The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has joined the Australian Uranium Association (AUA) in urging the Queenland Government to overturn its uranium mining ban, claiming that such a move would bring numerous economic and environmental benefits.
In a joint statement penned by QRC chief executive Michael Roche and AUA chief executive officer Michael Angwin, the organisations say that “doing so will contribute to greater prosperity, cut greenhouse gas emissions, support North Queensland’s economic development, enhance Queensland’s reputation as an investment destination and facilitate indigenous economic participation.”
Of the world’s proven estimated uranium reserves (5,469,000 tonnes), 23 per cent are held in Australia (1,243,000 tonnes) with a value of more than $300 billion.
The issue, though, is something of a political minefield, and not just in Australia.
Following the Fukushima meltdown in early 2011, many countries are planning to scale back their nuclear power production, with some setting deadlines for a complete shutdown of all nuclear power reactors.
In Australia, opposition groups have cited wide-ranging environmental impacts, indigenous land access and nuclear proliferation as reasons for ceasing or restricting the industry, arguments the QRC and AUA have aimed to counter.
“Australia’s uranium exports are used for peaceful purposes only and Australia plays a significant global role in nuclear safety, security and safeguards,” they say. “Despite events such as the Fukushima tsunami, demand for nuclear energy and uranium will grow. Emerging nations in particular need reliable electricity supply to meet their citizens’ aspirations, and large-scale baseload generating capacity is currently available using fossil fuels, hydroelectricity and nuclear energy.”
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.
The URC/AUIA statement goes on to state that uranium-fuelled nuclear energy has a history stretching back half a century in which the energy source has played a role in reducing reliance on carbon-based fuel sources and greenhouse emission.
“Developing Queensland’s uranium deposits will create new jobs, support new businesses and help to consolidate the state’s reputation as a leading mining investment destination,” the statement reads.
Modern uranium mining has been around since the 1970s in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and only stopped in Queensland in 1982.
With the industry about to make inroads into Western Australia under the close watch of state and federal environmental authorities, the organisations have questioned why it should not be permissible to mine and export uranium again in Queensland with significant deposits available in the north of the state around Mount Isa.
The organisations have issued a challenge to the current Queensland government in hopes of moving their agenda forward.
“Overturning the previous government’s uranium mining ban will take political courage,” they say in their statement. “The Queensland Government has the chance to build an effective legislative and regulatory framework – better for the experience of other states and territories – to grow a safe and responsible uranium mining industry and a new royalty revenue stream.”