A controversial uranium mine in WA was approved the day before the federal election was called, according to a federal environment department document.
The Canadian-owned Yeelirrie uranium mine, about 500 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie, requires state and federal approval.
Environment Minister Melissa Price, also the member for Durack in WA, gave the project the green light pending 32 environmental conditions on April 10.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison triggered the May 18 election on April 11.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the approval was a “big decision”, and asked the government to explain its timing.
“This is yet again looking like another shonky deal by this government,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
“Pretty big decision. A lot of money at stake. Made in the dead of night, the day before the election’s called … there are questions for this government to answer.”
The WA Environmental Protection Agency advised the mine should not go ahead back in 2016, due to concerns about subterranean species in the area.
The Barnett government gave the project state approval before they were voted out of parliament in 2017.
At the time, Cameco Australia managing director Brian Reilly said the state’s decision struck the right balance between strong environmental management and positive economic benefits.
“We think this approval is a good outcome for the project and a good outcome for the community,” he said.
“Cameco Australia is committed to minimizing environmental impacts from its operations while at the same time maximizing benefits for nearby communities and the state.
The approval of the project was subject to 17 state conditions.
Ms Price’s federal approval means Cameco Australia now has permission to clear 2422 hectares of native vegetation.
The Conservation Council of WA’s Mia Pepper condemned Ms Price’s approval, and said it went against a promise she made last year to wait for the outcome of legal proceedings from traditional owners in the WA Supreme Court.
“Minister Price’s tick of approval is premature and highly political,” she said.
“The WA community and environment has been let down by both state and federal Liberal politicians over Yeelirrie.
“This is a decision that puts the perceived commercial interests of one company ahead of due process, community concern and evidence-based decision making. Signing off on extinction is not okay.
“This kind of decisionmaking is dangerous as it kowtows to mining companies rather than protecting the environment.”
Tjiwarl traditional owner Vicky Abdullah said while the decision was disappointing, they would not give up.
“Our community has been fighting against uranium mining at Yeelirrie for over 40 years,” she said.
“We’ve been disappointed by companies and the Liberal government, but we will continue to fight against the mine. For us there is a lot at stake, our culture and our country.
“The cost of going to court has been big on our time and has been so stressful. The minister made a commitment to wait until after the court case and then completely disregarded thatcommitment without talking to us or without any thought for us, and that hurts all over again.
“We just wonder when will things change. We’ve done everything in good faith, putting in submissions, going to court, following the law, but the politicians keep changing the rules, they keep moving the goal posts.
“We will continue to protect our country any way we can.”
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 2019