Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Corporate vested interests win as Australian Government weakens Environmental Laws

November 18, 2020

This Bill is fundamentally flawed in the core untenable proposal to divest national environmental responsibilities to States & Territories. State Approvals of major resource, mining and development projects are mired in ‘conflict of interest’, corporate influence and vested – not public – interests.

David Noonan, Full Submission to the Federal Environment Inquiry, 18 Nov 20, To: The Inquiry Chairperson Senator the Hon David Fawcett, ,   Senate Environment and Communications Legislative Committee , By email: ec.sen@aph.gov.au

Concern regards this rushed Inquiry into the flawed Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020

Dear Secretary

This Inquiry is an unacceptably rushed process, and the Bill takes a pre-emptive and flawed approach to the EPBC Act. The public and the Parliament have a right to see and consider the Samuels Final Report, and the full suite of proposed EPBC Act Reform, National Standards and Amendments.

This Bill is fundamentally flawed in the core untenable proposal to divest national environmental responsibilities to States & Territories. State Approvals of major resource, mining and development projects are mired in ‘conflict of interest’, corporate influence and vested – not public – interests.

Due process and the national interest responsibility to the Protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance (NES) are compromised by this deeply flawed Bill and rushed Inquiry.

State control of EPBC Approvals is proposed through use of unenforceable “Bilateral Approval Agreement” instruments that are not fit for purpose, with little or no State law in place across Australia to even reflect the Objects, obligations and requirements of the EPBC Act.

The Bill unacceptably provides for ‘National Standards’ to be added to Bilateral Agreements with States, rather than legislated in the national interest in the EPBC Act and subject to national consultation and enforcement, with required national resourcing – rather than State paucity. The proposed accreditation process for States to take up federal EPBC powers is not even transparent.

It appears reckless that a core pre-requisite audit of State resourcing and capacity to undertake EPBC Approvals and enforcement roles has not been carried out at this late stage of events.

The Federal government is trying to expedite relinquishing national roles to Protect the Environment while declining to fund States to do so. This is a disrespectful indifference to Matters of NES.

Existing Cth-State Bilateral Assessment Agreements are not enforceable instruments and are not fit for purpose. For instance, no legislative or other mandated changes having been made in South Australia since taking up EPBC Act Assessment roles and responsibilities some years ago.

The non-statutory “EPBC Act Condition-setting Policy” further aligns the Commonwealth to defer to State Conditions of Approval and not set warranted Federal Conditions to properly protect MNES.

I have made a submission to the Independent Review of the EPBC Act, focusing on operation of the Act in protection of MNES under the “nuclear actions” trigger, and Discussion Paper Q.14 on failings of State roles through a case study on BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine public interest issues.

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In the case of EPBC “nuclear actions”, including EPBC Act Section 21 & 22 controlled actions in uranium mining and milling, the EPBC Act protected Matter of NES is “the environment” – requiring “whole of environment” scope of impact assessments, and Protection of the Environment such that authorized actions do not have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts.

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The Samuel Review, Box 12 Nuclear activities (p.52) states: “To be able to ensure community confidence in these ‘nuclear’ activities, the Commonwealth should maintain the capacity to intervene. To achieve this, the key reform directions proposed by the Review are:

The National Environmental Standards for MNES should include one for nuclear actions. To provide community confidence, the Standard should reflect the regulatory guidelines and protocols of all relevant national laws and requirements.”

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However, the Samuel Review (p.110) specifies inadequate ARPANSA Codes as a ‘National Standard’ for nuclear action assessments; OR use of State frameworks judged compliant with these Codes.

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In addition, “graded” (limited) assessments as set out in ARPANSA Codes are to replace the scope of “whole of environment” impact Assessments for ‘nuclear actions’ – including for uranium mining.

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ARPANSA Codes can reflect vested nuclear industry practices rather than best scientific evidentiary standards. For instance, applying outdated 1991 era ionising radiation occupational exposure limits.

