In lead up to Rio Tinto’s Australian AGM (May 8) signs that Rio will not pay up for fixing up Ranger uranium mine
Rio chief tight-lipped on Ranger mine, SMH April 16, 2014 - Peter Ker Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh has refused to guarantee that his company will cover the cost of rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine near Kakadu, building on uncertainty that was created last month by the Rio subsidiary in charge of the mine.
Energy Resources of Australia – which is 68 per cent owned by Rio – raised eyebrows when it revealed it may need to find new sources of money to meet its rehabilitation commitments for Ranger, which is entirely surrounded by Kakadu National Park.
Under the Ranger permit, ERA must have rehabilitated the site by 2026, and a review of the rehabilitation strategy in 2013 found the cost would be $603 million on a net present cost basis. ERA has $357 million on hand and has ceased mining at Ranger, with the company now exploring for more uranium underground in a bid to find future revenue streams.
In an unusual move, ERA appeared to link the success of that exploration project – known as Ranger 3 Deeps – to its ability to pay for the rehabilitation of the site. “If the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area,” the company said in its annual report.Such an outcome would be unusual, as miners are typically compelled to pay for the rehabilitation at the end of a mine’s life through provisions that are made each year.
In ERA’s case, some rehabilitation is already underway and it maintains a trust with the Australian Government which was holding $63.9 million at December 31.
When asked at Tuesday night’s annual meeting of Rio shareholders in London, Mr Walsh indicated he was in no mood to pick up the tab for ERA, particularly after Rio took part in a $500 million equity raising for the company in 2011. “There was a rights issue at ERA to fund the rehabilitation work and those funds are still sitting within that business,” said Mr Walsh.
”(ERA) is a public Australian company and clearly that is an issue for them.
“We are clearly shareholders, but it’s a matter for all shareholders and a matter for the ERA board.”
Environmental sensitivities of another kind were also raised at the AGM, with Rio executives forced to defend the company’s continued involvement in coal mining.
Mr Walsh said Rio did accept that “man made emissions” were responsible for changes in the climate, but the company believed the challenge could be resolved through technological developments rather than by ceasing coal production………
Rio’s Australian AGM will take place on May 8. http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/rio-chief-tightlipped-on-ranger-mine-20140416-36qfi.htmlSMH
For our power now lies outside of Labor or Liberal. The big parties have lost the true path. The north cannot be developed without our advancement, too. What is required now for remote Aboriginal people is a strategy beyond the election cycle. There are numerous complexities in coaxing participation out of welfare-dependent communities or productivity out of government-funded community programs. Part of the solution is developing an environment where private businesses can grow, in order to foster private wealth. That requires a strategic and efficient program of infrastructure development, including the local Aboriginal workforce.
Instead of driving remote economic development, the Labor and Liberal parties continue to treat remote Aboriginal people as a uniquely unresolvable problem. Australia’s Northern Territory has become a new colony — a moral crisis zone. By now it should be obvious there will be no change in remote Aboriginal communities unless the residents are willing. The arrogance of the major political parties will never inspire willingness.
The only path to advancement is via the bush bloc http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/the-only-path-to-advancement-is-via-the-bush-bloc/story-e6frgd0x-1226881272887# 12 April 14, Alison Anderson MLA for Namatjira.
POWERFUL factions in the major political parties have failed Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. That failure can be attributed almost wholly to a poor understanding of the aspirations of remote Aboriginal people. It’s simple — the people in power do not want to take the time to sit in the dirt and communicate with the most disadvantaged people, even if those same people gave them their power at the ballot box. Rather, they treat us as useful idiots. Continue reading
Muckaty trial to be held in Tennant Creek http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/muckaty-trial-to-be-held-in-tennant-creek/story-fn3dxiwe-1226880701026 NEDA VANOVAC AAP APRIL 11, 2014
THE federal government is exploiting the Northern Territory’s constitutional weakness by planning to build a nuclear waste facility there against traditional owners’ wishes, Senator Nova Peris says.
This week it was decided that a Federal Court trial would sit in Tennant Creek and Darwin in June to take evidence on the proposed dump, which is fiercely opposed by four of the five traditional owner groups at Muckaty, about 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.
