Archive for the ‘URANIUM’ 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.

Uranium mining NOT the great solution for South Australia’s economy

October 22, 2020

The Olympic Dam silver bullet is forever tarnished

 “From the BHP side BFX is dead and buried… I suggest a new name: “OD-PERHAPS” for short.”

It’s time to stop looking to one mine in the state’s Far North for the answer to our economic problems

BHP, and our politicians, should be wary of rolling out the “expansion” tag to a state weary of spin around Olympic Dam, writes Business Editor Cameron England.

Cameron England, Business Editor, The Advertiser, October 20, 2020 ,

South Australians can take today’s announcement from BHP that its expansion plans have been shelved again as a signal that it’s time to step off the Olympic Dam silver bullet train once and for all…………

hanging our hopes on a big bang – or even a small bang – expansion of the project as a pivotal turning point for the state’s economy is a fool’s game.

The initial $30 billion open pit expansion – which was shelved in 2012 – would genuinely have been a game-changer for the state.

It included plans for an open pit bigger than the Adelaide CBD, new ports, and a surge in annual royalties for the State Government. But it was not to be.

The BFX expansion – which was shelved today – was a more modest $3.7 billion proposal, and while the spending would have been a boon to the state, it alone would have not moved the dial in a significant way for the state’s economy.

A broadbased approach, based around SA being a great place to do business – which the government is actually pursuing – stands a better chance of being the tide which lifts all boats.

Unfortunately the idea of an Olympic Dam expansion seems to be enough to make state ministers lose their equilibrium.

Back in 2011, former Infrastructure Minster Pat Conlon, with the caveat that it wasn’t his decision to make, declared the project a “goer” and said “I can tell you, having been regularly updated by my colleague Kevin Foley, Olympic Dam is a goer, it will get a sign-off.

“I’m very, very confident we’ll start up soon.’’

It didn’t of course.

And now current Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan says, similar to the results from Pantene, it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen…..

From the BHP side BFX is dead and buried, although they are committed to an incremental $500 million smelter maintenance plan and do want to gradually increase production.

But what most people would understand is an “expansion plan” is off the cards for now.

BHP needs to learn to manage expectations around this project, in a state which does have a tendency to hope for silver bullet solutions.

They’re between a rock and a hard place with their obligation to keep investors up to date, and not get people too excited with projects that invariably have billion dollar price tags attached.

I suggest a new name: the Olympic Dam Project Evaluation, Risk, Holistic Analysis and Potential Scheme – or “OD-PERHAPS” for short.

 

Australia’s Aboriginal people stopped a huge uranium mining project

July 18, 2019

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine, Red Flag Fleur Taylor, 15 July 2019  “…… The election of John Howard in March 1996 marked the end of 13 years of ALP government…..

Australia’s giant mining companies – major backers of the Coalition – got their wish list. Howard immediately abolished Labor’s three mines policy, and the business pages crowed that “25 new uranium mines” were likely and possible. And in October 1997, then environment minister Robert Hill blew the dust off an environmental impact statement from 1979 that said mining at Jabiluka was safe. Approval of the mine quickly followed.

The Jabiluka uranium deposit, just 20 kilometres from the Ranger uranium mine, is one of the richest in the world. The proposal was to build a massively bigger mine than that at Ranger, which would be underground and therefore more dangerous for the workers. It was projected to produce 19 million tonnes of ore over its lifetime, which would be trucked 22 kilometres through World Heritage listed wetlands.

The Liberals hoped to make a point. After all, if you could put a uranium mine in the middle of a national park in the face of Aboriginal opposition, what couldn’t you do?

The fight immediately began. The traditional owners of the area, the Mirarr, were led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula and the CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona. They were supported by anti-nuclear campaigners around the country, most notably Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as well as a network of activist groups.

The most important objective was to delay construction of the mine, scheduled to begin in 1998. To do this, the Mirarr called on activists to travel to Jabiluka in order to take part in a blockade of the proposed mine site until the onset of the wet season would make construction impossible.

The blockade was immensely successful. Beginning on 23 March 1998, it continued for eight months, attracted 5,000 protesters and led to 600 arrests at various associated direct actions. Yvonne Margarula was one: she was arrested in May for trespass on her own land after she and two other Aboriginal women entered the Ranger mine site.