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Australia already has a failing record in regulation of uranium mining, in environmental protection and mine rehabilitation issues. Transferring Approvals to States and use of ARPANSA Codes in graded assessments will further compromise environmental protection standards and practise.

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By January 2021 South Australia will be the only Australian jurisdiction conducting uranium mining. A case study of BHP Olympic Dam provides a cogent context to evaluate this Bill & Samuel proposals.

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Importantly, “whole of environment” scope of uranium mining impact assessment encompasses social, economic, cultural and spiritual impacts, and not just environmental & radiological impacts.

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Outdated BHP Olympic Dam legal privileges that override Indigenous Heritage are now under scrutiny before Parliament’s Juukan Caves Inquiry, see Submission No.73 and 73.1 by David Noonan.

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It is typical that uranium mining disproportionately affects Indigenous People. ARPANSA Codes do not provide an appropriate basis to assess or respect Indigenous and Cultural Heritage issues.

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State governments in SA have failed to revoke BHP’s untenable Olympic Dam legal privileges.

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It is a travesty that BHP has deliberately retained 1982 era over-rides of Aboriginal Heritage across the 12,000 km2 “Stuart Shelf Area” around the Olympic Dam mine, and retains outdated legal rights to take excessive volumes of GAB waters affecting the integrity and very survival of GAB Springs.

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BHP’s influence in excessive mining of Great Artesian Basin water for Olympic Dam mine shows a State’s inability,

and given real ‘conflict of interest’, a State’s unwillingness to reform such issues.

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This scope is necessary to respect Indigenous rights and interests to protect their country & culture.

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It is a warning to this Inquiry that the State of SA has failed to protect the unique and fragile Mound Springs. The integrity of Springs relies on continued natural flows and pressure of GAB waters.

These Springs are a protected Matter of NES under the EPBC Act as a listed Endangered Ecological Community and are of significant ongoing cultural and spiritual importance to Aboriginal traditional owners, the Arabana People, who have called for real effective Federal protection of the Springs.

I commend the strong Arabana Aboriginal Corporation Submission No.92 (11 August) to the federal Juukan Caves Inquiry and the Arabana Chairperson’s call for protection of their GAB Springs: ……

 

Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. … The cause of the disappearance of our springs, is water that is being taken from the Great Artesian Basin by BHP’s mine at Roxby Downs. … Unless something is done by the Commonwealth, our springs will disappear… It is unsustainable, destructive of nature, and destructive of our culture to allow the springs to die. Will you please enact laws that ensure our mound springs and culture are recognised, respected and protected?”

This Inquiry must not condemn the GAB Springs to State control of EPBC Act Approval powers.

Pre-conditions to protect GAB Springs from BHP water extraction were set by the Labor Federal government in 2011 but were not applied as BHP abandoned a proposed open pit mine expansion.

If this Bill were to go ahead, the State of SA’s ‘conflict of interest’ role and BHP’s influence in mining GAB waters will combine to continue the exploitation of underground water reserves and the decline in the integrity and very survival of the unique and fragile GAB Springs.

Community confidence requires the EPBC Act to retain Approval powers at a Federal level, and to retain the “whole of environment” scope of Assessments and Protection of the Environment in ‘nuclear actions’ as has been required in our national EPBC Act laws since 1999.

The Inquiry should take up the Arabana People’s call for Federal protection of their GAB Springs.

This brief summary of input is based on my experience: Including some sixteen years as an Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Environment Campaigner 1996-2011; as lead author consultant on Joint ENGO submissions (ACF, Conservation SA, and Friends of the Earth Australia) to three BHP EPBC Act Olympic Dam Referrals in 2019; and with 25 years involvement across public interest issues in Olympic Dam mine operations and in matters of environment protection legislation.

Please feel free for the Secretary, Members of the Committee and any of their staff, to contact on any aspect of these issues, for further information, clarification or discussion.

Australia’s Environmental Protection Act in danger: it’s time to strengthen it.

