Rann needs to come clean on uranium subsidies

October 4, 2006

The recent controversy about uranium exploration on the Fleurieu Peninsula illustrates some of the contradictions behind Mike Rann’s policies on uranium mining. Much uranium exploration in South Australia is subsidised through the SA Government’s Plan for Accelerating Expansion (PACE) program.

The SA government is investing more than $20 million in this program. This includes $10 million spent on subsidies to industry for exploratory drilling. The state budget also includes $1.5 million for a taskforce to fast track the Olympic Dam expansion, money that could be easily afforded by BHP Billiton.

According to Friends of the Earth campaigner Joel Catchlove, “At the same time as cutting the environment budget and rural health services, money is being wasted on subsidies for mining companies. The SA Government should be spending taxpayers money on health, the environment and basic infrastructure for remote communities instead of corporate welfare.”

“The South Australian coastline has been placed at risk through uranium exploration on the Fleurieu Peninsula, exploration on the Eyre Peninsula near Port Kenny and Streaky Bay (near Ceduna), and also Tumby Bay (near Port Lincoln). Uranium exploration is also occurring in the Yellabinna Regional Reserve. Yellabinna contains the largest tract of stunted mallee in the world and provides the biological corridor connecting mallee areas in western and eastern Australia. It is also home to a variety of threatened and endangered species. Mike Rann should come clean about whether uranium mines will be allowed in all of these areas.” said Mr. Catchlove.


Joel Catchlove 0403 886 951


Briefing Paper: Recent uranium exploration in South Australia

With encouragement from state and federal governments for an increase in Australian uranium production, questions arise about where new uranium mines are likely to be and who will set up these mines. Most exploration is either looking for uranium in ancient underground river beds (known as paleochannels), or for uranium mineralisation occurring with iron, gold and copper deposits (similar to Olympic Dam). Most paleochannel uranium is mined by in-situ leaching methods.

The uranium exploration company Toro Energy has announced a uranium discovery near the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula in its June 22 press release (available at www.toroenergy.com.au). Although the highest uranium mineralisation found by Toro Energy in this area did not exceed 66 parts per million, the Toro Energy share price increased from $0.46 to $0.79 in the first half of July.

Toro Energy’s uranium discovery is in an underground riverbed that drains towards the sea near Port Kenny. If uranium mining were to occur here, it would be likely to be in-situ leaching uranium mining. In-situ leaching involves the dumping of radioactive and heavy metals waste into groundwater, with associated long-term contamination of connected waterways. If developed into a mine, Toro’s prospects may also risk contaminating the nearby coastal marine environments. Most newly discovered uranium deposits (including Honeymoon) are small with a short-mine life, no long term employment opportunities for the region and the threat of long-lived environmental contamination. Adelaide Resources and Southern Gold are also performing uranium exploration in this area.

The biggest known uranium deposit in the Eyre Peninsula area is known as the ‘Warrior’ paleochannel deposit, located near the railway line about 30km north of the Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area. The Warrior deposit has been estimated to contain 4000 tonnes of uranium oxide. The area around the Warrior deposit is being explored by several companies for further deposits. Much of this exploration is occurring adjacent to the Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area in the Yellabinna Regional Reserve. Many of the paleochannels being explored also flow through the Wilderness Protection Area. Exploration for an Olympic Dam style deposit is also occurring in the Yellabinna Regional Reserve near Lake Everard. This exploration is being facilitated by PIRSA carrying out detailed gravity surveys in this region. Uranium exploration is also occurring on the east of the Eyre Peninsula near Tumby Bay, and there are known uranium deposits around Port Lincoln.

Companies involved in uranium exploration in South Australia include: Adelaide Resources, BHP Billiton, Curnamona Energy, Eromanga Uranium, Heathgate Resources, Hindmarsh Resources, Marathon Resources, Monax Mining, PepinNini, Red Metal, Southern Gold, Stellar Resources, SXR Uranium One, Tasman Resources, Toro Energy, and UraniumSA. Uranium is the third most explored commodity in South Australia after copper and gold.