Australia has the world’s biggest share of uranium resources and is currently the third largest global producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada (Geoscience Australia 2015). At the moment there are three operating uranium mines, Olympic Dam and Four mile in South Australia and Ranger in the northern territory, with three more operations scheduled to begin in the near future (Geoscience Australia 2015). Such production of the mineral uranium has always raised concerns, as the mineral, affects everyone involved either in its use, sales or production. Though there are upsides and downsides to uranium mining the latter tends to be prominent. Therefore the aim of this paper is to show with valid explanation, reasons as to why Australia should ban the mining of uranium.
As any mining venture, the mining of uranium is a significant boost to the Australian economy and is beneficial to the general population. The most notable reason why uranium is beneficial to the economy is that it brings in hundreds of millions in revenue. With nuclear power accounting for 15% of the world’s electricity (Department of Resource, Energy and Tourism 2012), the uranium industry has generated a total of 6.5 billion dollars from uranium sales at the global market since 2005 to 2014 (Figure 1). However with 72 new reactors being built around the world (Mineral council Australia 2015) as well as 3 new uranium mines to begin operations in Australia (Geoscience Australia 2015), the revenue stream is forecasted to increase and by the year 2020 reach 1 billion dollars annually (Figure 2). Another reason why uranium mining is beneficial to the economy is that it that provides job opportunities. And with the mining boom in a slump, a lot of jobs in the mining industry are expected to be slashed by the year 2020 (Sydney Morning Herald 2015).Currently uranium mining employs 4200 people in the rural where there are not many job opportunities (World Nuclear Association 2015).Nevertheless with the uranium industry forecasted to grow in the coming years, more jobs are being created which can be filled in by the current work force. As many of the skills from this current workforce are transferrable to uranium mining (Sydney Morning Herald 2015).Thus uranium mining can be seen as significant contributor to the economy.
Though the mining of uranium is a significant investment to the Australian economy it also has certain downsides, most prominent of all is the impact it has on the environment. Uranium mining uses different techniques to mine uranium however a certain method they use is very harmful to the Australian environment in particular its water supply. This method is called In Situ Leach (ISL) and is currently being used by the Four mile mine in South Australia (Validakas 2013). The process involves drilling ground water wells into uranium deposits, injecting corrosive chemicals, and then pumping back the uranium solution (Mudd 2007). A simple process only applied to groundwater systems (Mudd 2007). But when chemicals are injected into the aquifers they can poison the water supply. A good example of this is Straz pod Ralskem in the Czech Republic where 5 million metric tons of acid where pumped directly into the underground water system causing large scale environmental damage and contaminating drinking water (Janicek 2011). And for Australia water of any quality is precious and without a water supply the consequence can be very detrimental. Another consequence of uranium mining is the effect radioactive waste has on the ecosystem. Uranium is mined in ores containing radium and radon, generated from the decay of uranium, both radioactive and toxic chemicals (World Nuclear Association 2014). These are the waste products that are stored away by the mines. But in the last decades all operating mines have had leaks, spills or accidents (Australian Conservation Foundation 2015). An example is the Ranger mine in the Northern