Minister questioned over controversial uranium mine approval

Yeelirrie is one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits.
Yeelirrie is one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits.

FEDERAL Labor is calling on Environment Minister Melissa Price to explain why she approved a controversial uranium mine in Western Australia the day before the national election was called.

“I want to find out what on earth has happened,” Labor’s environment spokesman Tony Burke told ABC radio on Friday.

The Canadian-owned Yeelirrie uranium mine, about 500km north of Kalgoorlie, was given the tick of approval by Ms Price on April 10, according to an Environment Department document.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison triggered the May 18 election on April 11.

The Conservation Council of WA and traditional owners are in the midst of a legal fight over the mine after taking their battle to the Court of Appeal last month.

State approval was given just weeks before the WA election in 2016.

The federal government had previously indicated it wouldn’t make a decision until the WA appeal was complete.

Mr Burke says no detail is known about the approval and the minister has some explaining to do.

“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,” he said.

“The only person who can defend that is the minister.”

Senior government minister Mathias Cormann has claimed the approval was given on March 5 but additional administration meant it wasn’t finalised until this month.

“This is business as usual,” he told Sky News, adding the mine faced 32 “strict” environmental conditions.

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.