The blockade also attracted high-profile environmental and anti-nuclear activists such as Peter Garrett and Bob Brown. This helped signal to activists that this was a serious fight. The sheer length of time the blockade lasted created a fantastic opportunity for the campaign in the cities. Activists were constantly returning from Jabiluka with a renewed determination to fight.

The Jabiluka Action Group was key to building an ongoing city-based campaign in Melbourne, and the campaign was strongest there of any city. It held large – often more than 100-strong – weekly meetings, organised endless relays of buses to the blockade and  took the fight to the bosses and corporations that stood to profit from the mine.

We were determined to map the networks of corporate ownership and power behind the mine. But in the late 1990s, when the internet barely existed, this wasn’t as simple as just looking up a company’s corporate structure on its glossy website. It took serious, time consuming research.

A careful tracing of the linkages of the North Ltd board members showed that they were very well connected – and not one but two of them were members and past chairmen of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – one of Australia’s leading bosses’ organisations. So our June 1998 protest naturally headed to the Business Council of Australia. We occupied their office, and the two groups of anti-uranium protesters, 3,800 kilometres apart, exchanged messages of solidarity, courtesy of the office phones of the BCA.

We were also staggered to learn that the chairman of a company that owned two uranium mines and was Australia’s biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips was also a member of the Parks Victoria board, the national president of Greening Australia and the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board president!

The EPA, and corporate greenwashing in general, thereby became a target for the campaign. Another target was the Royal Society of Victoria, which made the mistake of inviting Sir Gus Nossal, a famous scientist and longstanding booster for the nuclear industry, to give a dinner address. We surrounded its building, and the organisers, somewhat mystified, cancelled the dinner. This action once again made headline news, helping to keep the issue of the Jabiluka mine in people’s minds.

We held regular protests at the headquarters of North Ltd on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road. On the day that Yvonne Margarula was facing court on her trespass charge, a vigil was held overnight. When we heard she had been found guilty, the protest erupted in fury. Cans of red paint – not water-based – materialised, and the corporate facade of North Ltd received an unscheduled refurbishment. The Herald-Sun went berserk.

The leadership of the Mirarr people gave this campaign a different focus from other environmental campaigns of the time. It was fundamentally about land rights, sovereignty and the right of Aboriginal communities to veto destructive developments on their land. In Melbourne, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation appointed long-time Aboriginal militant and historian Gary Foley as their representative. Gary worked tirelessly to provoke and educate the many activists who turned up wanting to “support” or “do something” for Aboriginal people.

At a time when “reconciliation” was strongly supported by liberals and much of the left, Foley told us that reconciliation was bullshit. He argued native title (supposedly a key achievement of Keating) was “the most inferior form of land title under British law”, and that the ALP was every bit as racist as One Nation – if not worse. He insisted activists must educate themselves about sovereignty and the struggles happening right here, not just those happening 3,800 kilometres away. The way the Jabiluka Action Group activists approached this challenge was an example of how people’s ideas change. Many came into the campaign primarily as environmental activists, but almost all left as committed fighters for Aboriginal rights.

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When the blockade wound down at the onset of the wet season, it was an opportunity to fight on some other fronts. Representatives of the UN World Heritage Committee visited Kakadu in late 1998 and issued a declaration that the World Heritage values of the area were in danger. They called on the government to stop the mine. Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona travelled to Paris to speak to the European Commission about the mine.

John Howard, at the time mired in ministerial scandals and resignations, had called an election for September 1998, and there was hope in some quarters that Labor might win and stop the mine. But Howard scraped back in on only 48.3 percent of the vote, and it was clear that the fight on the ground would have to continue.

In the meantime, an important legal loophole had been identified. North Ltd had failed to secure agreement for the Jabiluka ore to be trucked to the Ranger mine for processing. It turned out the Mirarr did have the right to refuse this, and by exercising this right they would increase the cost of the project by $200 million (the cost of building a new processing plant at Jabiluka). This, combined with the ongoing protests, became a huge problem for the company.

Something we enjoyed doing at the time was monitoring North Ltd’s share price. It started out high when the Liberals took power. But after a year of protest and controversy, it had started to sink. The slump world uranium prices were going through didn’t help. But what the share price correlated to most closely was the major protests – it showed a drop after every single one.

