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‘Stringent’ safety standards for uranium-mining sadly still fantasy

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 27 Jul 2009

Claims in the Kalgoorlie Miner today by uranium proponents that ‘stringent’ health and safety measures will apply to proposed uranium mines in Western Australia's Goldfields are alarmingly without basis, Green Senator for WA Scott Ludlam says.

“Since the 2003 cross-party Senate Inquiry that found a “pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” with environmental regulations at Australia’s existing uranium mines, there has been no indication that standards have improved,” Senator Ludlam said.

“For example, just this year, I uncovered, through questions to the Government, the fact  that 100,000 litres of radioactive water are leaking each day from Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory into the ground beneath Kakadu National Park.

“Why should we believe proponents this time when they dismiss the harm they are already doing?

“Neither can we have faith in the State and Federal governments being able to ensure safety standards since they have been unable to do so date.

“Take lead transport through Esperance as an example at a State level and the Rudd Government’s failure to date to fulfil its 2007 promise to repeal the Howard Government’s Radioactive Waste Management Act, which will enable a nuclear waste dump to be imposed on communities in the Northern Territory.

“The Rudd Government has just allowed another uranium mine, owned by a company that is also a major nuclear weapons producer, next to Beverley uranium  mine in South Australia. Beverley has recorded 59 spills of radioactive material in the past decade, according to the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Resources.

“These are just some of the examples of State and Federal governments being unable or unwilling to prioritise human safety. We are deluding ourselves if we think that promises of “stringent regulation” will do the job when they simply hollow echoes of what we have heard before.”

Note to editors: To view the recommendations and conclusion of the 2003 inquiry, go to (page 9 of the pdf). The inquiry also found "many gaps in knowledge and found an absence of reliable data on which to measure the extent of contamination or its impact on the environment". It concluded on the need for changes "in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from serious or irreversible damage".

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