The controversial Yeelirrie uranium mine in Western Australia is no longer able to proceed after the proponent missed a deadline to commence works at the site in the state’s northern Goldfields.
The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) and Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) welcomed the news, saying community resistance and environmental protection had prevailed.
Global uranium mining giant, Cameco – headquartered in Canada – had five years to demonstrate ‘substantial commencement’ on the Yeelirrie uranium mine before environmental approvals expired on 20 January, this year.
Yeelirrie is the third of four WA uranium projects to expire, following Cameco’s Kintyre uranium mine which expired in March 2020 and Toro Energy’s Wiluna project which expired earlier this month.
The WA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended the project not be approved, citing concerns that up to eleven species of unique subterranean fauna would be doomed to extinction and raising concerns about harm to other wildlife, including the Malleefowl, Princess Parrot and Greater Bilby.
The EPA recommendation was ultimately ignored by the then environment minister Albert Jacob, under the Barnett WA State Government, sparking a legal battle in the WA Supreme Court between the minister, CCWA and three Tjiwarl women from Yeelirrie.
Plans to mine uranium at Yeelirrie have attracted widespread and sustained opposition from the Indigenous community around the site, which sits on Tjiwarl Native Title determined country. The Cameco proposal threatened an area which forms part of the Seven Sisters Dreaming songline and is referred to as ‘a place of death’. The word Yeelirrie translated to the word Yullala – which means to weep or mourn.
Vicki Abdullah, a Tjiwarl woman, who has long campaigned against uranium mining on Tjiwarl country, said “Yeelirrie is an important cultural site, our families and old people have fought against mining at Yeelirrie for 50 years. There is a strong feeling of responsibility to keep the uranium there at Yeelirrie and we’re happy that as of today Cameco cannot mine that place.
“We’ve spoken to the Government many times and we hope they will do the right thing and withdraw the approval all together. Yeelirrie should never be mined and this government can make sure it is safe forever.”
Dave Sweeney from ACF said “There have been no new uranium mines started in Australia for a decade and with only two still operating it is increasingly clear there is no economic case for uranium mining in Western Australia. The sector has never made sense, now it doesn’t even make dollars”.
Mia Pepper from CCWA said “After 50 years of tireless campaigning to protect Yeelirrie we are now looking forward to the introduction of lasting protections against uranium mining in WA.”
Mia Pepper (Conservation Council of WA) Nuclear Free Campaigner
Dave Sweeney (Australian Conservation Foundation) Nuclear Free Campaigner
Vicky Abdullah, Tjiwarl woman
MEDIA INFORMATION (CCWA): 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]