The Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) and three Tjiwarl Traditional Owners have continued their landmark legal bid to prevent the extinction of multiple species and protect Aboriginal lands from uranium mining at Yeelirrie, with a hearing in the WA Court of Appeal today.
CCWA and EDOWA staff with three members of the Tjiwarl Native Title Group, Shirley and Elizabeth Wonyabong and Vicky Abdullah, and Geoffrey Stokes, outside the Supreme Court today
The Yeelirrie mine proposal by uranium miner Cameco in the Northern Goldfields on Tjiwarl Native Title land was approved by the Minister for the Environment in the final days of the Barnett Government, against the advice of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and against the outcome of an appeals process.
The EPA found that the proposal would cause the extinction of multiple species of subterranean fauna.
Bret Walker SC, Dr Hannes Schoombee, and the Environmental Defenders Office WA (EDOWA) represented Traditional Owners and CCWA in the legal challenge to the environmental approval for the Yeelirrie uranium mine.
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said, “This important case is seeking to prevent the extinction of multiple species at Yeelirrie, and uphold the rights of Traditional Owners to protect sacred country from uranium mining.
“Mr Walker is one of Australia’s most eminent legal minds and his involvement with this case is an indication of its national legal significance.
“The approval of extinction at Yeelirrie at the stroke of a Minister's pen cannot go unchallenged because it sets a dangerous precedent for all wildlife across Western Australia.
“We are proud to stand with three members of the Tjiwarl Native Title Group, Shirley and Elizabeth Wonyabong and Vicky Abdullah, who have been fighting to protect their country from uranium mining for many years.
“As well as the threat of extinction, Cameco’s uranium project would have a major impact on the landscape and ecosystems at Yeelirrie. It would involve a 9km open mine pit and processing plant, clearing 2421 hectares of native vegetation, and generating 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste to be stored in open pits."
EDOWA Principal Solicitor Declan Doherty said, “This is a landmark case to test how Western Australia’s primary environmental law should be applied.
We argued that in approving the Yeelirrie uranium mine, Minister Albert Jacob failed to correctly follow the process set out in the relevant legislation.
“It will be an important test for how the legislation should be applied, which could have significant implications for future decisions of this kind.”