Queensland has opened the door to uranium mining

QUEENSLAND has opened the door to uranium mining in the Sunshine State, calling for applications from miners to exploit valuable reserves of the volatile mineral on Friday.

But the state government's plans, which include moving the mineral to either Darwin or South Australia for export, have been labelled "irresponsible" by environmental groups.

Mining Minister Andrew Cripps on Friday released the abandoned Mary Kathleen mine near Mount Isa out to tender for rare earths exploration.

While Premier Campbell Newman, before the 2012 election, had promised the state would not allow uranium mining, the government is now encouraging its development.

Mr Cripps said the industry had the potential to "generate significant development in north Queensland", as well as fund schools and hospitals through royalties.

He described the long-held opposition to uranium mining by Labor as "purely ideological", despite international moves away from the product since the Fukushima meltdown.

Mr Cripps said government had created a "modern and robust framework" to ensure Queensland's "future uranium mines" were world's best practice.

But the framework, largely consisting of existing state and federal laws, and a state government "inter-departmental uranium mining oversight committee", has not made major legislative change for the industry.

The Australian Conservation Foundation among other environment groups, hit out at the plan, labelling it a "broken promise" driven by "enthusiasm rather than evidence".

ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney said when asked about potential uranium export through Queensland's ports, including through the Great Barrier Reef, Mr Cripps "would not rule it out".

"If Minister Cripps thinks this industry adds up he should have no problem with an independent public inquiry into the cost and consequences of the LNP's plan for uranium mining," Mr Sweeney said.

"This industry is contested and contaminating and demands scrutiny and rigour, not wishful thinking and lame assurances."