New uranium mine ready to pollute

February 21, 2001

The Beverley uranium mine near the Gammon Ranges in South Australia opens today despite strong opposition from the majority of Australians to uranium mining. As the company celebrates on site, Friends of the Earth will join other environment groups and members of the Adnyamathanha community outside the perimeter in a peaceful protest.

The Beverley Mine uses a mining technique known as in-situ leaching (ISL) which involves the pumping of an acid solution into groundwater to extract uranium for surface processing. The uranium industry increasingly favours ISL mining because it is cheaper to operate than conventional mines. The use of sulphuric acid as the agent to dissolve the uranium in solution is not allowed in the USA, because acid greatly increases groundwater contamination.

Mine operator Heathgate Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of US nuclear giant General Atomics, have also been given permission to discharge radioactive wastes from the mine back into groundwater after mining.

"The only way Heathgate can make a profit out of this mine is to trade off the cost to the environment, "said Friends of the Earth's Nuclear Campaigner Loretta O'Brien. "It is the Australian community who will wear the real cost of this mine, Beverley's radioactive legacy will remain long after Heathgate have left town."

"Beverley is the product of an aggressive pro-nuclear push from the Federal Coalition," said Friends of the Earth's Ila Marks. "The Federal Government are showing where the loyalties lie today as representatives join Heathgate's celebrations on site. Their loyalty lies not with the majority of Australian's that oppose uranium mining, but with corporations who put profit before people and the environment."

For further information contact:

Loretta O'Brien
Friends of the Earth
0418 178 053

Ila Marks
Friends of the Earth
0428 594 480