Long road ahead for WA uranium hopeful
Release 2nd April 2013
Uranium hopeful Toro Energy faces a long and difficult journey in its push to become WA’s first uranium producer according to WA’s peak environmental group.
The assessment comes as Federal environment minister Tony Burke has given conditional approval to Toro’s controversial Wiluna uranium project.
“It is disappointing that the Toro proposal was approved as it lacks key data and the company lacks financial capacity and credibility” said CCWA nuclear free campaigner Mia Pepper.
“But conditional approval for a behind schedule and above cost uranium project is a long way from a working mine. The conditions placed on the proposal will make Toro’s life more costly and complicated.”
Concerns over impacts on water resources, proposed transport routes, rehabilitation costs, the management of long lived radioactive mine wastes, falling commodity prices, the lack of bi-partisan state political support and Toro’s financial viability continue to hold back the project.
“Toro still requires more state and federal authorisations, including a mine closure plan – which will incorporate a proposal to store 9.1 million cubic meters of radioactive mine waste on a lake bed,” said Ms Pepper.
“Not only does Toro need to find $260 million to start the mine, they also need to find an estimated $260 million to cover mine closure costs in upfront bonds required by the WA government”.
Bigger projects from far more resourced and experienced mining companies have recently been put on hold in WA because of a combination of rising costs and falling uranium prices.
“In the past twelve months BHP Billiton has exited the WA uranium sector while Cameco has shelved projects in the Pilbara and Goldfields citing ‘challenging economics’ and market uncertainty post Fukushima,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“We have deep concerns about Toro’s ability to finance the project and maintain the highest environmental standards. Toro is a small company but it poses a big risk and faces big challenges”.
National and State Environment groups are committed to challenging and opposing uranium projects in Western Australia.
Toro’s WA uranium plan under the spotlight and under pressure
Release: 28th November 2012
Junior uranium hopeful Toro Energy will be the focus of protest outside and questioning inside the company’s annual meeting in Adelaide today.
Toro hopes to develop Western Australia’s first uranium mine near Wiluna in the Murchison region. The project is currently undergoing federal assessment, requires a range of further state approvals and is actively contested.
“The Toro project is far from a done deal,” said Conservation Council WA nuclear free campaigner Mia Pepper. “There are serious flaws in the state assessment process and the studies Toro provided to the State Government. The project is a long way from being approved and the company faces serious financing constraints.
“Under new mine closure guidelines Toro has to find 100% of the mine closure costs in order to get approval to mine. So Toro needs $150 million to close a mine even before it has raised the $300 million to open it. The combination of a uranium price in free-fall and rising mine costs make this project is increasingly unviable.”
Toro Energy’s uranium mining push comes as proven miners, including BHP Billiton and Cameco, defer or get out of planned uranium projects in WA.
“2012 has seen the world’s largest miner and the world’s largest uranium miner vote with their feet against uranium developments at Yeelirrie and Kintyre,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Both these companies have far more experience and resources than Toro and both these deposits are larger than Wiluna. Toro’s enthusiasm far exceeds its capacity. The company is out of step with the fundamentals of the uranium sector, post-Fukushima. Toro wants a blank cheque but is heading for an abrupt reality check.
“With WA Labor and the Greens opposed to uranium mining in the West the Wiluna project is unpopular, unsafe and increasingly uncertain.”
Protestors will attend the Toro AGM and launch an alternative annual report at a highly visual presence outside the company’s meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, from 9:15 am (Adelaide time).
WANFA Vows to fight Toro
WA Nuclear Free Alliance Conference Statement 2012:
The Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), made up of Aboriginal Traditional Land Owners who are concerned about uranium mining on their country, from the Pilbara, the Kimberley, the Goldfields, the Great Victorian Desert, the Central Desert, the Gascoyne, Perth and the South West and their allies. WANFA met from 15th-16th of September at Kutunatu Ngurra camp just outside of Leonora.