Legal proceedings have been running against the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC) since June 2010, with those opposed accusing the NLC of breaching its duties by failing to properly identify the traditional Aboriginal owners of the nominated land, not consulting adequately and not getting proper consent before recommending the site. “The Northern Territory is not our nation’s dumping ground,” Senator Peris told a Muckaty dinner in Darwin on Thursday.
“The only reason the dump was proposed to be built here is because we are a Territory and not a state. Exploiting our constitutional weakness is not acceptable.”
Ms Peris called for a scientific and rational approach to determining how Australia would deal with its nuclear waste.
Lawyer Elizabeth O’Shea said it was a victory for traditional owners to have part of the trial sit in Tennant Creek.
“We’re very concerned about the health and age of a number of our witnesses,” she said.
“It’s hugely important that the court has taken this step and we’re very pleased, and it’s caused great comfort for our clients.”
The Muckaty decision affects all of Tennant Creek, traditional owner Penny Phillips says, so it’s important for the community to be able to observe the legal process.
“All the people there, the old people and the young ones too, they can step up and start talking up,” she said.
“Our people fought for country for years and years – you get back country and you have to look after it.
“If you put the dump there, who’s going to look after the next generation?”
The trial will begin in Melbourne on June 2.
Why are there U.S. marines in Darwin? Independent Australia Nick Deane 10 April 2014, The recent arrival of over a thousand marines in Darwin provides a risk for Australia, yet absolutely no reward, writes Nick Deane.
IF ONE COUNTRY INVITES the armed forces of another onto its territory, one would expect the government of the host country to have seen strategic benefits in the arrangement.
Furthermore, one would also expect, in a democracy, that this government would be happy to explain these benefits to its people. That should be simple enough.
In the case of Australia playing host to a garrison of more than 1,000 United States marines in Darwin for the next six months, the public has been offered no explanation about the strategic benefits. All we have been told (via a letter to IPAN-NSW from the Minister for Defence on 7 December 2012) is that the marines’ presence is an extension of our existing, long-standing alliance with the U.S. — as though the passage of time alone is sufficient justification for us to willingly accept foreign forces on our territory.
What is missing is any discussion of the strategic advantages to Australia that come from the presence of the U.S. garrison.
It is probably taken for granted that the advantage lies in the supposed ‘protection’ that it brings us. But are the marines really here for our protection?
And who actually benefits, in strategic terms, from this arrangement?
Certainly, the strategic benefits to the U.S. are large.
‘Australia’s strong ties with America provide it with the means to preserve U.S. influence and military reach across the Indo-Pacific.’
Note: that’s the United States’ influence and military reach……..
where is the benefit to Australia?
What we get out of it is the certainty that we are now directly involved, if hostilities break out between America and China. That would make parts of Australia potential targets for attack…..http://www.independentaustralia.net/article-display/why-are-there-us-marines-in-darwin,6370
ERA digs deep in search of a future BARRY FITZGERALD THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 10, 2014
“…..Chief executive Andrea Sutton told ERA’s annual meeting in Darwin yesterday that the environmental impact statement would be submitted in the second half of this year. The company is targeting first production late next year and has a $120 million exploration decline and a $57m prefeasibility study into the development running concurrently. Uranium production at Ranger from stockpiled ore is suspended following the collapse of a leach tank in the processing plant in December.
The collapse released a slurry of ore and acid which was captured by the site’s containment system, with ERA saying that no material escaped into Kakadu.
The AGM was told that ERA’s board had approved a work plan to bring the processing plant to readiness for a restart. But a final clearance is required from the NT and federal governments.
Ms Sutton was not able to put a timeline on when that might happen, raising the prospect that ERA will have to secure uranium from other sources. The meeting was told that the quantities involved would depend on the timing of operations being restarted.
The company said it understood the “importance of restoring confidence in the safety and environmental performance of the Ranger mine”. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/era-digs-deep-in-search-of-a-future/story-e6frg8zx-1226879305475#
ERA told: Clean up Ranger uranium mine site and clear out rather than shifting underground, 9 April 14
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-09/era-urged-to-clean-up-ranger-uranium-mine-site-and-clear-out/5377698?section=ntPublic health experts have joined traditional owners and environmentalists in calling for Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to focus on land rehabilitation rather than expansion of its Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
The company’s latest report shows that despite operations being suspended at the site since a toxic leak last year, plans to mine uranium underground continue.
