The Australian Greens have condemned the Government's decision to approve the plans of the US-owned company Heathgate to develop its Beverley North uranium project in South Australia.
Greens spokesperson on mining and nuclear affairs Senator Scott Ludlam said the plan to mine the uranium deposit north of Heathgate's existing Beverley mine would significantly extend the life of the troubled project.
"The longer Beverley operates the greater damage it will do to the local and regional groundwater system," said Senator Ludlam.
"In 2002 there was a leak of 62,000 litres of radioactive fluid at Beverley mine followed by a separate leak of 6000 litres of a uranium-bearing brine solution. That same year a leak at Olympic Dam in South Australia released more than 420,000 litres of uranium mining slurry," said Senator Ludlam.
"The Beverley mine is unique in Australia, in that strong acids are injected into the groundwater to dissolve the uranium, heavy metals and other radionuclides. The uranium is extracted at a small surface plant and then liquid radioactive wastes are reinjected into the groundwater.
"This project should never have been approved in the first place. Extending the life of the mine is effectively a licence for Heathgate to permanently contaminate a much larger body of groundwater.
Heathgate, part of General Atomics Resources, has said previously that it had found a ''significant'' zone of uranium mineralisation in the northern tenements but has not released information on the size of the find.
"We don't know how long this will extend the operating life of the mine, but another week is too long," said Senator Ludlam. "The Government should be showing leadership and moving towards renewable sources of energy - rather than encouraging a dead-end industry that poisons the environment at every stage."