Queensland’s last productive uranium mine will be re-opened under a plan to resume mining the resource in the state.
The Newman government is restarting uranium mining, ending a long-standing ban, and hopes to exploit reserves worth about $10 billion, including $8 billion in the state’s northwest.
Uranium mining was banned in Queensland in 1989, but it hasn’t been mined since 1982 when the Mary Kathleen mine, near Mount Isa, ceased production.
On Friday the government said it was inviting tenders to reopen the mine, saying the uranium industry promised to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the state.
It said the industry would be subjected to a robust framework to ensure future mines met the world’s best environmental protection and safety standards.
Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the ban, imposed by Labor in the 1980s, was “purely ideological”, and it was time for the state to reap the benefits of its reserves.
Companies can now submit tenders to reopen the Mary Kathleen mine, with other sites expected to follow.
Mr Cripps said applications for uranium mining projects would be assessed by the Queensland coordinator-general, with environmental assessments and approvals to be jointly completed by the Queensland and federal governments.
Uranium will be exported through existing licensed ports in Darwin and South Australia. There are no ports in Queensland licensed for the export of uranium.
He said uranium would only be exported to countries that have a bilateral agreement with Australia and only for peaceful purposes and nuclear energy production or waste disposal plants won’t be permitted.
“We want the community to know our framework includes strict environmental, health and safety standards to ensure safe handling and transportation,” Mr Cripps said.
“It is now up to industry to decide when to lodge applications for uranium mining and those decisions will be influenced by a number of factors including global commodity prices, market supply and demand and mining costs.”