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Wednesday, 29 February 1984
Page: 133


Senator MASON —My question is addressed also to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Is it a fact that the Japanese Power Reaction and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation has found a uranium ore body estimated as high as 20,000 tonnes some 900 kilometres east of Perth at approximately 124 degrees east and 29 degrees and 50 minutes south, close to the Cundelee Mission which is an Aboriginal reserve? Is the corporation entirely Japanese owned and are all workers on the site Japanese? Is the highest public profile of this operation a small sign bearing the letters PNC on an isolated road some 150 kilometres from Kalgoorlie? Has material from this ore body been sent to Japan for testing? If not, is this contemplated or planned? In view of the Government's announced decision not to allow uranium mining to proceed other than at Roxby Downs, why is it permitting this exploration by an entirely foreign corporation? Will the Minister give a positive assurance that no mining will be undertaken on this site? Finally, what other exploration is the Japanese Power Reaction and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation carrying out in Australia?


Senator WALSH —An ore body, estimated to contain some 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of uranium oxide, has been discovered about 900 kilometres east of Perth by the Japanese Corporation named by Senator Mason. It is not correct that it is entirely staffed by Japanese. I understand that there is a Japanese manager but other than the manager Australians have been employed in the past. At present the work force is very small although I cannot be precise about that. I am not aware of the letters PNC being etched into the ground in some way, but the news of this discovery is not new. Indeed, there have been several Press reports since it was originally discovered, I believe, in 1979. As far as I know there has been no attempt to keep it secret but nobody has been particularly excited about it. Ore was sent to Japan for testing in 1982.

In regard to the question 'Why is the Government allowing this exploration' although I am not sure whether an active exploration program will continue, the major answer to that question is that it is a State matter. There may be some provision under the Atomic Energy Act-I do not want to be definitive about this without further advice-under which the Commonwealth could stop the subsequent extraction of uranium ore if it cared to invoke the rather draconian powers of that Act. But the exploration activity, in the general sense of course within a State, is something over which the Commonwealth Government has no control.

Regarding the question of mining that ore body, it is quite clear from the statement of Government policy announced on 8 November I believe it was, or certainly thereabouts, that there will be no prospect of this mine being allowed to produce or being allowed to export at least while that present policy is maintained. Whether it is a commercial proposition is a separate question and I have no information on that. As far as I know, the Japanese corporation to which Senator Mason referred is not conducting any other mining or exploration activities in Australia, but if there is any activity of which I am not presently aware I will send that information on to Senator Mason later.


Senator MASON —I ask a supplementary question. My question to the Minister has not been answered and it was a fairly complex question. Is the Corporation entirely Japanese- owned?


Senator WALSH —Sorry, yes.