WA's fledgling uranium industry has been given a boost, with Canadian giant Cameco receiving conditional environmental approval for its Kintyre mine in the Little Sandy Desert.
In a release this morning Environmental Protection Authority chairman Paul Vogel said the Kintyre project had been thoroughly scrutinised during an environmental impact assessment and was now open for public appeal.
"Following assurance from key regulatory agencies that the mine could be managed to protect human health, the EPA concluded that approval could be recommended subject to several conditions," Dr Vogel said.
The project, 270km northeast of Newman, has an expected mine life of about 13.5 years and includes the construction of mineral processing facilities, offices, accommodation and the discharge of waste.
It also includes the upgrade and construction of 90km of access road for the transportation of uranium oxide concentrate to the WA-South Australian border on route to the Port of Adelaide.
However the likelihood of the Kintyre project moving towards development is largely dependent on the uranium price, which has been hovering around historical lows for more than the past 12 months.
The uranium price is trading at $US28.50 this morning.
Cameco has previously said it would need a uranium price in the $US60/lb to $US80/lb range to give the project the green light.
In the report Dr Vogel said the Radiological Council and the Department of Mines and Petroleum were responsible for ensuring radiation risks were managed during the mining, handling, packaging, storage and transportation of uranium oxide concentrate. The Commonwealth was responsible for the transportation, Dr Vogel said.
But the EPA has recommended conditions to ensure the project does not affect fauna including the bilby, mulgara and rock wallaby.
"The proponent will also need to assess and manage any potential radiological impacts to plants and animals through a risk assessment approach using Australia species information in accordance with best practice requirements," Dr Vogel said.
The EPA has also provided advice about the rehabilitation and closure of the site.
The report to the Environment Minister is now open for a public appeal period, closing on August 11.
State and federal environment ministers will make decisions on the proposal under each of their legislations.