The Australian Senate has passed a bill allowing mining activities to be undertaken in the Woomera prohibited area (WPA), a weapon testing site in South Australia.
Spread over 124,000km², Woomera is the world’s largest weapons testing area and is used by Australia, US and UK for rocket and nuclear tests.
The Senate has cleared the site for mining and tourism during specific times of the year, apart from specified red zones.
Australia Defence Minister David Johnston’s spokesman told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ): "The legislation will improve the management of the Woomera prohibited area in a way that will meet defence-testing requirements while also giving greater certainty of access for other sectors, particularly the resources sector, to invest in operations."
"The new framework maintains the primacy of the Woomera prohibited area as a national-security and defence asset and sets up a coexistence scheme that allows access by non-defence users subject to conditions."
The government’s approval will allow miners to explore iron ore, uranium and gold deposits within Woomera’s boundaries.
The South Australian Government estimates that more than $35bn of mine developments will take place in the next decade, which will enhance employment opportunities in the region.
South Australia Chamber of Mines and Energy CEO Jason Kuchel has earlier told WSJ that unexploited resources buried in the area could exceed expectations and top A$1tn ($940.7bn) in value.
The House of Representatives is expected to give the final approval in July.
Image: A sign board at the Woomera Prohibited Area. Photo: courtesy of Kr.afol.