• Traditional owners have been fighting against uranium mining for 40 years. (Vimeo)Source: Vimeo
Tjiwarl Traditional Owners say they are saddened to learn the Morrison Government approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine despite the environmental warnings against it.
Rangi Hirini

26 Apr 2019 - 3:03 PM  UPDATED 26 Apr 2019 - 3:04 PM

Traditional Owners who have been fighting against a uranium mine in the mid-west of Western Australia say they don’t know how their current Supreme Court case will be impacted after the Federal Environmental Minister approved plans for Canadian company, Cameco, to mine their land.  

The Yeelirrie site is the largest uranium deposit in the country. Roughly 36 million tonnes of radioactive waste will be produced during the lifetime of the mine, which now has approval until 2043.

According to the ABC, the Federal Government signed off on the approval on 10 April, before calling the federal election. A public announcement of the approval was not made until Tuesday, 24 April.

Tjiwarl woman, Vicky Abdullah, has been campaigning against mining on her land and is currently involved in a Supreme Court case challenging the West Australian Government’s 2016 state government approval for the mine.

Ms Abdullah said news of the Federal Government’s approval had been ‘upsetting’ and the government should have spoken to Traditional Owners. 

"We just wonder when will things change. We've done everything in good faith, putting in submissions, going to court, following the law, but the politicians keep changing the rules," she said.

"We will continue to protect our country any way we can."

The Federal Government’s approval comes with 32 strict environmental conditions. One of the conditions is that  Cameco produce a groundwater management plan to manage the risks for Stygofauna, an endangered microscopic creature that lives in the underground aquifers.

A spokesperson for Federal Environmental Minister, Melissa Price, said the strict conditions will lessen the potential environmental impacts.

"With the conditions in place, the Minister is satisfied that risks to the environment will be appropriately managed and balanced against the social and economic benefits of the project,” she said.

It is the latest blow for the Tjiwarl people and comes after former West Australian Premier Environment Minister Albert Jacob approved Cameco’s mine proposal.

In October, Minister Price said she would be staying away from the Yeelirrie mine until after the Supreme Court case was finalised.

Ms Adbullah said the announcement ‘hurt’ the Tjiwarl people.

“The Minister made a commitment to wait until after the court case and then completely disregarded that commitment without talking to us or without any thought for us and that hurts all over again,” she said.

Traditional Owners lose their fight to stop uranium mine in WA
Last year, the former Barnett government had approved the Yeelirrie uranium mine against the advice from the Environmental Protection Authority and the wishes of the Aboriginal people of the land.

Both the Labor and Greens have hit out at the Federal Government over their decision. Labor's environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said no detail is known about the approval and accused Ms Price of being in hiding.

 "I want to find out what on earth has happened," he told ABC radio.

“You need to know whether the conditions that have been put in place are fair, you need to know whether the environmental assessment has been dealt with rigorously."

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John is calling on Labor to tear up the "absolutely disgraceful" approval if it wins government.

"We cannot have a situation where this mine goes ahead," he told Sky News.

Ms Abdullah also had a message for any new incoming government.

"Leave it in the ground, don’t touch it, you’re disturbing our country.”