Update on the Mullaquana Uranium Project

Uranium SA  have advised that 0n August 5 they lodged an 800 page Retention Lease Application with the South Australian State Government to undertake an In-Situ Recovery Field Trial (ISR-FT) to confirm the results of its metallurgical test work and establish design parameters for future uranium yellowcake production.

If approved, a Retention lease could be issued by December 2011 and a trial uranium mining process may start in early 2012.

Uranium mining moving closer to town communities.

The Conservation Council position on uranium mining as described in our Blueprint, is that it should be phased out.  The nuclear industry has not proven its safety and this has been  demonstrated again this year at Fukushima Japan, with multiple meltdowns in reactors, failure of spent fuel storage ponds and now a large exclusion zone around the facility which may remain in force and uninhabitable for decades.

This mine will bring the acid in-situ leaching and facilities to produce uranium 'yellowcake' to within 20 km of Whyalla.

Conservation SA would prefer that businesses operating in South Australian pursue renewable energy technologies .

If this mine is approved for the trial, it must be managed for the best outcomes and the government must enforce its policy commitments for the strictest environmental conditions.

Our concerns remain (see our submission to Uranium SA)

  • Adding acid mobilises heavy metals and pollution in the aquifer
  • Adding up to 55,000 litres of additional water per day during the operation can change the aquifer and underground flows. What legacy will this mine leave?
  • We are not convinced that "local remediation measures and mineral chemistry will quickly neutralise solutions on the cessation of mining".
    • We are not convinced that it is safe to dispose of acidic polluted wastewater into an aquifer that will flow in groundwater underneath Spencer Gulf.
  • Without bunding around pipework, when there are leaks, they flow onto soil (as experienced at the Beverley uranium mine). At this site leaks could include acidic, highly salinised water with mobilised heavy metals including uranium.
  • Impacts on protection of birds and other wildlife from acidic storage ponds.
  • Improvements to the site now owned by Uranium SA to protect and enhance biodiversity

Update of the retention lease proposal.

Uranium SA has advised the Conservation Council that there have been some changes to the proposal and which are described in the Retention Lease application documents.  Our understanding is that:

  • Low level radioactive waste will be stockpiled and stored on site, ultimately in lined storage under 5 metres of earth cover at a standard where the proponent can walk away from the site
  • A precipitation facility will be built on site to produce uranium yellowcake as a wet product that will be stored in drums
  • At the end of the trial, up to 30 tonnes (36 Max) of uranium product will be produced and the Government will prescribe how this product is sold or managed
  • Waste streams will be disposed of into the Aquifer
  • A 20m x 20m storage pond will be created to manage the storage of waste streams when necessary, and could be increased 80m x 80m
  • Water supply will be from sea water for flushing carbonates out of the target zone (up to 225 kl/day for 8 days), and during the trial (up to 55 kL/day). The use of treated wastewater from Whyalla may also be included

The application document for the retention lease is not yet available and will be provided on-line by the State Government during a period of public exhibition, and on the Uranium SA website.  When the document is released, the Conservation Council will consult with its Members and stakeholders, provide further updates, and prepare a full submission.

 

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