the australian federal department of environment and energy has granted environmental approval for cameco australia's yeelirrie uranium project in western australia. any decision to advance the project will depend on market conditions, the company said.
yeelirrie received conditional approval from the state government of western australia in january 2017. simon williamson, general manager of cameco australia, on 24 april said the two-year environmental assessment process had been "rigorous and extensive". he added that the company had worked with the department to demonstrate how it will reduce and manage any environmental risks.
both the state and federal approvals include comprehensive conditions to ensure that people and the environment remain protected and the project is responsibly managed, the company said.
the conservation council of western australia (ccwa) said the federal approval of the project, which was signed off by environment minister melissa price the day before a federal election was called, was "secretive and driven by politics rather than due process". ccwa spokesperson mia pepper said price had previously made a commitment not to approve the project pending the completion of appeal court hearings on a challenge to the state approval lodged on behalf of the ccwa and a small number of traditional owners. the western australia court of appeal hearings began in march, with a decision expected within three to four months.
cameco australia owns two flagship uranium projects in western australia: kintyre, an advanced-stage exploration project located in the east pilbara region, which it acquired from rio tinto in 2008; and yeelirrie, in the remote northern goldfields region, which it acquired from bhp billiton in 2012. it also holds exploration tenements in the northern territory. it describes yeelirrie as one of australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits.
the project will consist of an open cut mine, metallurgical plant and associated infrastructure and facilities. the mine will be about 9km long, up to 1.5km wide and about 10m deep, and the project is expected to produce an average 3850 tu3o8 (3265 tu) per year of uranium oxide concentrate over the 15-year ore processing period.
cameco australia said any decisions to advance its projects in western australia will depend upon market conditions. "while we are happy to have this approval in place, current market conditions are challenging and we expect them to remain so in the near term," williamson said.
cameco australia pty ltd is a subsidiary of cameco corporation.