WA could be mining uranium within two years if the Government gives the go-ahead to BHP’s mine at Yeeleerie 500 km north of Kalgoorlie.
However, in the process the surrounding land and the underground water could become contaminated by radioactivity.
According to the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA (ANAWA), this could have severe consequences for the productivity of the land and the health of the people especially farmers, pastoralists and graziers.
ANAWA Community Education Co-ordinator Hilary Wheater said many people were unaware of such implications.
Ms Wheater said the WA Government was encouraging uranium mining and wanted to adopt the same regulations as South Australia, where special acts have been passed to allow for an easy passage for the mining industry.
“A large percentage of Western Australians don’t know anything about uranium, its potential to destroy and the legacy of contamination it leaves behind it. The people don’t have enough information to make a decision.
“Companies like BHP are just in it for the money and hope there will be no repercussions in years to come like Wittenoom.”
Uranium starts the process of radioactive decay as soon as it exposed in the ground.
It immediately begins to emit radioactive alpha, beta and gamma rays that cause sickness, cancer and birth defects for generations, Ms Wheater said.
But the Australian Uranium Association (AUA) said that developing a uranium mining and export industry in WA would deliver considerable benefits to communities in rural and regional areas.
“Exports of uranium will generate revenue for use in rural areas,” AUA communications director Simon Clarke said.
Mr Clarke said radioactivity is not really an issue and WA has extensive experience in rehabilitating mining sites.
“Uranium is relatively low in radioactivity and I don’t see any issues,” he said.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA) director Sheldon Mumby said uranium mining will be a positive step for the WA mining industry.
“We are supportive of the government’s involvement in allowing uranium mining to occur,” Mr Mumby said.
“We see it as a move for positive investments that will provide jobs and infrastructure in regional areas.”