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Lifting uranium mining ban in WA would unlock $1b per year and 9,000 jobs claims Chamber of Commerce

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By Colin Hay - 
Chamber of Commerce uranium mining ban WA revenue jobs

A new report by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCIWA) has supported a Liberal party call for a uranium mining attitude change in WA.

A year-long investigation by the chamber has found that WA’s uranium industry could easily exceed $1 billion a year.

The release of the new report comes hot on the heels of WA opposition leader Libby Mettam’s suggestion that uranium miners would be able to proceed through the same environmental approvals as other minerals if she is elected as leader of the state’s government in 2025.

With uranium mining prohibited by the WA government since 2017, her announcement was immediately welcomed by the Minerals Council of Australia.

Economic benefits

The new CCIWA report has recommended WA overturn its export ban on uranium mining to unlock significant economic benefits for the state.

The CCIWA highlighted the recent surge in uranium prices and the growing demand from countries in Asia and Europe who are increasing their investment in nuclear power to help them meet carbon emissions reduction targets.

It also pointed to the success of South Australia, where uranium is able to be mined and exported and the fact that the Northern Territory is rapidly expanding its exploration efforts, proving the industry is safe and sustainable.

The CCIWA said SA produced around 5,469 tonnes of uranium last year, worth more than $878 million.

More than $1b in earnings

CCIWA chief economist Aaron Morey said WA has the capacity to produce an estimated 8,000t annually and the industry could easily exceed $1b a year.

“Uranium spot prices have skyrocketed over the past year or so, largely because of a global shift towards nuclear power in countries like China, France, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the UK,” he said.

“Other states and countries have been able to capitalise on this demand, but WA has missed out – despite having some of the largest uranium deposits in the country.

“Based on current prices, WA has the potential to export around $1b worth of uranium each year, creating around 9,000 direct and indirect jobs in WA,” he said.

Nuclear attitudes changing

According to Mr Morey, attitudes regarding the uranium debate are changing thanks to advances in technology and an understanding of the role nuclear energy could play in reducing global emissions.

“The ban on new uranium mines in WA was driven by environmental, health and safety concerns, but these concerns are not significantly different [to] those faced by any mining operation,” he said.

“WA is a mining state with a reputation for safety and world’s best practice.”

“We have a strong regulatory framework, existing infrastructure and all the skills needed to safely mine and export uranium.”

“Uranium exports are also bound by detailed commonwealth legislation to ensure they are only used for energy production and not in the development of nuclear weapons.”

“If SA and the Northern Territory can do it, there’s no reason why WA can’t.”