The Commonwealth Government has just released its response to
Deloitte's 2008 Review of Regulatory Efficiency in Uranium
Mining, which suggests the possibility of major changes to the
environmental regulation of uranium mining.
In summary, it raises the question of whether the Commonwealth
may remove its specific environmental approval requirements for
The Deloitte review and the Government's response
The Deloitte Review was commissioned by the Commonwealth
Department of Resources, Energy & Tourism, in conjunction with
South Australian and the Northern Territory resources agencies, on
behalf of the Uranium Industry Framework Regulation Working
The Deloitte Review recommended that the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
(EPBC Act) be amended to remove uranium mining and
milling from the definition of "nuclear actions".
The removal of uranium mining from the definition of
"nuclear action" would cause uranium mines to be treated
in the same manner as other mining developments, and not
automatically be classified as "controlled actions"
requiring environmental Commonwealth approval under the EPBC
This would mean that proposed uranium mining activities would
not require approval unless they are likely to have a significant
impact with respect to one of the listed matters of national
environmental significance, such as world heritage sites, wetlands
of international importance, or listed threatened species or they
are likely to have a significant impact on the environment on
Notably, the Government has not rejected this recommendation, as
it did with the recommendation to override State bans on uranium
mining discussed below, but has said that its policy on this issue
will be released as part of its response to the recommendations of
the Hawke Review into the EPBC Act (which also raised the issue).
This response is due later this year.
State laws on uranium mining to remain
The Commonwealth Government has rejected the recommendation to
negotiate with State governments to remove any legislative or other
barriers to the exploration for, and mining of, uranium.
It will, however, continue to investigate opportunities with
States and Territories for improving and streamlining regulation of
Environmental approvals and uranium mining
The Review also recommended that the Government consolidate all
Commonwealth environmental responsibilities in relation to uranium
mining under the responsibility of the Minister for Environment
Protection, Heritage and the Arts.
The Government has agreed to do this, saying that:
the environmental responsibilities applying to new uranium
mines, or to extensions of existing mines, will be applied through
approval conditions under the EPBC Act and therefore be the
responsibility of the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage
and the Arts.
it intends to move the environmental requirements for existing
mines under the EPBC Act so that they will also be regulated by the
It does warn that the second objective might be a challenge, as
"the legislative process for achieving this ... requires
The Government also gave in-principle support to the
recommendation that all environmental requirements on uranium
export permits be removed for those uranium mines approved under
the EPBC Act.
If the recommendations of the Deloitte Review to eliminate the
uranium mining trigger and consolidate environmental regulation of
uranium are accepted, this would mean:
uranium mining would be treated no differently from other types
of mining, at least in terms of legislative controls;
if none of the other approval triggers of the EPBC Act are
activated, then no Commonwealth environmental approval will be
needed, leaving environmental approval to the States and
the remaining Commonwealth controls for uranium mining will be
streamlined under the administration of the Commonwealth
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