Conservationists are considering a High Court appeal against the State Government’s decision to provide environmental approval to the State’s largest uranium deposit in the northern Goldfields after the WA Supreme Court knocked back an application for judicial review yesterday.
Former environment minister Albert Jacob approved Cameco’s Yeelirrie Mine near Wiluna in the dying days of the Barnett Liberal-National Government, despite advice from its environmental watchdog the project should be knocked back because of its impact on several species of unique underground invertebrates known as stygofauna.
The Conservation Council of WA and three local Aboriginal people launched the legal action against Cameco and current Labor Environment Minister Stephen Dawson last year.
They argued the State should not have been able to approve the development after Mr Jacob previously rejected appeals of the Environmental Protection Authority’s recommendation.
In his judgment, Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin said the evidence established the rejection of appeals of the original EPA recommendation did not amount to a decision on the proposal.
CCWA director Piers Verstegen said the group was investigating further appeals and the deci-sion highlighted inherent flaws in WA’s environmental approval process.
He called for an “independent environment court” to be established in WA and on Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to deny Cameco’s approval at the national level.
“Normally the Federal Government process just takes the State assessment and regards that as the assessment process that they use,” he said.
“We are now saying to the Commonwealth Government ‘you cannot accept this shonky assessment that was done under the Barnett Government’.”
Mr Dawson said the decision appeared to have “vindicated the processes of the EPA”.
“The McGowan Government does not support the creation of an environment court,” he said.
Cameco Australia general manager Simon Williamson welcomed the decision but said Cameco would require better market conditions to develop the deposit.
Global uranium pricing remains subdued, prompting Cameco and other major global producers Kazatomprom and AREVA to announce production cuts last year, raising hopes prices could correct over the coming years.
Yeelirrie was discovered by Western Mining Corporation in 1971 and sold to the Canadian miner by BHP for $430 million in 2012.
According to Cameco, Yeelirrie would run for 22 years, producing an estimated 106 million pounds of uranium oxide.
Source: The West Australian