Kutunatu Ngurra camp is a registered sacred site and has long been a central meeting ground for protection of country, culture and people. The re-establishment of Kutunatu Ngurra for the 2012 WANFA meeting is a testament to the continuing dedication and union of Traditional Owners opposed to uranium mining on their lands.
The West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance supports Aboriginal Sovereignty across all Aboriginal territories in Western Australia. WANFA demands that the Government and Industry respect the basic Human Rights of Aboriginal peoples and adhere to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, respecting our right to self-determination and engaging with Aboriginal peoples within the framework of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed consent.
With the current fast tracking of the Toro Energy Wiluna Uranium Project assessment, WANFA invited WA State Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, to attend the conference to meet with the people this mine will impact. After several requests the Minister continues to refuse to meet with representatives of WANFA and local Elders showing unwillingness to engage with community.
On September 19th, Bill Marmion announced that he has dismissed the appeals regarding Toro Energy’s Uranium Mine proposal. The Government is now in the process of finalising State Approval for this to become Western Australia’s first uranium mine, the proposal still has a number of approvals and licenses before it can proceed and WANFA along with other NGO’s and groups are investigating options to challenge the mine.
The Ministers conditions on the mine do not cover mine tailings and mine closure, long after Marmion’s term in Government and long after Toro has gone bankrupt the radioactive mine waste will sit on our country threatening and poisoning our lands and bush tucker. This mine is a risk to the environment, the water and the local community. Whether you’re a shareholder or a tax payer this mine will cost us as West Australians.
Bill Marmion’s announcement comes within a week of the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Free, prior and informed consent are pivotal human rights encompassed within this declaration – rights that are achievable through adequate access to information, and community consultation. Both of these aspects are continually being withheld and ignored by the WA Government.
The West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance demands that the Government adhere to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and respect our right to self-determination.
We are determined to stop the poison of uranium mining in Western Australia by:
- Sharing information and our stories to educate people about the true risks of radiation
- Peaceful protest to demand the truth from Government
- Demanding transparency and community consultation during both the State and Federal Government’s mining approval processes
- Challenging the Australian Uranium Association’s Indigenous Dialogue Group who are representing the industry rather than a true Aboriginal community view
- Exposing anthropologists, archaeologists and pro industry consultants that attempt to validate negligent practices of the mining industry
- Demanding that our Land Councils, Native Title representative bodies and Native Title service organisations fulfil their legal requirements to be accountable, transparent and representative of the community’s views.
We call for:
- The WA Government to uphold the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and fulfil the basic right to free, prior and informed consent by consulting with communities along the proposed uranium transport route
- The WA Government to immediately commission an open, and independent public inquiry into uranium mining
- The federal environment minister, Tony Burke, to block any proposed uranium mining project in Western Australia
- The Western Australian ALP to remain committed to the policy formed at the last ALP State Conference to ban any uranium mines in Western Australia and to close any uranium mines that may be approved under the current Government
- Those who finance the uranium industry, to avoid the uncertainty and contamination of this trade, and instead invest in renewable, clean energy Governments and the nuclear industry to stop minimising and trivialising the dangers radiation.
Minister’s approval ignores community opposition
Release: 12th October 2012
The Australian and West Australian Nuclear Free Alliances (ANFA and WANFA) have today condemned the State approval of the Toro Wiluna uranium mine proposal and the incomplete uranium transport plan.
Kado Muir Chairperson of WANFA said “This uranium mine will not impact on Minister Marmion, or the Directors of Toro Energy but it will impact on the communities from Wiluna right through to Adelaide and Darwin.”
“As a Traditional Owner south of Wiluna I don’t want uranium transported through my country. We’ve stood up strongly against uranium mining on our country we won’t just sit back and let uranium go though our country. This industry is dangerous and unwanted.”
“The Minister has ignored us time and time again. He won’t ignore his friends with holiday houses in Margaret River when they say no to a coal mine. But when we say no to a uranium mine in outback WA, when we invite him out to speak with us – he’s happy to ignore us” Mr Muir concluded.