Fund managers everywhere had absorbed the simple message that Jabiluka meant trouble, and early in 1999 this formerly prestigious blue-chip mining stock was described as one of the year’s “dog stocks”. Encouraged by this, the campaign launched its most ambitious action to date – the four-day blockade of North Ltd, from Palm Sunday until Easter Thursday 1999. This was the beginning of the end for the mine. In mid-2000, Rio Tinto bought out the struggling North Ltd. With no appetite for a brawl, the new owners quietly mothballed the Jabiluka project, signing a guarantee with the Mirarr to that effect. The campaign had won.

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The Jabiluka campaign was one of those rare things – an outright victory. It was a win not just for the Mirarr people, but for every community threatened by a devastating radioactive mine. And it was a win for humanity as a whole, protected from more of this deadly substance. Our chant – “Hey, North, you’re running out of time! You’re never going to get your Jabiluka mine!” – for once came true.

The victory inspired a neighbouring traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee, single-handedly to challenge the development of the Koongarra uranium deposit, resulting in the cancellation of that entire mining lease. In Melbourne and other cities, the Mirarr resistance inspired sustained and creative campaigning from a wide variety of participants – from vegan Wiccans and revolutionary socialists to doof-doof rave organisers and corporate-philanthropist Women for Mirarr Women. The campaign was chaotic and argumentative, but united by a commitment to challenging corporate power and standing up for Aboriginal sovereignty.

It still serves as an inspiration for anti-nuclear and anti-mining campaigns, such as the brave and determined opposition of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners to the Adani mine. It stands as a great example of how blockades on country can nourish and inspire actions in the cities.  https://redflag.org.au/node/6839

 

BHP’s OLympic Dam Uranium Mine – open slather on water, Aboriginal rights, environment

March 9, 2019

Initial Scoping – Olympic Dam Expansion Issues 22 Feb 2019 David Noonan B.Sc., M.Env.St., Independent Environment Campaigner The BHP Roxby ‘Major Project’ Copper & Uranium Mining Proposal: ‘Olympic Dreams: Major step for $3 billion, 1800-job North mine expansion’ (15 Feb, p.1 promo The Advertiser) as SA Gov. grant’s “Major Project” status to assess BHP’s latest expansion plan, to:

  • Increase copper production from 200,000 tonnes per annum to 350 000 tpa, with an increase in ‘associated products’ – uranium oxide: from 4 000 to approx. 6 000 tpa;
  •   Use the outdated 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Ratification Act to control this EIS assessment under the Mining Minister, with the Indenture over-riding other SA legislation and subjecting Aboriginal Heritage to a constrained version of a 1979 Act across BHP Olympic Dam operations in the Stuart Shelf Area (covering 1 per cent of SA) – rather than the contemporary standards, process and protections in the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988;
  • Use a since replaced 1993 Development Act and “Major Project” status Sec. 46 (1) that excludes Appeals regarding the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) process and outcomes;
  • Use a ‘one stop shop’ Bilateral Assessment Agreement leaving the SA Gov. to conduct the assessment, including on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES)under the Commonwealth Environment Protection legislation (EPBC Act 1999), on nuclear actions and on the fragile Mound Springs Endangered Ecological Community – reliant on GAB waters;
  • Use the SA Gov. Declaration to “Exclude” existing mining and “enabling activities” up to 200 000 tpa Cu & associated products and resultant impacts from this EIS assessment, “such as: waste treatment, storage and disposal, including but not limited to, Tailings Storage Facility 6, Evaporation Pond 6, additional cells for the contaminated waste disposal facility, and development of a low-level radioactive waste storage facility”;
  • And to increase extraction of Great Artesian Basin fossil water “up to total maximum 50 million litres a day annual average” (above the volumes last assessed in 1997 and set at a max of 42 Ml/day) and give BHP rights to take GAB water – potentially up to 2070, with “any augmented or new water supply pipeline from the GAB along with any other wellfield”;…………. . https://nuclear.foe.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Noonan-Olympic-Dam-Expansion-2019.pdf

At long last – a remediation plan for Ranger Uranium Mine within Kakadu National Park, but will it work?

June 6, 2018

Northern Land Council, 5 June 2018     The Northern Land Council and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation welcome today’s public release of the Ranger Mine Closure Plan by Energy Resources of Australia. The plan is decades overdue and critical to the company meeting the objectives of rehabilitation.

