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Yeelirrie uranium proposal challenged in court by environment groups and Traditional landowners

July 04, 2017
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The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) and members of the Tjiwarl Native Title group, represented by the Environmental Defender’s Office WA (EDO), have commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of Western Australia for a review of the decision by the former Minister for Environment, Albert Jacob to approve the Yeelirrie Uranium Project in the last days of the Barnett Government.

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The project by Canadian uranium company Cameco would involve a 9km open mine pit and processing plant in the Midwest, clearing 2421 hectares of native vegetation and generating 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste to be stored in open pits. Environmental approval for the project was eventually granted by previous Environment Minister Albert Jacob against the recommendation of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) which advised that the project would lead to the extinction of several unique species of subterranean fauna. Tjiwarl Traditional Owners have opposed the mining of the Yeelirrie uranium deposit for over 40 years.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said environment groups could not allow any project that would knowingly cause the extinction of unique species go unchallenged given the precedent that would be created for other wildlife and communities across the state. 

“We believe there are legal flaws in the way the Yeelirrie approval was granted. The approval also directly contradicts the science, evidence, and advice of the EPA, is inconsistent with the object and principles of the Environmental Protection Act, and sanctions the extinction of multiple unique species.

“The Yeelirrie project would not just affect the local environment and communities. The decision exemplifies a flawed approach to environmental approvals that had become pervasive under the Barnett Government, and has implications for all major projects and the future of wildlife and communities across the state.

“By approving the Yeelirrie proposal the Barnett Government put ideology ahead of their responsibility to protect the environment, and ahead of the public interest. The same lack of regard for environmental standards and laws led to the unnecessary destruction of bushland at the Beeliar Wetlands, and to many other unnecessary impacts on wildlife, nature and communities.”

Vicky Abdullah, Tjiwarl Native Title Holder said, “Yeelirrie is important to my family we have fought to protect this site for over 40 years and we won't stop now. I grew up here, my ancestors were Traditional Owners of country and I don’t want a toxic legacy here for my grandchildren.

"We have no choice but to defend our country, our culture and the environment from the threat of uranium mining not just for us but for everyone.

"The last Government made a mistake approving the Yeelirrie mine - now we have a chance to make that right through the courts."

Fact File:

  • The Yeelirrie mining proposal consists of a 9km long open mine pit with a total clearing footprint of 2421 hectares of native vegetation. 8.7 million litres of water per day would be required to mine and process the uranium ore, creating 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste to be permanently stored in an open pit on site
  • Mining of this uranium deposit has been strongly and consistently opposed by members of the Tjiwarl Traditional Owners for over 40 years. The proposal threatens the area which is part of the Seven Sisters Dreaming songline and Yeelirrie is referred to as a “place of death”
  • In August 2016 the WA EPA recommended the Yeelirrie project should not be implemented on the grounds that the project did not meet the EPA’s environmental objectives and would threaten multiple species with extinction
  • The Canadian uranium company and proponent of the Yeelirrie project Cameco appealed the EPA’s findings however following advice from the Appeals Convenor,  the Minister dismissed the proponent’s appeal and upheld the EPAs recommendations
  • The former Environment Minister Albert Jacob approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine proposal on 20 January 2017, just weeks before the state election

You can also read our background document on the Yeelirrie uranium proposal.

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