April 10, 2020

K-A Garlick   Nuclear Free WA Campaigner, 10 Apr  20, The webinar, Yeelirrie – A Case for Environmental Law Reform was a great success, with a wealth o g Yeelirrie as a case study for environmental law reform. We reviewed the Yelirrie uranium mine assessment process and how we can improve the agility in the Commonwealth environment department to identify and classify threatened and endangered species.eto strengthen it

If you missed the webinar or would like to see the highlights again ~ click here for some great information to help you form your submission to the EPBC Act review.

Keynotes from the webinar, include;

  • The importance of retaining the prohibition of nuclear power and the retention of uranium exploration and mining and the inclusion of nuclear actions as a matter of national environmental significance (MNES) under the EPBC Act,
  • Environmental protection laws should protect against the extinction of species,
  • Opportunity to introduce a merits review in a reformed EPBC Act as an independent, expert court or tribunal to ensure worlds best practice for community participation, accountability and environmental protection,
  • We need an independent authority to administer the EPBC Act,
  • We need increased open and transparent assessment processes, and
  • We need a national EPA as there is no equivalent body at the federal level. A national EPA could undertake independent and technically expert assessments of projects, ensuring that the scientific evidence is put into focus.

The push for the nuclear industry and the Minerals Council of Australia to remove the prohibition on nuclear power and to remove the trigger for uranium mining is a serious push and real threat.

To retain these parts of the EPBC Act we encourage you to write a submission.

The new dont-nuke-the-climate website is a great tool to help you understand the nuclear issues and threat. There is a really useful nuclear ban page, to support your submission writing.  

Submissions are due 17 April 2020.

Make a submission to the The Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The committee ask that you complete and submit this cover page with any submission via e-mail or post. All submissions that include this cover sheet will be considered by the review.

Australia’s one great river system being destroyed by corruption and mismanagement

January 21, 2019

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations, 21 Jan 19 MDBA Water management: “Don’t leave Dracula in charge of the Blood bank”
KEY POINTS

  1. Support for a Royal Commission
  2. Representation at the decision making table of MDBA
  3. Acknowledge Legal Rights of First Nations as determined in Mabo (2)
  4. Explain why different standards are set for First Nations’ Organisations
  5. Demand Criminal Prosecutions be an integral part of Royal Commission findings

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) Deputy Chair, Ghillar Michael Anderson and NBAN Director Cheryl Buchanan announce NBAN’s support for Sarah Hanson-Young’s call for a Royal Commission into the mismanagement and over extraction of the waters of the Murray Darling Basin. [The Guardian, 16 January 2019]

NBAN has now learnt that the disaster that we are experiencing in the Murray/Darling Basin is a perfect electric dry storm of massive fish kills and drying riverbeds.

It is NOT caused just by the drought but is also a culmination of man-made mismanagement; corruption at the highest levels; and major development without scientific evidence-based planning in the formative years of the MDBA.

NBAN has great difficulty in understanding why the so-called experts water planners would attempt to normalise our current circumstances. First Nations now demand urgent answers and to be included in all future top-level water planning within the Murray Darling Basin……..

NBAN is critical of the fact that NSW Water planners admit that from 2012 to 2018 they did nothing to properly prepare for evidence-based planning in relation to water management in the northern basin, and that their assessments in terms of quantities of water are based on hypothetical values and assumptions. Now there is a mad rush to review water planning on the basis of A, B and C water licencing in the Barwon/Darling and there is a suggestion to amalgamate these water licences into two or one licence. NBAN’s problem with this is that there are too many vested interests in the process calling for this to happen. Water planning from NBAN’s point of view needs to be reviewed so as to plan on the basis of what real volumes of water are in each valley catchment. With all the science and technology we have in today’s society there is no excuse for hypotheticals and assumptions.

From NBAN’s perspective these admissions clearly demonstrate that there are failures by the Water Ministers responsible for due diligence in their portfolios and departments.

Playing the blame game and shirking responsibility will not help our dying rivers. Clearly, corporate water users, irrigators and mining companies are driving the agenda. For example, the Broken Hill pipeline is for the mining interests rather than the community. Then we need to take into account the Proposed Uranium Mining near Menindee.

