SYDNEY, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Environmentalists have warned that an approved uranium mine in Western Australia (WA) will wipe out species unique to the region.
Albert Jacob, WA's Environment Minister, on Tuesday evening announced he had approved a proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie, home to one of the world's most significant uranium deposits, 630 kilometers north-east of Perth.
Jacob's approval of the mine, to be run by Canadian mining giant Cameco, came despite a ruling by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in August that a mine on the site posed a significant risk of extinction to species not known to exist anywhere else.
Yeelirrie is home to tiny crustaceans, known as stygofauna or desert prawns', that swim in groundwater below the surface of the desert and have only ever been found in the region.
Jacocb said he "considered broader economic and social matters, as well as environmental factors" in making his decision and that Cameco would have to undertake further research to further knowledge of, and limit impact on, the species.
But the Leeuwin Group, a coalition of prominent WA scientists, has labelled the conditions put in place by Jacob as "meaningless."
The group formed in early 2016 to lobby against "god clause" laws introduced by the state government which gave the environment minister the right to make a decision which could result in the extinction of a species.
"This is exactly the situation that we feared when commenting upon the Biodiversity Conservation Bill last year," John Bailey, a leader of the Leeuwin Group, told Fairfax Media in comments published on Wednesday.
"The legal situation is interesting in that the provisions of the Biodiversity Conservation Act concerned with threatened species and ecological communities, threatening processes and critical habitat are not yet in operation.
"This means that the "God Clause" that allows for the Minister to authorise the taking of a species even if that would likely lead to extinction, is not yet in operation. So under what authority has the decision been made?"
Bailey said it was clear that laws existed more to "legalize environmental harm" than protect biodiversity.