Politicians partialy ease the way for more Australian uranium

As was widely expected, the Australian Labor Party, at its National Conference, voted to drop the ban on new uranium mines. The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomed the decision but noted that its “enthusiasm will be severely tempered if this shift in policy is not complemented by key enabling reforms from State governments. MCA Chief Executive, Mitchell H Hooke, said: “this is a logical first step in establishing a nationally consistent, modern policy governing the production and export of uranium for peaceful purposes. We strongly endorse Australia’s strict regulatory regime governing the production and export of uranium and Australia’s stringent export safeguard arrangements to ensure that Australia’s uranium is only used for peaceful purposes.”

He cautioned “this historic shift in Labor’s national policy position, while it represents a move from an ideology of an era past, will be little more than a token gesture if there are not fundamental changes made to State legislation permitting the expansion of the industry within the strictures of Australia’s current regulatory system.

“Opposition to uranium mining by some Labor State governments is a significant impediment to the efficient development, regulation and expansion of the uranium industry and is anachronistic and inconsistent with a modern, national approach. Lifting Labor’s ban on new uranium mines will only contribute to improved certainty for investment and expansion of the uranium industry to the benefit of all Australians – especially those in remote and regional areas – if it is matched by further reforms by State Labor governments.

“Increasing world energy demand as well as concerns over climate change and energy security has stimulated global demand for mined uranium as reflected in a significant increase in its price. With 38% of the world’s Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) and over 60 companies currently exploring for uranium, Australia is well positioned to meet this demand from both the developed and developing world.

“However, Australia could be even better placed to meet the strongly increasing demand for uranium. Even though Australia currently has the largest and lowest-cost recoverable resources, it produces only 23% of global uranium production and trails Canada, which produces around 30%.”

The MCA supports the bipartisan recommendation in the Report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources’ inquiry into the Australian mining industry, in November 2006, that the State governments be encouraged “to reconsider their opposition to uranium mining and abolish legislative restrictions on uranium (and thorium) mining and exploration, where these exist.”

Hooke said “to ensure a logical, consistent policy on uranium mining, Labor should ensure its State governments overturn artificial restrictions on the transport of products containing uranium products which affect the cost, scheduling and availability of road, rail and sea transport operations. As well, governments – both Federal and State – should act speedily to redress the legacy of under investment in technical expertise and address shortages of skilled technicians, institutional capacity in research and development as well as education and training, to ensure the industry has the technical expertise to expand.”