The Board of the MDBA is made up of members who have vested interests. A clear example of this is the Chairman, Brian Andrews, (former Speaker of the House of Representatives under PM John Howard) who is an orchardist dependant on irrigation waters from the Murray River in South Australia.

NBAN further expresses deep concern for the integrity of politicians and MDBA authority members. Clearly, there is an inference in recent media reporting that what is currently going on in the MDBA is a major defrauding of the public purse, which can never be condoned. This is in tandem with water theft by irrigators who were never investigated and escape prosecution for their criminal acts. As the Sydney Morning Heraldreported on 8 March 2018:……….

Also there was the warning of water theft by irrigators in the northern basin by a former MDBA staffer Maryanne Slattery, who now works for the Australia Institute, testified to this effect at the South Australian Royal Commission, based on satellite imagery tracking the fate of environmental water flows. This experimental project called Data Cube was rudely interrupted and shut down by MDBA, because Ms Slattery was exposing the theft of environmental water by illegal diversion. It was also reported MDBA staff were denied by the MDBA Board the right to give evidence to the Royal Commission and Minister Littleproud refused to co-operate with the Commissioner, Brett Walker QC,

The greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, is correct to call for a Commonwealth Government Royal Commission into the water management and expenditure of public funds in the MDB. The question that is on everybody’s lips right now is: What have they done with the $13B. Clearly, cotton growers and irrigators are getting money for nothing and continue to live on their lands drawing on other Commonwealth funds under Works and measures programs through ‘Toolkit’ measures for water efficiency.

NBAN is seriously concerned about what was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 March 2018 in . In this article it was reported that:Cry me a river: Mismanagement and corruption have left the Darling dry.

Surely, what Barnaby Joyce has done is criminal. When the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) bought Yulara village, the Commonwealth financial regulators questioned why the ILC acquired the village resort for $60M above market price. To this end the Commonwealth government chastised the ILC and lowered the market price to its correct value, thereby denying the right ILC to sell their interest at the price they paid for it, which denied them millions of dollars.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

This demonstrates that there continues to be two standards: one for First Nations Peoples and one for non-First Nations Peoples. What makes this worse is the fact that sitting politicians are involved in a major profiteering scam on a scale never seen before in this country.

Clearly having people like the Minister David Littleproud being given the portfolio of Agriculture and Water and coming from the same location where Barnaby Joyce first gained his start in Politics at the Commonwealth level does raise serious concerns about the integrity of portfolio allocations in the Commonwealth government. People like Barnaby Joyce and David Littleproud can be accused of not disclosing their full interest in farming and irrigation. There is much to be desired in these appointments as Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud are sitting members of the national party. They are elected to look after the interests of their constituents and in the case of the appointment of Barnaby Joyce and Littleproud to the Water portfolio is likened to the appointment of Dracula being appointed to be in charge of the Blood Bank.

On the 16th, the NBAN Delegation then met Dr Lindsay White, Director Northern Basin Section, Lindsay White is also responsible for Wetlands, Policy and Northern Water Use Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, and Hilary Johnson, Director, Southern Basin Section, Southern Water Use, Aquatic Science and Community Engagement Branch Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

NBAN advised the CEWO that within the river systems we have sacred waterholes where our creative water spirits live. These culturally significant water spirits are dependent on regular flows. For First nations Peoples these flows are what we call cultural flows. Without the modern development pre-Christmas rainfalls would have replenished these waterholes and they would have sufficient water to take them through the current drought or until a new rain event within the northern regions. But, with modern development and mis-management these water holes are under serious threat and our Native Fish will lose their refuges. Past river recordings prior to development demonstrate that this is the case with these waterholes. It is important to understand that these Waterholes are critical fish refuges and serve to protect species diversity and are responsible for repopulating rivers in recovery after flooding.

The Delegation sought clarification of the role of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holders. What shocked the delegation was the limitation of the CEWO, because the First Nation held the view that CEWO were responsible for not just managing environmental water flows, but also were responsible for the actual purchasing of any water requirements. Instead we were advised that the purchasing responsibilities lay with the Minister and the Department of Agriculture. Under the Current circumstances much of the responsibilities associated with managing environmental water needs lay at the feet of the Ministers responsible.

