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Australian Government Takes Control of Northern Territory's Deposits As Uranium Rush Hits

A uranium rush is triggering the reactivation of dozens of uranium mines worldwide after China and India pledged to boost their nuclear power sectors in the face of global warming. In Australia, the federal government has wrested control of the Northern Territory’s US$9.2Bn deposits from the state’s Labour government, who had imposed a moratorium on uranium mining.

“This morning in our meeting with the NT resources minister it was made clear by the territory government that they were abdicating their part of decision-making on uranium mining,” MacFarlane told reporters in the northern capital, Darwin. ‘’The federal government would now assume responsibility for the approval of uranium mines,” he said.

MacFarlane said the government was taking control “for the good of the territory” and resources industry. “We can’t allow this confusion to continue. This no-uranium policy is a nonsensical policy. The Northern Territory is open for business on uranium mining.”

About a dozen companies are currently exploring for uranium in the resource-rich territory. Currently, the only operating mine is Rio Tinto’s Energy Resources of Australia mine at Ranger, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park. French nuclear power company Cogema is lobbying its aboriginal owners in a bid to mine the multi-million dollar, 14,000-tonne Koongarra deposit in the World Heritage-listed park.

Macfarlane said he shared the local government’s unease about the Koongarra deposit but would consider all applications. He said no mining would be approved unless it had “the full support of the indigenous owners of the area where the mine is proposed.”

Australia currently has just three working uranium mines — BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam and Heathgate Resources’ Beverley mine in South Australia and the Ranger mine.

Uranium prices have been rising steadily in recent years, to around 29 dollars per pound from nearly 10 dollars a pound four years ago.

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003