Mitch Co Chair of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance said “The science and economics of transporting uranium from WA to Darwin and Adelaide does not add up. It is not the safest or the quickest route it puts too many communities and farmlands at risk.”
“If there’s an accident on the Nullabor who’s going to be there to clean it up? Have Toro spoken to emergency service and councils along the route? are these workers trained to deal with radiation? have they spoken to the truck drivers and grey nomads? do they even know about this proposal?”
Peter Watts, ANFA Co-Chair warned “I have a uranium mine on my country in South Australia, we’ve seen what it does to the country and the people, it’s not right. The Environment Minister is supposed to protect the environment you just can’t do that with a uranium mine we’ve seen firsthand that environmental protection and uranium mines can’t co-exist.”
“We just can’t let another uranium mine open in Australia. We need to put an end to this industry now. I visited Japan this year and I saw what our uranium has done, this has gone too far and needs to be stopped.”
Toro – time to come clean on costs
Release: Wednesday 8th August 2012
Western Australia’s peak environment group, one of the appellants against Toro Energy Ltd’s proposed Wiluna uranium mine, has called on the company to reveal the expected costs for closure and rehabilitation for the mine, which the Council says could make the project uneconomic.
Piers Verstegen, CCWA Director said “Under WA’s new mine closure guidelines, mining companies are required to pay the full costs of mine closure. In addition, the WA Parliament recently passed a motion that would require uranium mine waste to be isolated from the environment for no less than 10,000 years.
Despite these requirements, Toro are making claims about the financial viability of the Wiluna uranium project without disclosing the costs of mine closure and rehabilitation to shareholders, the WA Government or the community they expect to host the mine.”
“Mining giants BHP and Cameco have both recently concluded that their uranium projects in WA and South Australia are not economically viable. After carefully analysing the cost structure of uranium projects including the very high mine closure and rehabilitation costs, these companies have shelved their projects as they simply don’t stack up.
“The big difference between Toro Energy and the mining giants is they have no operating mining projects and nothing to lose. Unlike BHP and Cameco who have huge portfolios at stake, Toro energy could easily abandon an uneconomic uranium mine and leave the clean-up bill to be paid by WA taxpayers.
“Even their largest investor Oz Minerals, which holds a 43% stake in the company, described Toro as a ‘tiny company’ and a ‘non core asset’ at their recent AGM in Melbourne.
“It may be that Toro’s business model does not involve ever paying their mine closure costs, with the company instead planning to abandon the mine site and leave this liability to the WA taxpayer. This would explain the company’s failure to account for mine closure costs in the information they have provided to shareholders.
“Given this very real possibility, the WA Government should apply the same standards used by the big mining companies in assessing uranium proposals. If Companies like BHP and Cameco are not prepared to gamble their extensive assets on this uncertain industry, our Government should not be prepared to gamble taxpayers’ money and the health of our environment and communities on uranium mining.”
Doctors slam uranium miner over junk science on radiation safety
May Day 2012
On the 1st of May as Unions and workers around the world stand together in unity, for the health and safety of workers, for equality in the work force here in Australia the Medical Association for Prevention of War has released a statement signed by 45 medical doctors calling on uranium mining company Toro Energy to stop promoting the view that low-level radiation is beneficial to human health.
As uranium exploration spreads across WA there is rising concern about the workplace behavior around radiation safety at uranium exploration sites.
Toro Energy has brought Canadian Dr- Doug Boreham to Australia on several occasions to promote the view that radiation is not only safe but good for you. This position has been challenged internationally and refuted by the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation and United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
Concern over health impacts from radiation have increased over the years, with a substantial body of evidence and lived experience, not the opposite. It is irresponsible for Toro to promote fringe scientific views on radiation and it is time for Government intervention into this matter.
The medical statement has been sent to all WA politicians, to the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Aging, The Radiological Council, Land Councils and Unions.