The Woomera Prohibited Area is a step closer to being opened up for mining, as a new bill passed through the Senate yesterday to amend Defence legislation.
The House of Representatives is expected to give final approval to the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill in July.
South Australian senator Don Farrell said the move will be extremely important for South Australia, which will provide more jobs when staple economic bases for the state, such as the Holden manufacturing plant, are to be removed.
“How do we replace the jobs that will be lost by the closure of Holden? This bill provides the solution,” Senator Farrell said.
“It provides us with the opportunity to do further exploration.
“I am very confident that there will be some major discoveries that will enable our state to do what Western Australia… has done and will continue to do with minerals.”
Farrell said the Gawler Craton, located within the Woomera Prohibited Area, has been predicted to contain $35 billion worth of mineral reserves.
The Woomera Prohibited Area has largely been used as a weapons testing range, most notably the Maralinga site by the British for the testing of nuclear weapons.
The area encompasses 13 per cent of the area of South Australia, about 127,000 square kilometres.
Greens senator Penny Wright said there had not been enough consultation with the traditional owners, the Maralinga and the Anangu Pitjanjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) peoples.
Senator Wright said the Maralinga lands cover 40 per cent of the WPA, and that the Maralinga and APY peoples are not opposed to mining operations.
An area known as Section 400, the site of British nuclear testing, has been excluded from mining operations in the South Australian mining act to avoid disturbance of plutonium in the area.
Wright said the Maralinga and APY people’s want Section 400 excluded from the Woomera Prohibited Area, and that they should receive economic benefits from mining activities on their traditional lands.