ERA is holding its annual general meeting in Darwin today.
NT branch secretary of the Public Health Association of Australia, Dr Michael Fonda, says underground uranium mining poses serious health risks. One of the main things that is concerning us is that they [miners] are going to be exposed to dangerous levels of radon gas,” he said. Dr Fonda says ERA has a troubling safety record and it cannot be trusted to ensure safe work practices for the underground uranium mining.
“What is being planned for the R3 Deep’s expansion is for very large extraction fans to take much of that radon [gas] out of the mine,” he said.”I am concerned, and the Public Health Association is concerned, that will not be enough.”
Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) national nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney says ERA should focus on land rehabilitation in the final years of its mining lease. “Realise this is high risk and low return,” he said.
“Instead of accepting the inevitable and cleaning up and exiting, and having a staged and a costed and managed rehabilitation of the Ranger site, ERA is increasingly desperate and is chasing the illusion of dollars by going underground with the Ranger 3-Deep project.”Mr Sweeney says ERA and its parent company Rio Tinto should realise the planned underground mine is high risk and low return.
Indigenous traditional owners have expressed concerns that ERA will not have enough money to follow through on rehabilitation plans for the mine, which is near Jabiru and inside the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.
The ERA of uranium mining is over http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16200, Dave Sweeney 9 April 14, In the early hours of Saturday December 7th 2013 the evacuation order was given in the processing area of Energy Resources of Australia’s troubled Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu.
Minutes later came the unforgiving sound of peeling metal followed by a surge of over one million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry from the buckled and broken number one leach tank. The toxic tide swept over the concrete bunds meant to contain any spills and moved uncontrolled through the night and the site.
Four months later and ERA remains under pressure, under performing and under scrutiny. Mineral processing remains suspended at Ranger pending the findings of a federal government review of the tank collapse and this week the ERA board and management will face sceptical shareholders and no doubt plenty of critical questions at the company’s annual meeting in Darwin. Continue reading
Proposed Ranger 3 Deeps expansion too risky says PHAA , 7 April 14, The Northern Territory Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA NT) is today launching its submission to the Social Impact Assessment process for the proposed ‘Ranger 3 Deeps’ (R3D) underground expansion at the Ranger uranium mine. This comes ahead of a public forum about the future of Ranger in Darwin titled “Reconsidering Ranger”.
The PHAA NT submission focusses on the health and safety impacts for the local population, mine workers and the environment as well as the impacts the exported uranium is having overseas.
“There have been over 200 significant safety incidents at Ranger in its 30 years of operation, including the December 2013 spillage of more than 1 million litres of radioactive and acidic slurry from a storage tank,” said Dr Michael Fonda, PHAA NT Branch Secretary.
“It is of great concern that Energy Resources Australia intends to use the same ageing processing equipment for its proposed R3D expansion,” Dr Fonda said.
PHAA NT is concerned about the health impacts underground mine workers will face from radon exposure.
“Radon inhalation is a particularly dangerous form of radiation exposure and PHAA NT wants reassurances that the R3D design would meet world’s best practice standards. Evidence has emerged linking Ranger to adverse impacts on the surrounding population and environment,” said Dr Fonda.
A 2006 Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies report investigating cancer rates in the local population found that the number of actual cases of cancer was 90% higher than expected.
“The research findings to date are very alarming. We believe it is unsafe and unethical to approve this underground expansion before further studies into the health effects in the region have been carried out,” he added.
In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima reactor disaster, which was fuelled in part by Australian uranium, the United Nations called for an urgent review into the health and environmental impacts of uranium mining in Australia. “This review still has not been initiated by the Australian Government. We believe Australia needs an inquiry into its entire nuclear industry before proceeding with any further expansions and PHAA have repeatedly called for this,” Dr Fonda said.
Dr Fonda will be talking about these issues along with other speakers at the “Reconsidering Ranger” public forum being held at the Hilton Hotel in Darwin on Tuesday 8 April 2014. Entry is free and doors open at 6:30pm.
For further information/comment:
Dr Michael Fonda, NT Branch Secretary, Public Health Association of Australia 0429 435 595
This media release – and the related submission – will be available on the PHAA website at: www.phaa.net.au
Bush Aborigines are fed up AMOS AIKMAN THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 04, 2014
TENSION between Aborigines who have remained poor while Darwin has been transformed from a disaster zone after Cyclone Tracy to a “Gateway to Asia” city now has finally burst through the seams, ripping apart the Northern Territory government.