The NLC and GAC, representing the Mirarr Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the mine site, will now review the plan and engage with stakeholders as part of the approval process. While not part of a public environmental impact statement process, the public release of the plan does provide the broader community with an opportunity to comment on the plan to the Australian government.

The Mine Closure Plan is of a very high level and even though Ranger’s closure is imminent, a significant amount of detailed planning and supporting studies remain outstanding. ERA and its parent company Rio Tinto must clearly demonstrate that they have sufficient resources devoted to mine closure to provide stakeholders with confidence that the objectives outlined in the closure plan can be met.

The Ranger plan remains unenforceable until it is approved by the federal Minister for Resources. The mine’s operational life must cease by January 2021, ahead of five years’ rehabilitation. The future of Aboriginal communities downstream of the mine and the World Heritage listed values of Australia’s largest national park are at stake.

ERA and Rio Tinto’s rehabilitation obligations include remediation of the site such that it can be incorporated in the surrounding Kakadu National Park. The final determination as to whether the area can be incorporated into the World Heritage area sits with the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, on advice from its expert advisory bodies the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

NLC contact: Martha Tattersall 0427 031 382 GAC contact: Kirsten Blair 0412 853 641

http://gac-v3.katalyst.com.au/media/W1siZiIsIjIwMTgvMDYvMDQvM3plYWpidjJ1al8yMDE4MDQwNl9HQUNfTkxDX3JlX0VSQV9SVU1fTUNQXzVfSnVuZV8yMDE4LnBkZiJdXQ/20180406%20GAC%20NLC%20re%20ERA%20RUM%20MCP%205%20June%202018.pdf

Uncertainty about the clean-up of Ranger uranium mine in Australia’s Northern Territory

June 12, 2017

Environment and Communications Legislation Committee 23/05/2017 Estimates
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO
Clean Energy Regulator

Full Transcript: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=Dataset%3AcomSen,estimate%20Dataset_Phrase%3A%22estimate%22%20CommitteeName_Phrase%3A%22environment%20and%20communications%20legislation%20committee%22%20Questioner_Phrase%3A%22ludlam,%20sen%20scott%22;rec=5;resCount=Default

CHAIR: I welcome the Office of the Supervising Scientist.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that ERA is in the process of starting to get on with closing the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu and have notified stakeholders—presumably including yourselves—that they are intending to vary the way that they are depositing the tailings back into pit 3, and that they are proposing to change from an aerial tailings deposition to subaqueous deposition. For the non-specialists, could you describe maybe in plain English the difference in technique they are proposing.

Mr Tayler : The previous tailings deposition methodology had tailings being dredged from the tailings dam and tailings coming from the mill being deposited onto a beach, essentially. The new methodology that ERA is proposing involves depositing tailings through water; hence the subaqueous versus subaerial. Essentially, it was being put onto a tailings beach; the new method will be depositing it through the water column itself.

Senator LUDLAM: Is the decommissioning of the mine being treated as a nuclear action under the EPBC Act?

Mr Tayler : No.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you describe for us why not?

Mr Tayler : I would prefer that questions specific to the EPBC Act were directed to the Environmental Standards Division, or we could take it on notice if that is okay.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that is fair enough. If you can take it on notice, but I guess the answer is not going to come from you, is it? I think we have already let these people go.

Mr Tayler : Yes, it is a legal point, and I would not want to comment on that in case I got it wrong.

Senator LUDLAM: That is fine. I understand there is an interception trench, which intersects the saline plume coming out from under the tailings storage facility. We have been asking your predecessors in this office for years about this. My understanding is that ERA is currently monitoring that plume of saline water. There is a certain amount of dewatering that is being done. How long is it expected that monitoring and dewatering operations would continue beyond 2020?

Mr Tayler : In relation to the seepage—

Senator LUDLAM: In 2026, I beg your pardon. In relation to the monitoring of that saline plume and the dewatering.

Mr Tayler : Specifically related to the tailings dam?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes.

Mr Tayler : That is not information that we currently have. It is on ERA’s work program to conduct some detailed groundwater modelling of the TSF footprint. The TSF will not be decommissioned for several years yet, so I could not give you a specific answer to that question at this time.

Senator LUDLAM: When is the expected decommissioning date for the tailings storage facility?

Mr Tayler : I would have to take that on notice for the exact date. I believe it was towards the end of the rehabilitation process, which would put it in the 2024-25 period, but I will confirm that for you.

