Is Queensland’s uranium mining ban under threat?

According to a report in today’s Cairns Post, it appears at least one mining company is expecting an end to Queensland’s ban on uranium mining:

IT might be half a world away but a uranium mine in western Russia is about to help an Australian company uncover the viability of uranium deposits in the Far North.

Callabonna Uranium has announced it has started field studies at its Oak River project near Georgetown, about 400km southwest of Cairns.

Although uranium mining is illegal in Queensland, exploration is allowed and with a lead time of five to 10 years, companies are investigating future prospects.

On the edge of the Undara lava field that was created by volcanic eruptions 190,000 years ago, the area is a gold mine for mineral and gem-hunters who fossick for topaz, sapphires and garnets.

Callabonna started its exploration this month at cattle stations in the area, finding the tell-tale green streaks of uranium deposits in quartz mica sandstone.

The Wirra Cauldron is similar in formation to the Streltsovskoye basin in Russia, where high levels of uranium are found in the central crater area.

Callabonna managing director Stephen McCaughey said although it was early stages, “all the signs stack positively”.

Given the passionate opposition of the ALP Left to uranium mining, and only meek support for it among the ALP Right, it’s unlikely a Labor Government would ever lift the uranium mining ban. So this mining company is obviously expecting an LNP Government will assume power sometime in the next decade and lift the ban. Given the opinion polls, it’s a reasonable expectation that Queensland will get an LNP Government, but new Opposition Leader Campbell Newman’s stance on uranium mining is unclear (based on a quick google search of “Campbell Newman uranium mining”).

While in March 2009 Mr Newman abstained from a Council vote to confirm Brisbane as a nuclear-free city (Campbell Newman spurns nuke-free vote), he was probably within his rights to, given that the ALP-initiated motion was highly political. It was designed to create a split between Mr Newman and Lawrence Springborg, the then State LNP leader, who hinted that the LNP would lift the uranium mining ban if it won the 2009 election.

I expect, however, that Mr Newman would be more sensitive to the environmental concerns of metropolitan voters than Mr Springborg, and may actually support maintaining the ban. Hopefully Mr Newman will clarify his position on this important public policy issue in the near future.

Related Queensland Economy Watch post (in which I’m skeptical about the merits of uranium mining):

AWU pushes to end ban on uranium mining in Queensland

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