The Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, today declined to confirm or deny whether Energy Resources of Australia had made approaches to the Government to withdraw from the controversial Jabiluka uranium mine proposal.
Democrats Environment Spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said it was important for the Minister to inform the Parliament if there had been any indication from the company that they wanted to quit.
If this was untrue, if these approaches to the Government had never taken place, then the Minister gave away two opportunities to deny it. The point is that he wouldnt rule out that these meetings have occurred, Senator Allison said.
The best the Minister could come up with was that it was news to him. He also gave no commitment to inform the Parliament as to whether these meetings took place and, if so, what was discussed despite being asked to do so.
Senator Allison said it makes sense that ERA would consider scrapping Jabiluka, given the poor state of both the industry and the companys shares. Factors include:
* Comments made by ERA chairman Campbell Anderson at the ERA Annual General meeting in October (in response to a question as to whether the company would do it all again) that ERA is not as optimistic now about the project as when it was purchased. (His next statement was that he was resigning to take a position with the Business Council of Australia).
* ERA shares have fallen from $5.60 in 3/96 to about $1.85 (65% down)
* They are at least 12 months behind their own schedule for the mine.
* Two weeks ago Philip Shirvington, CEO of ERA, issued a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange that due to a depressed uranium market the next financial year would see lower production, lower sales and lower profits for the company.
* A recent report by the peak world industry body, the Uranium Institute, issued a report that stated for the next 20 years uranium supply would outstrip demand.
So we have a falling spot price, a global glut of uranium and the Jabiluka mine is 12 months behind schedule with a massive negative response from the community. This uranium mine is clearly a dead horse to flog, Senator Allison said.
Senator Allison said the Minister was wrong when he said he didnt think the tourism industry was worried about the mine as she had a copy of a letter from one tourism operator to him stating the dogmatic stance on the Jabiluka issue will adversely impact on tourism in the Northern Territory.
Contacts: Justin OBrien on 0411 473 697
Senator Lyn Allison
Spokesperson on the Environment