Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has made a decision to re-commence uranium mining in Queensland following the previous Labor Government's decades-long policy to ban uranium mining in Queensland.
The State Government announced it will convene a three-member implementation committee to oversee the recommencement of uranium mining in Queensland (however, nuclear energy production or nuclear waste disposal plants in Queensland will remain off-limits). The Government-appointed committee will prepare a report on uranium mining within three months.
This policy is consistent with the movement by other States and the Federal Government to approve the exploration, mining and sale of uranium.
- New South Wales recently altered its stance against uranium exploration. In March 2012, New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell overturned the 26 year prohibition on the exploration of uranium in NSW.
- The Western Australian Government lifted the ban on uranium mining in November 2008. As a result within four years (October this year) the Western Australian Government granted approval for the first new uranium mine in Western Australia for Toro Energy's Wiluna Mine.
- At the ALP National Conference in December 2011, the ALP overturned the long-standing ban on uranium sales to India. Only last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard began implementation of this policy by commencing negotiations with India on the sale of uranium.
Queensland already has an estimated resource base of at least 37,000 tonnes of uranium. Natural Resource and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said Queensland's known uranium deposits are worth an estimated $10 billion. The two main deposits of uranium are located outside Mt Isa and on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The last uranium mine in Queensland, the Mary Kathleen mine, was closed in 1982, and extracted a total of 7 million tonnes of uranium ore.
Uranium exploration in Queensland has not been subject to the prohibition and there has been continued interest for uranium exploration.
The previous Labor Government policy against uranium mining in Queensland was never incorporated within legislation, but was implemented by way of the State Government refusing to grant any mining leases for the purposes of mining uranium under the general terms of the Minerals Resources Act 1989 (Qld) (MRA). This means that significant legislative changes will not be necessary in Queensland to facilitate uranium mining given that uranium falls with the defined scope of "mineral" under section 6 of the MRA. However, it is likely that, similarly to when the ban was lifted in Western Australia, the government-appointed committee will prepare a report on whether additional legislation, policies and approvals will be required.
The Government has not mentioned in its statement if there will be any amendment to the royalty rate for uranium mining which in Queensland is currently 2.5% (for "other minerals"). For example the royalty rate for uranium oxide in Western Australia is currently 5%.
For further information
For further information in relation to Australia's regulatory regime in relation to uranium and Nuclear Fuel, as well as recent developments in relation to uranium trade and exports please see our Uranium and Nuclear Fuels Briefing Paper.