The imminent departure from the ruling Country Liberal Party of three traditional, culturally respected indigenous members not only plunges the government into crisis but could create a watershed for indigenous representation in Australia. Aboriginal votes that enabled the CLP to win power failed to deliver a government in which a majority of Aboriginal members could influence policymaking, resources allocation and the public service to anywhere near their — or, it appears, their constituents’ — satisfaction……….
Since the start of self-government in 1978, the Territory has been a mendicant state administering large amounts of federal funds for the notional benefit of Aborigines. However, a parade of reports has revealed that much of the money is skimmed off before it reaches the ground and, despite the substantial spending, living standards and health outcomes have barely improved in 30 years.
Some indicators, particularly those for children, are going backwards.
Successive governments have tried to contain the competing interests of remote and urban voting constituencies. The division is a socioeconomic one that falls uncomfortably along racial lines. In effect, these two constituencies are hankering for the same government resources rather than, as might be the case elsewhere, partnering in the economy……
Chief Minister Adam Giles was installed in March last year with the help of so-called “bush members”, who hoped the change would bring stability………
Anderson, in particular, objected to Giles axing the indigenous advancement department she had been in charge of, and scrapping a committee established by Mills to bring feedback from the bush directly to the cabinet table.
Giles sacked her from his ministry in September, in a move some now view as counterproductive. Gradually it became clear that, by ousting Mills, Giles and his allies had sundered the CLP in much the same way Julia Gillard did Labor when she replaced Kevin Rudd……….
Giles has focused his attention, at times forcefully, on laying the groundwork for major private-sector investment. While this may be an admirable long-term goal, it has distracted from the small-scale change and consultative policymaking bush residents voted for.
The result has been a chorus of questions about whether Aboriginal people will be drivers or passengers in development of their own land — the sort of concerns that fostered the Aboriginal land rights movement. This has clearly been a problem for Kurrupuwu, Anderson and Lee.
“Our concerns for a long period of time has been that we haven’t delivered for the bush,” Anderson told the ABC recently………
The risk for the federal government is self-evident. While the nation debates controversial racial discrimination legislation, and edges towards a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous people, politicians exchange racial epithets and ugly allegations in the Territory……… http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/bush-aborigines-are-fed-up/story-e6frg6z6-1226873925714#
Darwin: Australia’s most militarised city, and a lily pad for the Pentagon Australians know the isolated and exotic city of Darwin through stories about cyclones, crocodiles and Aboriginal art, but it really is a cleverly camouflaged garrison town Tess Lea theguardian.com, Monday 31 March 2014 In his recent book Anzac’s Long Shadow: The Cost of our National Obsession, former ADF soldier James Brown correlates deep Australian ignorance about our contemporary military with our increasingly fantastical commemoration of the Anzac legend. Bedazzled by myths of Gallipoli, Australians neglect more pressing defence policy concerns.
Australians prefer to see the isolated and exotic city of Darwin through stories about cyclones, crocodiles, Aboriginal art, spicy market food and unlimited road speeds; a place that lets you go to the supermarket in bare feet and look normal. This way, we don’t have to notice the most significant militarisation effort in Australia’s post-war history, which is happening under our noses. The militarisation of the north is unknown to most of us and thanks to this ignorance, the new Cold War brewing in the Asia Pacific region, and Darwin’s place in it, is rarely being debated………
In allowing Australia’s foreign policy interests to be played out of sight, out of mind, in a town that also hides its own nature from itself, we avoid debating difficult questions. What does being a subordinate ally to a military force clinging to its global primacy commit us to? What are our liabilities and responsibilities? At what point do Australian sovereign interests diverge from America’s security objectives? And what are we prepared to do about it? http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/31/darwin-a-complicated-but-dazzling-history
CLP needs to stand up for the Territory over Canberra’s radioactive waste plan. 13 Mar 14, National and Territory environment groups have called on Chief Minister Adam Giles to send a clear message to Canberra to end plans for a radioactive waste dump in the NT.
The call comes on the second anniversary of former federal Labor Minister Martin Ferguson pushing ahead with controversial federal laws for a radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, north of Tennant Creek.
