Microscopic creatures foil major Australian mining project

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Perth, Aug 4 (IANS) Discovery of microscopic species of desert-dwelling crustaceans have thwarted plans to build one of Australia’s biggest uranium mines.

The proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine in Western Australia (WA), 650 km northeast of state capital Perth, was blocked by WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) because of the threat it posed to 11 species of the prawn-like creatures, stygofauna, Xinhua news agency reported.

The stygofauna, which live in caves deep below the WA desert, lack eyes and pigmentation and measure between 0.3 and 10 mm.

Greens Party Senator Scott Ludlam, who made a submission to the EPA’s review of the project, said the stygofauna should be added to the protected species list.

“(The) decision by the EPA should be the final nail in a proposal that should never have seen the light of day,” Ludlam said on Thursday.

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Tom Hatton, chairman of the EPA, said that allowing the project to advance any further would be too risky for the region’s ecosystem.

“The stygofauna habitat at Yeelirrie is particularly rich with 73 species recorded – more than anywhere else in the northern Goldfields,” Hatton said

Canadian company Cameco bought the Yeelirrie site from Australian mining firm BHP Billiton for $326 million and were planning to turn it into a 22-year mine which would create hundreds of jobs.

Cameco Australia Managing Director Brian Reilly said the company still believes there is a “path forward” for the project with special conditions in place to protect the flora and fauna.



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