Senator LUDLAM: I will tell you what the purpose of these questions is: we have a plume of saline water that ERA was a bit reluctant to concede even existed, seeping out from under the dam, carrying goodness knows what other processed chemicals and radionuclides and whatever with it. We have the company with interception trenches, possibly bores, trying to get a sense of how much water is falling out the bottom of the TSF. We have an interception trench which is allowing them to remove some of that water and presumably process it and clean it up. That is a very active process of maintenance. How long is it anticipated to last?

Mr Tayler : Yes, I understand the question. At this stage, I do not have sufficient information to answer that question.

Senator LUDLAM: In terms of a yes/no. Is that because you do not have it at the table or you do not think that knowledge exists at this time?

Mr Tayler : I do not think that knowledge exists at this time. We need ERA to complete some proposed groundwater modelling. That will model the movement of that plume. That will give some indication of how long that plume will take to move, how long it will take to dilute and what management, if any management, will be required. That work has not yet been undertaken.

Senator LUDLAM: It is 2017. How does the ERA not know that already? I have been asking about this for about eight years, and this was an issue way before I came along.

Mr Tayler : Operationally, I think the issue has been quite well managed. We can provide an update on that if that would be helpful. From a long-term closure sense, the focus has been on looking at the groundwater impacts from the pits. Further work is still required on quantifying exactly what is beneath the TSF and what that may look like in the future.

Senator LUDLAM: So they still do not really know what is coming out from underneath the dam?

Mr Tayler : In an operational sense, we know very well exactly what is moving now. How that will behave over the long term into the future is not yet quantified.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide us with an estimate of how much water is seeping out from under the TSF every year? We have had order of magnitude estimates going back a couple of years.

Mr Tayler : For the whole dam? I would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. What I am trying to find out is whether that process is still going to be underway beyond 2026 or if it is within the company’s work plan that it is all well and truly done.

Australia: nuclear law to avoid legal challenges quietly passed by Liberal and Lanor

November 30, 2016

Tweedle-Nuclear

Major parties push a losing uranium sector to India at great risk http://www.smh.com.au/comment/major-parties-push-a-losing-uranium-sector-to-india-at-great-risk-20161128-gszld4.html  Dave Sweeney , 29 Nov 16 

With little fuss or fanfare, Australia’s two major parties have this week agreed to fly under the radioactive radar and pass an innocuous enough sounding law with some very far reaching implications.

The Indian Civil Nuclear Transfers Act exists to provide “certainty to Australian uranium producers” who want to sell the controversial product to India.

In 2015 a detailed investigation by Parliament’s treaties committee found there were serious and unresolved nuclear safety, security and governance issues with the proposed sales plan. It also found a high level of legal uncertainty.

Expert witnesses including Australian National University Professor of International Law Don Rothwell and former senior DFAT officer John Carlson also highlighted that the plan was in conflict with both Australian domestic law and existing international treaty provisions, most notably the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.

Given the severity of the inconsistencies and the significance of the issues involved, the government-controlled treaties committee took the unusual step of voting against the clear direction of the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister – and the political run of play – and recommended that the Indian sales deal not be advanced unless these outstanding issues were addressed.

This decision was welcomed by many. But not by Julie Bishop. A terse response to a measured and bipartisan report said the government was “satisfied” that steps had been taken to address each condition, and did not agree that exports to India should be deferred.

The commercial interests of an underperforming industrial sector were given priority above parliamentary process and evidence-based, prudent public policy.

But this favouritism was not enough to paper the deep cracks in this dangerous plan, and now the government has moved to rush through the new laws to close the door on legal challenge and scrutiny.

The declared intent of the new law is to protect uranium mining companies in Australia from domestic legal action that challenges the consistency of the safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency in India and Australia’s international non-proliferation obligations. It will also protect any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use.

A recent truncated review of the new law said the bill “provides the certainty required to give effect to the Australia-India Agreement”.

So Australian uranium miners, who supplied the product that directly fuelled Fukushima, are now to be legally covered from any challenge over a highly contested plan to sell to India.

This move highlights the extent and the risks of the federal government’s preoccupation with ending civil society access to legal recourse. Further, fast-tracking legal favours to provide industry certainty simply highlights how profoundly uncertain this industry is.

Following Fukushima, the global uranium market has crashed, as has the value of uranium stocks. Uranium operations are on hold; extended care and maintenance are well behind planning schedules, and prices, profits and employment numbers have gone south.

