Government minister in a hole over Australian uranium mine approval

Australian environment minister and former rock band front man Peter Garrett is under fire after approving a new uranium mine.

Peter Garrett, former Midnight Oil lead singer turned frontbench politician in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labour government, last week (July 14) approved the Four Mile uranium mine in outback South Australia.

He said: "I have not taken this decision lightly. As with all proposals examined under national environment law, this mine was subject to a comprehensive, scientifically robust and transparent assessment process.

"Following this thorough assessment and careful consideration, I am certain this operation poses no credible risk to the environment."

But the decision to approve Australia's fifth uranium mine sparked fierce criticism of Mr Garrett from political opponents and conservation groups.

They accused the former anti-uranium activist, who once stood for the Nuclear Disarmament Party and penned anti-nuclear anthems for his band, of hypocrisy and argue the mine will harm the environment.

Federal opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said: "This approval shows that Mr Garrett is as big a phoney as the prime minister.

"He spent his whole life denouncing uranium mining and wanting to shut it down. Now he's opening a new one."

Mr Garrett defended his decision.

He said: "When you recognise that the party has made a decision about a policy matter over which you may have had a different opinion, you accept that party decision.

"I came into the parliament to be a team player, I came into the parliament to make a difference, as the best environment minister I can be and this decision and all other decisions I am making are entirely consistent with that."

He insists the 'government is committed to world best practice environmental standards in uranium mining and in protecting the environment for the benefit of future generations'.

But Senator Scott Ludlam, nuclear spokesman for The Greens, said the claim the mine, 550km (340 miles) north of Adelaide, would be world's best practice was "unfounded and bordered on delusional".

He added: "This acid injection uranium mine will dump liquid radioactive waste into regional groundwater body and the minister is trying to argue this won't damage the environment."

Australia is the world's third largest uranium producer, with annual exports worth some $900 million (£440 million).

David Gibbs


| air quality | mining


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