While uranium mining has just been placed back on the agenda in Queensland following the state government’s decision to overturn a ban, in Western Australia, that type of project is several steps closer to becoming a reality.
Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium project has been given the green light by the Western Australian Government after WA environment minister Bill Marmion granted final environmental approvals.
Strict environmental conditions have been imposed to strengthen protection of local vegetation and better address surface water flows, dust management and rehabilitation.
The announcement was welcomed by Toro Energy’s managing director Greg Hall.
“This represents a true achievement by many people who have worked diligently to deliver a project that will provide benefits to the local community, as well as to Western Australia, in an environmentally sustainable manner,” he said.
The practice is still prompting opposition, with the Anti Nuclear Alliance of WA (ANAWA) saying it will fight the approval in court.
“Even with this state approval, Toro Energy’s uranium mine is far from a done deal,” said ANAWA spokesperson Marcus Atkinson said.
Atkinson called Toro “a small, inexperienced company with no proven track record” and added that “ANAWA is determined to do everything possible to thwart Toro’s plans, including a legal challenge.”
The Conservation Council of WA (CCIWA) echoed ANAWA’s sentiments, saying the uranium sector was not welcome in WA.
“Toro and their shareholders can expect challenge and contest at every stage,” CCIWA nuclear-free campaigner Mia Pepper said.
The project consists of two uranium deposits near Wiluna. It is expected to process 1.3 million tonnes of ore annually and produce around 820 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate for a minimum of 14 years. The total estimated capital cost is approximately A$280 million.
Existing infrastructure includes close proximity to the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, the Goldfields Highway and Wiluna Airport, which offers direct flights to Perth.
To support the project, Toro will establish accommodation for the workforce, a water supply borefield based on a local underground aquifer, and up to 12 megawatts of on-site gas-fired power generation.
Toro plans to transport product by road via Kalgoorlie to Port Adelaide and, where required, by rail onto Darwin for overseas export.
The construction workforce will consist of as many as 350 workers over a period of about 12 to 15 months. The operational workforce after that will be up to 170. Toro will seek to employ locally and from within the region, including contracting to local and regional businesses
The Wiluna project now requires final approval from the Federal Government, which is currently assessing it.