Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Olympic Damn Uranium Mine: BHP’s disgraceful record, and contempt for Australian Aboriginal rights

BHP has shown similar contempt for taking responsibility for the impacts of its actions in Australia. The recently amended Indenture Act which will apply to the new mine continues to exempt BHP from the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, which applies elsewhere in the state. 

 It is clearly a conflict of interest to have a corporation with a commercial interest in a piece of land also making decisions as to whether this same piece of land has competing non-commercial values.

Uncle Kevin Buzzacott is an Arabunna elder. Arabunna land lies North of the mine site. The borefields which extract water for the mine from the Great Artesian Basin are located on Arabunna land. The recent recognition of the Arabunna peoples long standing Native Title claim does not give the Arabunna people any rights to contest the location of the borefields. The GAB feeds the mound springs scattered throughout the Lake Eyre region.  The springs are integral to the desert ecosystem and sacred to the Arabunna people. They have already been impacted by the water usage of the current mine. 

by Nectaria Calan, 9 July 12, The Lizards Revenge was first announced on the 10th October 2011, coinciding with the State and Federal approvals of the Olympic Dam expansion. Since then, Rio + 20 in June this year has highlighted the failure of the concept of sustainable development and the failure of individual governments and the international community to genuinely address the ongoing environmental destruction that has become a feature of our age.

Whilst governments and corporations pay lip service to sustainable development and environmental concerns, business as usual continues and economic growth is pursued as a goal in itself, with no reference either to people’s needs or environmental and social impacts. The main beneficiary of this growth model is big business.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), BHP has left a legacy of environmental devastation at the Ok Tedi mine, which has received international attention due to its practice of dumping the mine tailings and other waste directly into the Ok Tedi river. The company has since cut and run, after securing their indemnity from future liabilities and legal claims, essentially absolving itself of any responsibility for the ongoing impacts on the local community and environment.

In the mid-90’s, in response to a lawsuit by 30 000 indigenous locals, BHP helped the PNG government draft legislation that criminalised participation in the lawsuit, leading to international condemnation, an out of court settlement and further lawsuits alleging that the terms of the agreement were not met. In 2010 BHP was refused re-entry into PNG.

BHP has shown similar contempt for taking responsibility for the impacts of its actions in Australia. The recently amended Indenture Act which will apply to the new mine continues to exempt BHP from the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, which applies elsewhere in the state. Instead the company recognises the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1979, which was never made an operating law in South Australia. It is preferred by the company due to its weaker consultation provisions in relation to Aboriginal heritage, and the company is further granted exemptions from parts of this Act. The effect of these exemptions is that BHP has absolute discretion as to what Aboriginal sites are recognised and protected. BHP have essentially chosen which parts of which legislation should apply to them.

It is clearly a conflict of interest to have a corporation with a commercial interest in a piece of land also making decisions as to whether this same piece of land has competing non-commercial values.

At this stage the company does not have a comprehensive Mine Closure Plan. This has instead been added as a condition to the Federal Governments approval of the project. It has recently been argued in the Federal Court  that a plan dealing with the closure of the mine should not have been added to the approval as a condition but that such a plan is a critical part of the project design, and hence should have been submitted prior to approval and considered as part of the approval process.

Where does Uncle Kevin Buzzacott and the Arabunna fit into all of this?

Uncle Kevin Buzzacott is an Arabunna elder. Arabunna land lies North of the mine site. The borefields which extract water for the mine from the Great Artesian Basin are located on Arabunna land. The recent recognition of the Arabunna peoples long standing Native Title claim does not give the Arabunna people any rights to contest the location of the borefields. The GAB feeds the mound springs scattered throughout the Lake Eyre region.  The springs are integral to the desert ecosystem and sacred to the Arabunna people. They have already been impacted by the water usage of the current mine.

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July 9, 2012 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, uranium |

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