Yeelirrie uranium proposal poses genuine extinction threat

MEDIA RELEASE: Monday 14 December

State and national environment and Indigenous groups have called on the state EPA to reject Canadian company Cameco’s proposal to mine uranium at Yeelirrie in WA’s East Murchison region.

The call comes as the groups formally provided the EPA with a detailed critique highlighting specific community, environmental and procedural issues, along with wider nuclear industry safety and security concerns. Over 2,000 individual submissions were made to the EPA opposing the Yeelirrie uranium proposal.

A key specific concern involves the threat of species being made extinct as a result of the project.

“This proposal threatens to make 15 species of subterranean fauna extinct,” said CCWA nuclear free campaigner Mia Pepper.

“We want the EPA to reject the proposal because of these unacceptable impacts.  In its current form the project is likely to cause the extinction of ten species of stygofauna and five species of troglofauna.* These creatures might be small and hard to count but that does not mean that they don’t matter.”  

Many of the area’s Traditional Owners have opposed proposals to mine uranium at Yeelirrie for more than 40 years.  Pastoral operators and other stakeholders have also raised concerns about the impact on scarce water resources and the problems of dust and airborne pollution from a planned 9 kilometre open pit and large stockpiles of radioactive material in a region known for regular high winds.

“There is scant economic incentive for this mine,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.  

“The uranium market remains depressed and the commodity price has flat-lined. Cameco wants a paper approval to effectively warehouse a product that lacks social license and demand.

“Cameco – and two other WA uranium hopefuls – are racing to get assessments approved before the next state election.  This might make sense for a company but it doesn’t make for good public policy.

“We are deeply concerned about fast tracked approvals for deficient proposals and urge the EPA to say no to extinction by saying no to this uranium mine.”

Further info and comment:

Mia Pepper: CCWA – 0415 380 808

Dave Sweeney: ACF – 0408 317 812

* Stygofauna and troglofauna are the two types of subterranean fauna that live in groundwater systems or aquifers, caves and fissures.  Stygofauna are associated with water and troglofauna with caves and spaces above the water table. Many species of stygofauna are endemic to particular regions, or even particular caves, making them focal points for conservation of groundwater systems and extremely vulnerable to groundwater extraction for mining.