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Australian state lifts uranium mining ban, eyes India

SYDNEY -- Australia's mineral-rich state of Queensland reversed a decades-long ban on uranium mining Monday, citing rekindled interest in the nuclear fuel after Canberra gave the go-ahead to exports to India.

Uranium has not been dug in Queensland since the 1982 closure of the major Mary Kathleen mine, while mining for it was outlawed by the state government in 1989.

But Premier Campbell Newman said the national government's overturning of an export ban to India last year, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard's recent talks in the subcontinent about kick-starting the trade, prompted a rethink.

India had been blacklisted due to its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But it has not been a pariah since 2005, when it entered into an IAEA-approved civil nuclear agreement with the United States.

Australia anticipates entering into a similar agreement with India, one of its fastest-growing trade partners.

“The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been in India selling the benefits of Australian-produced uranium to India, prompting many in the community to ask about the industry's potential in Queensland,” Newman said.

“It's been 30 years since there was uranium mining in this state, and in that time Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia have carved out successful uranium industries that deliver jobs and prosperity to their regions.”

The policy shift would not extend to nuclear energy production or waste disposal.

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