The NBAN delegation now demand that First Nations People’s must be at the table in all future water and environmental planning at all levels of government.

In calling for the royal Commission, NBAN demand that criminal prosecution be part of the terms of reference to hold those responsible, accountable, and to bring transparency into the murky process that has persisted to this day.

NBAN Sources: nationalunitygovernment.org/content/mdba-water-management-dont-leave-dracula-charge-blood-bank
pdf: nationalunitygovernment.org/pdf/2019/NBAN-Media-Release-17-January-2019.pdf

Australia: Scott Morrison’s new Cabinet: a Miserable Bunch pro Coal and Nuclear

August 27, 2018

Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State, Leader of the Government in the Senate:   WA senator pushes benefits of nuclear energy 
A WA Liberal Senator, Mathias Cormann, is pushing the merits of Australia developing nuclear energy …….But, Mr Cormann was unable to say where waste would be buried.
“Longer term, very clearly we do have to find ways to store or to dispose of it in deep geological disposal arrangements but we have time for that“….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-12-04/wa-senator-pushes-benefits-of-nuclear-energy/1168286

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.  “
“….Energy issues, including removing subsidies for renewables, committing to build a new coal-fired power station in the north, and investigating a nuclear power future in the uranium rich state ” https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/07/nationals-leader-pushes-queensland-lnp-to-back-coalitions-energy-policy

Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer  Six sites for nuclear dump revealed by Josh Frydenberg   https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/six-sites-for-nuclear-dump-revealed-by-josh-frydenberg/news-story/beb13af3f67278e688f7cf115eabf618

Steve Ciobo, Minister for Defence Industry  Steve Ciobo overturned mining loan ban without consulting department The minister for trade, Steve Ciobo, overturned a ban on government-backed loans to domestic miners last year without consulting his department.

The controversial decision meant the federal government could start funding coalmining projects at a time when Australia’s major banks are increasingly distancing themselves from investing in coal.

Matthew Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia 

Resources Minister Matt Canavan is deceptive in his statements about “Low Level “nuclear waste https://antinuclear.net/2018/08/17/resources-minister-matt-canavan-is-deceptive-in-his-statements-about-low-level-nuclear-waste/

Matt Canavan’s optimistic coal forecast contradicts his own department https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/02/matt-canavans-optimistic-coal-forecast-contradicts-his-own-department

 

Melissa Price, Minister for the Environment. This one is a bit of an unknown quantity. Unlike the rest of them, she actually knows something about the environment.  Expect the rest of them to bully her into shape

Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy   Angus Taylor lobbied against wind farms and was favourite of the Wind Farm Syndrome lobby   https://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/9ae1rq/angus_taylor_lobbied_against_wind_farms_and_was/
 David Littleproud, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources He is pushing energy company CS Energy to double the size of Australia’s newest coal-fired power station, Kogan Creek, on Queensland’s Darling Downs.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-06/nationals-to-ramp-up-support-for-coal/8875574

 David Fawcett, Assistant Minister for Defence  was noted as a climate  change denier, on the    Liberals don’t want sustainable energy list    http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/Liberal.htm

Uranium mining companies come and go; taxpayers cop the clean-up costs

July 28, 2016

Mary-Kathleen-Uranium-mine-

Taxpayers to foot the bill for mine closures, Independent Australia  26 July 2016 Mine rehabilitation – to avoid toxic seepage – is a costly business which taxpayers look likely to fund, writes Michael West.

MINING COMPANIES and regulators have gravely underestimated the costs of mine rehabilitation, leaving taxpayers in the gun for billions of dollars in clean-up costs, says Rick Humphries.

He should know. Humphries was Rio Tinto’s top adviser on land use before heading up mine rehabilitation for base metals groupMMG.

The environmental scientist has since “switched sides” to consult for conservation groups on mine closure.

Humphries told us in an interview last week:

“The problem is there is a very large and growing environmental liability and if it’s not put in check it will cost taxpayers dearly, and result in large scale degradation of national resources.”