IBIS World’s March 2015 market report said only 987 people are employed in Australia’s uranium industry. Few jobs and dollars, considerable damage at home and escalating risk abroad.

The fragile economics of the uranium sector make it understandable that the industry is pushing for every potential market but fail to explain why our federal government is so intent on trying to pick winners with a sector that is clearly losing. Sadly, and unreasonably, the India uranium deal has become seen as a litmus test for bilateral relations.

Talk of a massive surge in exports is fanciful, and promoting Australian uranium as the answer to Indian energy poverty is more convenient than credible. Political proponents of the trade are driven less by substance than style – the symbolism of Australia and India on the same page and open for business.

In a telling reference, the recent review of the new law highlighted the importance of the “foreign policy backdrop to Australia’s nuclear trade with India”.

Sending political signals through trade is not unusual, but to do so by ignoring substantive warning signals is unwise. When those warnings and that trade relate to nuclear materials, it is deeply irresponsible.

Buttressing flawed trade deals with bolt-on legislative exemptions is poor policy and practice. This law may be civil by name, but it is desperately uncivil in nature.

All trades have trade-offs but this one risks far too much.

Dave Sweeney is a nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Australian uranium miner with Russian funding, set to increase radioactive pollution in Karoo, South Africa

January 19, 2016

dust from mining

Already today, the environment around Beaufort West is contaminated close to the previous mine sites. First field studies by the author show unprotected nuclear wastes with 10 to 20 times the background radiation.

Dust and Radiation – Two Deadly Impacts…… a particular direct relationship between occupational exposure to uranium and its decay products and lung diseases.Mining uranium ore in the Karoo will invariably create huge plumes of contaminated dust. Dust clouds are unavoidable during drilling, blasting and transporting.

Dust suppression by spraying water is only partially effective and creates new problems with contaminated slimes, adding to the environmental cost of groundwater abstraction

Uranium Mining Threatens the Karoo, Karoo Space, 18 Jan 16  By Dr Stefan Cramer  [Excellent] Images sourced by Dr Stefan Cramer Just as the threat of fracking seemed to recede in the Karoo, the danger of uranium mining has arisen – and it is even more frightening and more likely than shale gas extraction.

The Karoo has long been known to harbour substantial sedimentary uranium deposits. Now an Australian company [Peninsula Energy , through it’s wholly owned subsidiary Tasman Pacific Minerals Limited] with Russian funding is planning to get the radioactive mineral out of the ground on a major scale.

The company has quietly accumulated over 750 000 hectares of Karoo properties and concessions around Beaufort West and plans to set up a large Central Processing Plant just outside that town.

While the nation is still debating the pros and cons of fracking, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as the precursor to mining licences is nearing finalisation. During 2016 the Department of Mineral Resources will make a decision on the industry’s application……….

extensive studies on the risks of uranium mining over many decades are available today….yet so far there is no public debateno strategic assessment process in place in the Karoo.No advocacy groups balance the glossy claims of the industry against sobering experiences on the ground…..

According to its documents, Tasman RSA Mines today controls exclusive prospecting rights over more than 750 000 hectares in a circle of nearly 200 kilometres around Beaufort West.

About 32 000 hectares are directly owned under freehold by the company. Local farmers find it hard to resist purchase offers, as farming in this part of the Karoo is particularly difficult due to low rainfall and poor soils.

Unlike in fracking, farms are permanently damaged by uranium opencast mining………

So far the company has not indicated whether they would use in-situ-leaching’, a particularly dangerous but low-cost method. Here, large quantities of leaching agent are injected underground. The uranium is dissolved and recovered in well fields……

Already today, the environment around Beaufort West is contaminated close to the previous mine sites. First field studies by the author show unprotected nuclear wastes with 10 to 20 times the background radiation.

Dust and Radiation – Two Deadly Impacts

The devastating impacts of uranium mining on people, especially the mine workers, and the environment have been well research and documented. Several studies of large number of cases and with exposure over many years (Wismut AG in the former East Germany, theColorado-Plateau in the USA, and Saskatchewan in Canada, have established  particular direct relationship between occupational exposure to uranium and its decay products and lung diseases.

Mining uranium ore in the Karoo will invariably create huge plumes of contaminated dust. Dust clouds are unavoidable during drilling, blasting and transporting.

