Govt gives Toro uranium mine green light

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has given the green light for Toro Energy’s $270 million uranium mine near Wiluna, paving the way for the State’s first yellow cake project.

In a long-awaited announcement, Mr Burke said he was approving the proposal but would slap it with 36 “strict conditions” to ensure it did not pose any unacceptable environmental risks.

The decision, which was controversially delayed by Mr Burke shortly before the State election amid paralyses over uranium policy in WA Labor, is a key milestone for Toro.

Last October then environment minister Bill Marmion upheld an Environmental Protection Authority recommendation to approve the plan, saying it was “just another tick of approval”.

Mr Burke’s announcement this morning means Toro has now cleared all of its environmental hurdles ahead of an expected final investment decision as early as the second half of this year.

Under Toro’s plan, up to 1200 tonnes of uranium ore would be produced at the Wiluna mine in the northern Goldfields before being trucked to Adelaide or Darwin and shipped overseas.

Mr Burke explained his decision by saying it had come after a “rigorous environmental assessment” for which he had taken advice from a number of independent expert advisors.

“In considering the proposal I received expert advice from Geoscience Australia, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, and the Supervising Scientist,” Mr Burke said in a statement.

“These expert agencies provided advice to ensure that the proposal meets world’s best practice environmental standards for uranium mining, and that the risks to the environment, including risks from radiation and to groundwater and surface water, can be acceptably managed.

“I have also considered public comments made throughout the assessment process in making my decision.

“The 36 strict conditions I have put in place will guard against any negative impacts from radiation or to groundwater and surface water, and include precautions to ensure that once the mine is closed, the site is safe for humans and animals, and is non-polluting.

“The measures that the company will use to achieve these requirements must all be detailed in an extensive and thorough environmental management plan which I must be satisfied with and approve before substantial works on the project can begin.

“The plan must describe how compliance with conditions will be achieved, and what action will be taken if conservative thresholds are exceeded.”