There are some 50,000 abandoned mine sites in Australia. Many are small and old. Others though, such as Century Zinc Mine, Ranger Uranium and the first of the mega coal mines to close – Anglo American’s Drayton and Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol – are large, toxic and present a formidable challenge to close properly.

The humongous Ranger and Century open cut voids alone, will cost around $750 million to $1 billion to rehabilitate and the residual risks and liabilities for their parent companies (Rio Tinto and MMG) are as yet unknown. 

What has been missing in the clean-up debate so far, however, is specifics, detailed research that is of particular company exposures. It is only when investors come to grips with the costs of closure that company directors and regulators will properly address the challenge, says Humphries.

So he has been doing the rounds of stockbrokers and institutional investors in recent days with analysis of Oz Minerals, MMG, ERA’s Ranger Mine, Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol Mine and Australia’s dirtiest power generation assets, the YallournHazelwood and Loy Yang brown coal mines in Victoria.

It’s “heads we win, tails you lose”

Humphries’ report, Mine Rehabilitation and Closure Cost – a Hidden Business Risk, sheds light on the caprice and inaccuracy of closure provisions and how mining companies account for their liabilities……….

Risks and costs of mine closure are poorly understood

The case of Century raises serious questions over the accuracy of the provisions for MMG’s other assets, says Humphries, and it illustrates (along with the ERA case study below),

“… that mining companies have a habit of systemically underestimating the real cost of closure because the complexity, risks and costs of mine closure are poorly understood.”

ERA’s Ranger Uranium mine is the classic case of escalating cost estimates. Humphries details the continual revision of estimates over the years from $149 million in 2008 to more than $600 million this year. Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol mine enshrines a different challenge entirely, that of a major mining group flogging a depleted asset to a small player with little ability to fund a clean-up.

The deal is not done yet but an agreement was struck a few weeks ago for Rio to sell its Blair Athol coal mine to a small ASX-listed company TerraCom. The mine was sold for $1, including Rio’s slated $79 million clean-up liability.

But as the Humphries report notes, the financial assurance calculated by the government’s methodology comes up with a rehab cost of twice that, $160 million.

IEEFA director Tim Buckley describes this as a “heads we win, tails you lose” scenario for TerraCom’s promoters. The company has $150 million in debt and no equity and its success rides on a bounce in the price of thermal coal. It has risen lately but, as Buckley says, thermal coal appears to be in structural decline………

The Humphries Report illuminates the challenge for the mining sector and state governments and it contains just five case studies……

For the environment, the risks are clear, the Mary Kathleen uranium mine, once controlled by Rio, was rehabilitated and relinquished in 1986, winning an award for technical excellence at the time. The waste dump has since failed and the liability and attendant costs now reside with Queensland taxpayers.

Mary Kathleen, whose AFL side once won three regional premierships, is now a ghost town. Radioactive waste has seeped into the water systems.

This article was originally published on michaelwest.com.au under the title ‘Mine voids: big party, now for the hangover’ and has been reproduced with permission. You can read more from Michael on his website and follow him on Twitter @MichaelWestBizhttps://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/taxpayers-to-foot-the-bill-for-mine-closures,9280

Many decades to cleanup Ranger uranium mine. Taxpayers to cop these costs?

July 1, 2015

as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

Ranger-pitERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts Sorry history, uncertain environmental legacy Apart from the discharge of a million litres of radioactive slurry in 2013, Ranger has a sorry history of accidents with more than 200 environmental incidents being reported to government agencies since 1979.

Just how much Ranger’s clean-up will cost is open to question. Under existing legislation, once the lease expires early in 2021, ERA has five years to complete the rehabilitation program.

Gavin Mudd, a senior lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University with a long standing interest in Ranger, argues there are problems calculating the final cost as it depends on a number of choices, including how long is an adequate period of monitoring radioactivity levels.

