Today the Traditional Owners of the Yeelirrie area the Conservation Council of WA and the Australian Conservation Foundation have welcomed another milestone in the 50 year-long campaign to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie.
The environmental approval for the Yeelirrie proposal was granted in 2017 in controversy ahead of the WA state election and following the EPA advice to reject the mine proposal. The approval expired in January 2022 after failing to meet a condition of the approval to “substantially commence” within five years.
Cameco requested the approval be extended but today the WA Environment Minister – Reece Whitby - made the decision not to extend the approval. The former Environment Minister made the same decision when Cameco sought an extension for the Kintyre uranium mine.
This is a huge win for the area, the community and the biggest winners of all are the smallest creatures – subterranean fauna – who, according to the WA EPA would have most likely been made extinct had the project gone ahead.
But it is not entirely over. While the approvals can’t be acted on currently, they do still exist, and an amendment could be made by a future government giving Cameco a greenlight to mine. Conservationists and Traditional Owners are now calling on the state government to withdraw approvals for Yeelirrie along with expired approvals for Cameco’s Pilbara proposal at Kintyre and Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium proposal.
Vicky Abdullah, Tjiwarl Traditional Owner, said: “We’re really glad to hear the news that Yeelirrie’s approval has not been extended, it was a bad decision in the first place and after years in court and fighting to defend our country this news is a great relief.
“We’ll really celebrate properly when this government withdraws approvals all together and then we can have more confidence the threat is over.”
Kado Muir and Shirley Wonyabong – both Tjiwarl Traditional Owners – said they were really happy with the news, calling it a good step in the right direction.
Conservation Council of WA nuclear free campaigner Mia Pepper said, “This is wonderful news – not least for the Traditional Owners in the Yeelirrie area who have fought long and hard to protect their Country and their culture.
“Cameco has clearly shown that there is no economic case to mine uranium in WA, with the 2016 write down of the Kintyre uranium proposal and the clear decision not to advance Yeelirrie.
“There is a lesson here for Vimy Resources and their investors - who are bucking the trend and are continuing to throw more money at their beleaguered Mulga Rock project - that mining uranium in WA is uneconomic.”
Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation, said: “We welcome the decision which is in keeping with commercial reality, community concerns and the long-term protection of the WA environment. This is an important and responsible decision and is a further signal to the uranium sector that they’re not welcome in WA.”
Mia Pepper (Conservation Council of WA) Nuclear Free Campaigner
Vicky Abdullah, Tjiwarl Traditional Owner (available Tuesday afternoon)
Kado Muir Tjiwarl Traditional Owner (available Wednesday)
Dave Sweeney (Australian Conservation Foundation) Nuclear Free Campaigner
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing more than 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]