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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 13:29 GMT
Australia set for uranium rethink
Uranium mine in Australia's northern territory
Australia, sitting on the world's largest uranium reserves, looks set to build more mines
New uranium mines could be built in Australia after a 24-year ban.

Australia has 40% of world uranium reserves, but mining is currently allowed only in two of Australia's eight states and territories.

But state-level governments elsewhere banned new mines in 1983, amid wide public support and worries about nuclear proliferation.

Now, though, the opposition Labor Party may change its mind, and a third state looks set to lift the moratorium.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie - till now one of the staunchest opponents of expanding uranium mining, not least because of concerns about the impact on the state's coal-mining industry - is now shifting his position.

"Mr Beattie changed his position after receiving a report that said uranium mining would not harm the state's coal industry," his spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

Any exports could only go to countries which had signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as China did last year, she added.

South Australia and the Northern Territory currently permit uranium mining, but mineral-rich Queensland and Western Australia have to date continued their opposition.

Both are controlled by the Labor Party, whose federal leader Kevin Rudd is also backing an expansion in mining.

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