Dust suppression by spraying water is only partially effective and creates new problems with contaminated slimes, adding to the environmental cost of groundwater abstraction……..http://karoospace.co.za/uranium-mining-threatens-the-karoo/

 

Want a massive radioactive trash pile? Try BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine

November 19, 2015

Map-Aust-Olympic-Dam

Dennis Matthews, 19 Nov 15, In the 1980’s we were repeatedly told not to worry about uranium mining at Roxby, that Roxby was a copper mine and that uranium was incidental. Now we are being told that Roxby has the world’s largest deposit of uranium.

Despite strong public opposition, mining at Roxby got the nod from politicians. Soon radioactive water started leaking through the un-sealed base of the tailings dam, and now BHP is building an ever-expanding man-made stockpile of radioactive waste.

Paul Starick (The Advertiser, 13/11/15) downplays the fact that we have a nuclear reactor, stating that Australia has no nuclear power reactor, a distinction that has little to do with the issue. Using the “nuclear medicine” mantra, Starick downplays the main role of a nuclear waste dump, namely to deal with highly radioactive waste from Australia’s nuclear reactor, which will open the door to international waste.

The small amounts of relatively benign low-level waste being safely stored in institutions around Australia is trivial compared to BHP’s massive stockpiles of waste at Roxby and Australia’s nuclear reactor waste.

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) advises against uranium sales to India: more security needed

September 9, 2015
India-uranium1India uranium red-light a test for Tony Abbott, SBS News, 8 Sept 15, While Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Minister Bishop have been strong supporters of selling Australian uranium to India, many others, including key Australian diplomats and insiders, remain far more circumspect. By  Dave Sweeney
  The plan has drawn sustained opposition and concern, most recently from the federal Parliament’s influential Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), which has unambiguously stated that much more work is required before any Australian uranium makes a passage to India.

The JSCOT report followed a detailed examination and expert testimony and states that while the federal government can ratify the deal it must not advance uranium sales or supply to India before key checks and balances are put into practice and proven to work.

In short, the committee charged with advising the government on Indian uranium sales has reached the unambiguous conclusion that the government can sign but not sell.

The question now is whether the Abbott government will follow due parliamentary process and act in the public interest or will it ignore these concerns and JSCOT’s advice and seek to fast-track the agenda of the under-performing uranium sector?

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a uranium deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in September 2014, he praised India’s “absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record”. Yet India’s record on nuclear proliferation tells another story. India acquired its nuclear arsenal by breaking a promise not to use a Canadian reactor for military purposes. It remains outside the globe’s key non-proliferation frameworks and the region remains on nuclear high alert amid tensions with nuclear rival Pakistan.

Instead of addressing real questions about India’s nuclear weapons program and inadequate nuclear safety standards Mr Abbott resorted to cricketing clichés, declaring that Australia and India trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards because of “the fundamentally ethical principle that every cricketer is supposed to assimilate – play by the rules and accept the umpire’s decision”.

The JSCOT process received strongly critical submissions from a who’s who of nuclear arms control diplomats and experts including John Carlson (former long serving Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office from 1989 to 2010), Ron Walker (former Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Prof. Lawrence Scheinman (former Assistant Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency). These are veteran players in global nuclear diplomatic and regulatory regimes, not anti-nuclear activists.

Nuclear arms control expert Crispin Rovere noted that “this treaty appears less like the deepening of a bilateral partnership and more like one of a client state being dictated to in an expanded Indian empire. It is a major display of weakness on the part of the Australian Government, and a failure to stand up for Australia’s national interests in this area”.

8 SEP 201…….As it currently stands, the government has inked an agreement that puts absolutely no constraints on India’s nuclear weapons program, fails to advance non-proliferation outcomes and doesn’t even provide effective scrutiny of Australian uranium.

One thing we can all agree on is that Australia has a key role to play in supporting India’s legitimate energy aspirations, but this cannot be advanced by a retreat from responsibility on nuclear safeguards and security. The government must read and heed the JSCOT report and Australia’s uranium must remain away from India’s nuclear reactors and weapons – to do otherwise would be profoundly irresponsible.

JSCOT has just clean bowled this dangerous and deeply deficient sales plan. Mr Abbott must now heed his own words, “accept the umpire’s decision” and start the long walk back to pavilion for a serious re-think. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/09/08/comment-india-uranium-red-light-test-tony-abbott