-Update (March 2015)-
As of November 2014, Cameco Corporation opted to restart the environmental approval process already completed by BHP Billiton. The Canadian company elected to start again because they wish to double the amount of ore BHP was approved to process.
A development proposal is in the works for June 2018.
Cameco Corporation purchased the Yeelirie uranium project on 26 August 2012 from BHP Billiton for $430 Million. The deposit is located 80 kms south-west of Wiluna in the WA Goldfields The local Wongutha people consider Yeelirrie as a "place of death" and oppose the mine. The project holds approximately 63,000 tonnes of U3O8 with an average grade of approximately 0.13%. Annual production estimate was reduced to 3,500t after concerns with production issues.
The company plans to mine at Yeelirrie by 2014, producing approximately 80 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate per week. The mine is expected to have a life of 20–40 years. A Scoping Document was approved by the WA EPA in early 2010 but BHP Billiton did not prepare an Environmental Review and Management Programme for EPA approval.
Mayor concerns include:
- High risk for groundwater dependent ecosystemsbecause of significant dewatering
- Insufficient geochemical modelling on tailings storage, heap leach facility and rock storage area, and the backfilled pits
- Unclear transport routes, port, storage and handling facilities
- Inadequate mine closure provisions
- Insufficient stakeholder consultation
- Insufficient data on radiation
The explicit unwillingness/failure of the proponent and the WA government to consider wider nuclear fuel cycle implications is in conflict with community expectation and comprehensive whole of cycle assessment and analysis. This partial assessment model is a poor substitute for a Public Inquiry and undermines the projects procedural credibility and stakeholder and community confidence.
Further it is unacceptable for the proponent to articulate wider nuclear fuel cycle issues when these are seen as positive but to refuse to consider such important areas as nuclear safety, security, proliferation concerns and wider radioactive waste management.
Several other uranium mining companies are buying up tenements close to Yeelirrie in the hope of finding uranium seams off the main Yeelirrie deposit – including Blaze International Ltd.
The project is currently on hold, the Greens will continue to oppose any uranium development in WA.