Published on Tuesday May 03 2011
Parts of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia's northwest could be opened up to mineral exploration after a new access plan is worked out.
The federal government today endorsed a final report on operations in the WPA, which covers 127,000 square kilometres.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the area would continue to play an important role in Australia's national security as a unique location for large-scale and long-range weapons testing.
But he said a new management framework would increase usage of the WPA by better balancing national security and economic considerations.
Defence will remain a primary user of the area, which will be divided into green, amber and red zones, each offering a different level of access to non-defence users.
A six-month moratorium on all but the most advanced applications for access to the WPA will allow the development of necessary protocols.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the Woomera Prohibited Area had great economic potential.
Mr Ferguson said it was estimated $35 billion of developments, including iron ore, gold and uranium projects, would be possible over the next decade.
Yesterday, South Australian Premier Mike Rann said unlocking the mineral wealth of the WPA would be a major boost to the state's economy.
"This will be a huge boost for our state," Mr Rann told a mining conference.
"It will give our economy the momentum and jolt to drive further development in the future."