29 July 2014
Ebonnie Spriggs and Lucie Bell
Representatives of traditional owners in the East Pilbara have welcomed environmental approval for a proposed uranium mine and condemned a bid by a conservation group to appeal against the decision.
The Martu people signed a land-use deal with Cameco Australia in 2012, allowing the company to develop its Kintyre mine, north-east of Newman.
The project was granted conditional approval on Monday by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the decision was now open to public comment for two weeks.
Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC) negotiated on behalf of the Martu with Cameco.
Corporation chief executive Noel Whitehead said the decision to support Kintyre was not taken lightly.
“Martu people are not going to sell their heritage for a mine,” he said.
“Martu people are not going to sell their environment or their culture for a mine.
“In this instance they have considered every aspect of it and subject to the various regulatory approvals they support the mine.”
The WA Conservation Council said it intended to appeal against the EPA’s recommendation.
Mr Whitehead said that decision was disappointing.
However, he acknowledged a number of people in the Indigenous community also disagreed with the EPA’s decision, but said their concerns have been expressed in the wrong way.
“We are very much aware of it but they need to talk to the right people, come and talk to Martu people at the table without sneaking behind their backs,” he said.
“Let me assure you that the 17 people who sit around the board table are extraordinarily conscious of the protection of their heritage and culture, and their environment.
“We welcome the opportunity to talk to any of these groups… I think that dialogue is good and constructive.
“But what Martu people will not accept is, through a minority of Martu people, attempting to whip-up hysteria on something that is very clearly in the process of being considered at a state and federal level.”
Cameco subject to strict conditions: EPA
EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel has refuted claims his organisation had deflected responsibility for aspects of the Kintyre project to other bodies, such as the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) and the Radiological Council.
He said environmental standards would not be diminished.
Dr Vogel said in the case of Kintyre, particular attention had been paid to the project’s proposed “end-of-mine-life” plan and rehabilitation.
“There’s no doubt that uranium mines, like many other mines, end up with pit lake voids at the cessation of mining, when these voids will fill up with water,” he said.
“What we’ve been particularly concerned about is that those pit lakes, over time, do not become a source of contamination for important environmental assets into the future.”
Dr Vogel said the EPA had looked closely at the modelling used to predict environmental impacts and it would require those models to be updated and validated throughout the life of the mine, which is estimated at 13.5 years.
Cameco Australia plans to export the uranium concentrate produced at the site from the Port of Adelaide.
That would mean that the product is trucked across the Western Australia-South Australia border via Marble Bar, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie.
Dr Vogel said the transportation route was another consideration in the EPA’s assessment, and that Cameco was required to consult with local governments and communities along the route.
“The Radiological Council has provided advice that they’ll have to have a radiation transport plan and there are regulations that cover the transport of radioactive substances,” he said.
“There will be radiation waste management plans, radiation protection and transport plans which will have to be endorsed and signed off to ensure that the transport of those materials is done as safely as possible.”
Courtesy of ABC News
29 July 2014