The level of radioactivity around the site is unlikely to be safe any time soon given the half-life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years. The half-lives of other principal radioactive components of mill tailings, thorium-230 and radium-226, are shorter at about 75,000 years and 1,600 years respectively, but it’s a rather academic distinction.

Currently there is not a stipulated period for monitoring levels of radiation at the site once the rehabilitation is completed. However, Dr Mudd said a monitoring program should be run over decades rather than years.

“Fifty years would be a good start,” he said.

“The $500 million is the basic truck and shovel number, just the earthworks part of the rehabilitation.

“Sufficient money needs to be put in a fund that will pay for on-going monitoring and I haven’t seen that done yet.”

That leaves a big question mark over what will happen if ERA runs out of cash according to Dr Mudd.

“If ERA ran out of money before the rehab was finished and went bankrupt, who picks ups the tab?” he asked. Dr Mudd argues that the existing rehabilitation fund has always been a small fraction of the total cost, because ERA maintained it was a profitable company and could cover the costs.

The mounting losses and depressed prices bring that argument into question.

Dr Mudd said, as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

“A lot of the day-to-day regulatory stuff is handled by the

Northern Territory Government, so it’s difficult to say where the liability lies (if ERA was bankrupt),” Dr Mudd noted.

“I’d much rather have cash in a trust to cover it, rather than have taxpayers potentially foot the bill,” he said.

If there has been one constant at Ranger, Dr Mudd said it has been that ERA has failed to invest in good processes as decisions were constantly delayed “waiting for the next big thing”.

“A new water treatment plant would have only cost $10 to 15 million back in 2002,” Dr Mudd said.

“The cost of mine closures, clean-ups and retrofitting other technology since then is probably more than a billion dollars.”

“Mining stopped in Pit 1 back in 1994, but has only now been finally closed, about two decades later.”

Traditional owners demand ‘comprehensive clean up plan’

The traditional owners – the Mirrar people – are reluctant to discuss Ranger’s closure, apart from issuing a statement welcoming the decision.

“As things stand today we will not support any extended term of mining at Ranger beyond 2021,” the statement said.

“We take this position because of our experience of 30 years of environmental and cultural impacts at Ranger.

“We need to see a concrete and comprehensive commitment and plan for the clean up of Kakadu; that commitment and planning needs to start today.”……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-30/era-faces-closure-after-expansion-plans-shelved/6584040

Australia quietly ceases testing food imported from Japan

March 6, 2015

plate-radiationAustralia Silently Stopped Testing of Food Imports  http://fukushima-news-en.senmasa.com/post/112680359130/australia-silently-stopped-testing-of-food-imports   [Mathaba News Network]Australia has ceased all testing of food imports from Japan, other Asian countries food also contaminated, ongoing leakages from Fukushima nuclear plant The north Pacific Ocean is already contaminated by large amounts of toxins and pollution from dumping .

Nuclear lobby attacks Australia’s Environmental Protection Law

November 4, 2014

a-cat-CANAs the intergovernmental panel on climate change comes out with a compelling new report, Australia’s nuclear lobby renews its pressure for nuclear power.   Of course, Michael Angwin and the nuclear lobby are a bit handicapped in this. Australia’s Prime Minister, puppet of both the fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies, has gone all out to please Big Coal, by promoting climate change denialism.

It wouldn’t be good form for Angwin and co to now promote nu clear power as the cure for climate change – they wouldn’t want to naysay their puppet P.M. (They’ll keep the climate change argument for later, when they feel that it has become “politically correct” – that is – when Abbott has safely destroyed renewable energy and any real climate change action.)

Still, they can lay the groundwork, with  a lot of nonsense talk about Australia’s future energy needs. (Never mind that Australians are using less electricity, not more)

Part of the groundwork will be their goal to remove environmental protection – as evidenced in today’s call from Gary Johns in THE AUSTRALIAN, (strangely worded almost exactly as Michael Angwin’s letter in The Age today) : –

“……...The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, for example, states that the minister must not approve the construction or operation of a ­nuclear power plant. Such prohibition is unwarranted.

