The Queensland State Government has risen to the challenge of the Queensland Resource Council (QRC) and the Australian Uranium Association and overturned the decision of the previous government to ban uranium mining.
While the decision came as good news to the mining industry, it has angered conservation groups.
The Australian Conservation Foundation says that just two weeks ago Premier Campbell Newman had written to them assuring them that he had ruled out a return to uranium mining in Queensland.
“I take this opportunity to reaffirm my statements, made before the last election, that the State Government has no plans to approve the development of uranium in Queensland,” Newman wrote in an October 11 letter. “We consider that there are higher priorities in the resources and energy sector, particularly with respect to the development of coal, coal seam gas and related energy sources.”
The letter, however, also included a statement from Newman that it was not the place of government to “stifle genuine debate” on uranium mining.
Although the government will not allow uranium processing or waste storage in Queensland, the ACF was “bitterly disappointed” the Premier’s view had changed so rapidly.
The Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney tweeted that the decision to put the issue back on the agenda was motivated by a desire to guarantee Queensland jobs.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, however, said many Queenslanders believed they voted on this issue at the state election in March, when both parties had similar policies.
“Both parties told voters they did not support uranium mining,” Palaszczuk said. “If the Premier can’t be trusted to keep his word on uranium mining, what value are his claims he will not proceed with a nuclear power industry in Queensland?”
Queensland’s Electrical Trades Union described the change in policy as “the dirtiest betrayal of all” while ETU State Secretary Peter Simpson called uranium mining “a toxic, secretive industry that we do not want our members involved in.”
Despite opposition from many corners, the decision is sure to please the QRC and AUA, who have already stated they believe mining the state’s uranium deposits “will create new jobs, support new businesses and help to consolidate the state’s reputation as a leading mining investment destination.”
Of the world’s proven estimated uranium reserves (5,469,000 tonnes), 23 per cent are located in Australia (1,243,000 tonnes) with a value of more than $300 billion.
Forecasts by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics predict a 38 per cent increase in export volumes and an 86 per cent increase in export revenues by 2014 despite the negativity surrounding uranium.