BRISBANE, Australia, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The government of the Australian state of Queensland has released a plan to resume uranium mining as early as next year.
While Australia has the world's largest known reserves of uranium, it accounts for only 11 percent of global output. The economic value of uranium in Queensland is considered to be about $18 billion, Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper reports.
Even after Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, 66 nuclear reactors are under construction worldwide, two-thirds of them in Asia.
Queensland's last uranium mine, the Mary Kathleen, closed in 1982. The Queensland government banned uranium mining seven years later.
Queensland Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said Thursday the state government has accepted the determination by an independent committee that, with some adaptations, uranium mining could resume under existing industry regulation and radiation safety systems.
"The government's focus is to ensure all the uranium-specific regulatory guidelines and protocols are in place to begin assessing applications from mid-July 2014," Australian Mining reported Cripps as saying.
The minister said factors including commercial demand and market price for uranium would determine the timing of recommencing of mining.
"There are a number of factors that will influence the timing of uranium mining operations and it is ultimately a commercial decision for industry proponents," Cripps said. "These factors include the world market price for uranium, supply and demand in that market, and mining costs."
The Australian Conservation Foundation said Queensland's plan to advance uranium mining was in conflict with commitments made by the new Coalition Federal Government -- elected Sept. 7 -- that the federal government would retain control of uranium mining.
"The Queensland environment and community deserves better than the inadequate and ill-considered plan released today," said ACF's Dave Sweeney in a statement Thursday.
ACF has maintained radioactive waste lasts a long time at a uranium mining site.
"We welcome the Federal Coalition's re-affirmation of this and urge the Queensland Government to stop trying to cut corners for this contested and contaminating industry," Sweeney said.
The state government's support for uranium mining is already triggering investment, says the Queensland Resources Council, a mining lobby group.
"Only recently I was speaking to a major European company interested in uranium in Queensland and they will be spending millions of dollars just this year exploring for uranium in parts of the state not previously explored," the council's chief, Michael Roche, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.