Ferguson calls for rethink on uranium ban

BHP Billiton's $30 billion expansion plan for the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia has not dramatically changed with yesterday's ''supplementary environmental impact statement'', which revised certain details about transport of some resources, storage of wastes, supply of power and designs of an associated desalination plant.

Speaking in Sydney, Ferguson welcomed the uranium policy reform being implemented across Australia in recent years, urging NSW and Victoria to consider matching the progress made in other states.

''Uranium exploration and mining have long been banned in NSW and Victoria. This limits our knowledge of potential deposits in these states,'' he said.

''The issue of uranium exploration and mining is something, I believe, the incoming governments in both NSW and Victoria will need to consider.''

However, Ferguson's comments found few takers in his home state, with Victorian energy minister Michael O'Brien telling BusinessDay that the Baillieu government would not ease the ban on uranium exploration or mining.

One positive for BHP Billiton is that Olympic Dam is located in a state that has a much less hostile stance towards uranium. The South Australian government ministers are openly talking this year about the prospect of uranium enrichment on Australian shores in the coming decades.