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Under the shadow of Fukushima and Juukan Gorge: Deep Yellow uranium takeover poses deep risks at Mulga Rock

March 31, 2022
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Environment groups are troubled by recent merger between WA uranium hopeful Vimy Resources and Deep Yellow. The Mulga Rock uranium project east of Kalgoorlie is now under the leadership of a team with a track record of over-promising, under-performing and literally blowing up cultural sites.

Deep Yellow was founded by the serial uranium enthusiast John Borschoff who in 2013 described concerns around Fukushima as a “sideshow”.

Borschoff has previously outlined his preference for low governance mining jurisdictions telling the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that, “Australia and Canada have become overly sophisticated …There has been an over-compensation in terms of thinking about environmental and social issues in regard to uranium operations in Australia, forcing companies like Paladin into Africa”.

Borschoff is proposed to be the CEO of the new “Merged Group” where he would take his place alongside the proposed new Chair Chris Salisbury.

Chris Salisbury, the former head of Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore group exited following the May 2020 destruction of Juukan Gorge where ancient Aboriginal cultural heritage was deliberately destroyed on his watch. The public outrage following this destruction went on to claim the scalp of the former Rio CEO and has focussed community scrutiny on the wider costs and impacts of mining operations.

There is a high level of community concern over the culture and approach of the planned new team at Mulga Rock given that one new company boss is obsessed with avoiding over-sophistication while the other has recently overseen an extremely un-sophisticated approach to resource extraction.

Further, the former CEO and Managing Director of Paladin up until 2015 are now the CEO and Managing Director of Deep Yellow and were involved in Paladin’s operations in Malawi and Namibia. These operations were plagued with worker fatalities[1],[2],[3] inadequate PPE for workers[4], spills of uranium concentrate and sulphuric acid spill in 2008[5], flooding of the open pit at Langer Heinrich in 2008[6] and the mine at Kaylekera in 2015[7]. There are reports of waste water into public rivers from Kaylekera, industrial disputes at the two African mines and an incident in 2009 where workers were assaulted with tear gas by local police[8],[9],[10],[11],[12].

Dave Sweeney Nuclear Free Campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation said “we have no reason to believe that Deep Yellow will operate any differently to how Paladin operated in the bad old days. This team has a track record that offers scant confidence or credibility.”

The Mulga Rock project was found to have “substantial commencement” by the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation last December and is the only WA based uranium project that remains a development possibility. Environment groups maintain that the work at the site has been unnecessary and destructive but does not demonstrate substantial commencement, in the absence of the required funding or any Board level Final Investment Decision to develop the mine.

Mia Pepper from the Conservation Council of WA stated, “We fear Deep Yellow will be no different or even worse in addressing the Traditional Owners rights and interests, and their opposition to the planned mine. We are also deeply concerned about the survival of the endangered Sandhill Dunnart as this is one of just three areas left in the country where the SHD is known to exist.”

“We’ve gone from the inexperienced and cash-poor Vimy Resources to Deep Yellow who are led by a team with a track record that highlights why uranium mining does not have a social license. The frequency of issues and incidents at Paladin’s operations up until 2015 is concerning, the history and connections with the Juukan Gorge destruction at Deep Yellows board is disturbing. WAs regulatory system in WA is based so heavily on companies acting with integrity. We are deeply concerned that our regulations and regulatory regime are not fit for purpose when it comes to operators who prioritise cutting costs and corners.

For a full compilation of issues at Paladin’s mines see:

https://www.wise-uranium.org/ucpalhi.html

 

[1] Nyasa Times, 19 July 2011

[2] Paladin Energy July 31, 2013

[3] Esmarie Swanepoel 3 Oct 2013

[4] Nyasa Times, 25 September 2010

[5] Namibian, 25 April 2008

[6] Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 March 2008

[7] Esmarie Swanepoel 7 Jan 2015

[8] Nyasa Times 18th March 2009 & The Nation, 19 March 2009. 

[9] Nyasa Times 11 May 2012

[10] Namibian 2 July 2013

[11] Namib Times 7 Oct 2014

[12] New Era, 20 Feb 2015

 

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