In its green paper, the Abbott government has promised to “review the current regulatory framework that governs nuclear and waste facilities to remove any duplication and streamline regulations”. This is not good enough. The ban on nuclear power must be lifted. These laws are based on old politics and old science. It is time that prohibition was repealed so all sources of power are on the table and assessed according o commercial and environmental risks..…”

Note the pretense here, that nuclear power’s environmental and commercial risks are no different from any other industries’

Tell that to the Japanese, and to the world’s insurance companies!

Queensland government won’t mind exporting uranium through Great Barrier Reef

August 14, 2014

Darwin and Adelaide likely export hubs for Queensland uranium (includes audios) ABC Rural  By Marty McCarthy 14 Aug 14  “……….Mr Sweeney also says he’s not convinced by the Queensland Government’s assertions that Queensland ports won’t export uranium in the near future, negating the need for transfer to Darwin or Adelaide. “The Queensland Government has had a number of direct opportunities to rule [exporting from Queensland] out and it hasn’t,” he said.

“They’ve kept the door open for future uranium exports from a Queensland Port, and particularly from the Port of Townsville.”

“We’ve seen in both the Federal Government’s energy white paper, and in clear statements by the Australian Uranium Association, an industry body, a desire to develop an east coast port for uranium exports,” he said.

Mr Sweeney suspects Townsville is the most likely city to become a future Queensland-based export hub for uranium, despite Mr Cripps’ saying it is unlikely. “The Ben Lomond [uranium] project is 50 kilometres up the road from Townsville, now you join those dots and you get a picture of ships through the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

Canadian miner Mega Uranium, although interested in the Ben Lomond site, it is yet to announce plans to re-open it.

However, a French-owned mining company is spending millions of dollars on uranium exploration near remote towns in north-west Queensland, in a race to be the state’s first uranium miner since the ban 32 years ago.

AREVA Resources has drilled more than 90 holes since late 2012, and managing director Joe Potter says the company plans to continue searching.

“The change in policy and the certainty around the ability to mine uranium in Queensland has given us the confidence to press on with our exploration and see if we can become the first uranium miner,” he said.

The company plans to continue searching around Cloncurry, west of Mt Isa, later this year……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-13/queensland-looks-to-adelaide-anddarwin-to-export-uranium/5666458

Western Australia all too hasty to rubber stamp Kintyre uranium mine

July 28, 2014

Increased scrutiny needed as EPA radioactive rubber stamp fails the nuclear test National and state environment groups have called for a dedicated public inquiry into plans for increased uranium mining in WA following an EPA recommendation to conditionally approve the proposed Kintyre mine next to Kalamilyi National Park in the Pilbara.

“The proposal to mine uranium five hundred metres from a creek system that is part of a network of significant waterways in a national park is reckless and should not be approved,” said CCWA campaigner Mia Pepper.

“This polluting plan would put great pressure on one of WA’s special places – our largest national park – and would impact on scarce water resources and a number of significant and vulnerable species including the bilby, marsupial mole and rock wallaby.

The approval recommendation follows recent disturbing allegations that former mine owner Rio Tinto made secret payments of around $21 million to silence Aboriginal concerns and opposition while it negotiated the project’s sale to current owner Cameco.

“Uranium mining is a high risk, low return activity where the proven risks far outweigh any promised rewards,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Uranium is currently trading at US$28/lb. Cameco has stated it will not mine unless the uranium prices reaches upwards of US$75/lb. The EPA is recommending a green light for yellowcake when the company has stated the finances and the plan don’t stack up.

“Uranium mining poses unique risks and long term human and environmental hazards.  It demands the highest level of scrutiny and assessment – instead we have a lower order EPA report based on the hope of ‘satisfactory implementation by the proponent of the recommended conditions’. This inadequate approach is out of step with community expectations and fails to reflect the uranium sectors proven history of leaks and failure.”

“In the shadow of Fukushima, a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium, Bill Marmion and Colin Barnett should put this controversial and contaminating sector before the people and under the spotlight via a public inquiry.”

For comment contact: Dave Sweeney 0408 317 812 or Mia Pepper 0415 380 808