 2003 found the sector characterised by a pattern of underperformance and non-compliance, an absence of reliable data to measure the extent of contamination or its impact on the environment, and an operational culture that gives greater weight to short term considerations than long-term environmental protection.
The investigation concluded that changes were necessary in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from ‘serious or irreversible damage.
The nuclear journey begins with uranium mining and 70% of the world’s uranium lies on Indigenous lands. These impacts can be wide ranging and include both environmental and cultural/social and also apply to broader communities.
Uranium mining in Kakadu
We have long campaigned for an end to uranium mining in the unique Kakadu region. Kakadu is Australia’s largest National Park and is World Heritage listed for both its environmental and cultural importance. Despite this listing, uranium mining has been occurring in the region since 1980 and continues to threaten the communities and country of Kakadu.