15 Jul 2009

Minister approves Australia's fourth uranium mine

9:42 pm on 15 July 2009

Australia is to get a new uranium mine, courtesy of former anti-nuclear campaigner Peter Garrett.

The federal environment minister has approved the country's fourth uranium mine, to be built in South Australia's northeast.

Mr Garrett sang against the nuclear industry in his days as Midnight Oil frontman. Now he is sure the new Four Mile mine "poses no credible risk to the environment".

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt, who supports uranium mining, attacked Mr Garrett for his backflip on the issue. "The promises Peter Garrett chose to make on uranium mining stand for nothing - and nor does he, any longer."

Mr Garrett says it had been a difficult decision to approve the mine but it was right for him to abide by Labor's policy, which allows for an expansion of uranium mining.

"The values that I had before entering parliament I hold dear (but) the government has made a decision ... on this matter, which I fully accept."

Mr Garrett says there has been a thorough assessment of the proposed mine, and it would be subject to strict conditions.

Transparent, says Rudd

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Labor Party has publicly changed its policy on uranium mining back in 2007, when the "no-new-mines" policy was dropped. "It couldn't be more transparent than that," Mr Rudd told ABC Radio.

When asked why he did not allow a domestic nuclear power industry, Mr Rudd said renewable energy and cleaner-coal technology was the best way for Australia to tackle climate change.

The Australian Uranium Association welcomed the mine and says it will help tackle climate change when production begins next year.

The new mine, which will be close to the Beverley uranium mine, is a joint venture of Alliance Resources Limited and Quasar Resources.

South Australia's Minister for Mineral Resources Development Paul Holloway says the mine would create 130 jobs during construction.