A BHP Billiton copper/uranium/gold/silver processing plant near the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.
A BHP Billiton copper/uranium/gold/silver processing plant near the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. AFPBHP BILLITON

Uranium described as the “asbestos of the 21st century”

A NATIONAL environmental group has described uranium mining as the "asbestos of the 21st century" in its fight against the Queensland Government's plan to restart the industry.

The Australian Conservation Foundation handed its critical submission to the government today.

In it, the ACF warns against Queensland re-opening the mining of uranium for use in overseas nuclear reactors.

The group said "tailings" - radioactive material left behind as part of the mining that must be contained for at least 10,000 years - were a particular concern.

It refers to regulations governing the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory which force Energy Resources of Australia to abide by such exceptional timeframes.

"Exposure to uranium and other radioactive materials has been directly linked with cancer, genetic damage and serious and adverse personal and inter-generational health impacts," the group said in the report.

The ACF also warned there was still no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste and that Australia - as an exporter of uranium - would face more pressure to store waste domestically.

It also disputed claims by the Queensland Government that there was a strong economic justification for the industry.

The State Government has repeatedly said it would ensure the highest safety regulation for uranium mining.

It announced it would revisit the mining debate in late October, setting up a Uranium Mining Implementation Committee.

After collecting submissions, the committee will deliver a report to the government in March next year.



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