A not very exciting Submission, in which BHP outlines its work at Olympic
Dam. The major point is that BHP wants to remove uranium mining from being listed as a Matter of National Environmental Significance 9NES) in the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
BHP maintains that the health risks from uranium mining are not really different from the risks in any other type of mining.
On the future for the uranium market, BHP is cagey, pointing out that copper is the major money-spinner from Olympic Dam
BHP Billiton – Submission to RC ISSUESPAPER 1 Exploration, Extraction and Milling http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/2015/11/BHP-Billiton-03-08-2015.pdf
“…..We believe this Commission to be an important opportunity to seek changes that will reduce barriers to entry into uranium extraction and exploration. We make two important recommendations:
- Reduction of Regulatory Complexity and Duplication:
- · Environmental regulation in Australia is often unnecessarily complex, and there is significant duplication between State and Federal authorities in undertaking impact assessments and approvals.
- · Uranium extraction is subject to particularly high levels of regulation, in part due to the public perception that uranium mining is a particularly high risk activity.
- In fact, uranium mining is well understood, and has a similar risk profile to the mining of other commodities……
- · BHP Billiton welcomes reforms to environmental regulation undertaken in recent years, particularly the development of ‘one stop shops’ for environmental approvals, and the move toward outcome-based assessments.
- · We recommend that the Commission considers the question of the removal of uranium mining from the list of Matters of National Environmental Significance in the Federal Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act…….
…..With respect to regulatory reform, BHP Billiton believes that removal or reform of the nuclear action trigger from the list of ‘Matters of National Environmental Significance’ (MNES) within the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would be an appropriate item for the Commission to consider……
There is no scientific basis for uranium mining to be defined as a matter of NES, and accordingly the Commission should consider whether its retention is appropriate. As a first step, there is a case for the Commonwealth Government to progress the recommendation made by the Productivity Commission in its review of regulatory burdens on the primary sector: “The case for the continued treatment of uranium mining as a matter of national environmental significance – and therefore as a potential trigger for environmental assessments under the EPBC Act – should be reviewed. This review should be informed by a science-based assessment of the most up-to-date evidence of the inherent properties of uranium and any environmental, health and implications.”……….
……..In the long-run, additional supply of primary uranium will be required to meet the expected demand……. It should be noted that the commercial return from Olympic Dam is driven primarily by copper production, together with a combination of commodity prices and other market factors and therefore increased demand for uranium may not in and of itself lead to increased investment in the Olympic Dam deposit…….
(On health and Environment) …… It is important to reiterate that the risks associated with uranium mining are generally similar to the risks associated with any other form of mining….”