CANBERRA May 14 Australia plans to increase
uranium sales to China provided it is not used in Beijing's
expanding weapons programme, documents mistakenly made public
by Australia's foreign minister showed on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith tabled in parliament a
confidential list of treaty negotiations with other countries,
revealing details of negotiations between Australia and China
about lifting exports of uranium from BHP Billiton's (BHP.AX)
Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.
The treaty document said Australian diplomats attended
talks in Beijing in January on BHP Billiton's proposal to send
uranium-infused copper concentrate to China from Olympic Dam.
BHP is currently undertaking a two-year feasibility study
into the expansion of Olympic Dam, which is the world's largest
uranium deposit, fourth largest remaining copper deposit and
fifth largest gold deposit.
GOVERNMENT APPROVAL NEEDED
Expansion, which requires government approval, would
transform the underground facility into one of the world's
biggest open pit mines, with output rising six-fold.
Russia, China and India are all anxious to buy Australian
uranium to develop civilian nuclear energy. Australia has 40
percent of the world's recoverable uranium.
The Labor government is refusing to sell nuclear fuel to
India because it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
treaty. Australia is one of 35 International Atomic Energy
Agency board members and already sells uranium to 36 nations.
"In the case of the information that was put out on the
trade negotiations, there was nothing in that document that
isn't already in the public domain," Crean said.
A current uranium export agreement between Australia and
China focuses on supply of uranium in uranium ore concentrates.
An annex allows for extraction of uranium from other ores and
concentrates, but only for non-nuclear purposes.
"An amendment or supplementary agreement is required to
ensure Australian uranium is satisfactorily accounted for
during the extraction process, and that any uranium extracted
becomes nuclear material subject to the provisions of the
nuclear transfer agreement," said the document tabled by Smith.
(Additional reporting by James Grubel; Editing by David Fox)