“Radioactive waste is long lived, hazardous and serious stuff but sadly the Muckaty plan is based more on broken promises and dodgy political expedience than credible science or proper process,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“The approach taken by successive federal governments has not been inclusive, scientific or robust and is not consistent with either international industry best practise or Australia’s obligations”.
The Muckaty plan is strongly contested by many Traditional Owners, environment, public health and trade union groups and is the focus of current Federal Court legal action due to go to trial in June 2014.
“For over two decades there has been a push by Canberra for a remote waste dump – first defeated by a strong community campaign in South Australia, and now their sites are firmly set on the NT. This has occurred without a scrap of evidence or success to support such a plan, and in the absence of community consent or a social license,” said ECNT campaigner Lauren Mellor.
“The Territory community and environment deserves better than Canberra playing short term politics with a long term problem.”
“It is time for the Chief Minister to send a clear message to Canberra.Territorians don’t want, and won’t cop, a cynical and dodgy dump plan. We want a genuine examination of how to responsibly manage Australia’s radioactive waste”.
For comment: Dave Sweeney, ACF, 0408 317 812 Lauren Mellor, ECNT, 0413 534 125
The NT is no place for Sydney’s radioactive waste: Time for evidence, not expedience, Natalie Wasley, 28 Feb 14, A plan by the NSW Government to move large volumes of radioactive waste from suburban Sydney to a proposed but non-existent dump site at Muckaty north of Tennant Creek highlights the confused and short-term thinking surrounding radioactive waste management in Australia, according to national radioactive waste watchdog the Beyond Nuclear Initiative.
BNI has condemned the suggestion by NSW Finance Minister Andrew Constance that radioactive soil from Hunter’s Hill should be transported to the proposed national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty. “The NSW Liberals’ first plan to transport contaminated soil to politically vulnerable areas of Western Sydney was strongly challenged by the community, local councils and trade unions,” said BNI coordinator Natalie Wasley.
“The latest plan – calculated to move the waste out of the sight and mind of residents in the affluent suburb of Hunter’s Hill – shows extreme contempt for Muckaty Traditional Owners who have been campaigning for almost seven years against the NT dump plan.”
“A strong alliance between Traditional Owners, health and environment groups, trade unions and social justice organisations has stymied and delayed the Muckaty plan. The Muckaty site nomination is the subject of Federal Court action set for trial in June. Any attempts to move radioactive waste there from NSW would be actively challenged by the local community and their growing national network of supporters.”
“Mr Constance’s ‘viable option’ of a 3500km road trip for 5000 tonnes of waste is a long way from international standards that call for community participation in decision making on radioactive waste storage. Transporting radioactive materials long distances presents an unacceptable risk to transport and emergency workers as well as communities along the route.”
“The NSW government clearly does not have a strategy for responsible waste management beyond attempts to find a disenfranchised community to dump it on.”
“Instead of short term dump and run politics we urgently need an independent national commission into advancing responsible radioactive waste management. Minister Constance’s proposal highlights the pressing need for this inquiry to go ahead while the Muckaty site nomination is contested in court. Instead of political plans and toxic trucks we need a genuine and evidence based assessment.”
ERA narrows loss to A$136m, says toxic spill probe continuing Mining Weekly By: Esmarie Swanepoel 31st January 2014 “…..During the year, revenue from sales decreased 10%, to A$355.8-million, while revenue from continuing operations was down 12% on the previous financial year to A$370-million…..
ERA produced some 2 960 t of uranium oxide in the year under review, which was 20% less than that produced in 2012, as lower mill rates affected output. The suspension of processing operations following the failure of a leach tank in December also negatively affected operations, ERA said.
Processing operations at the Ranger mine, in the Northern Territory, remain suspended pending the completion of a full investigation and regulatory approvals to restart.
ERA was conducting an independent investigation that would run in parallel with the government investigation.http://www.miningweekly.com/article/era-narrows-loss-to-a136m-says-toxic-spill-probe-continuing-2014-01-31
ASIO and NT cops spied on, meddled with careers of Territorians BY ALISON BEVEGE NT NEWS JANUARY 21, 2014 AUSTRALIA’S secret service spied on Territorians – including the NT News editor – files released under the Archives Act show……
Those targeted had spoken out against the Vietnam War, campaigned for Aboriginal land rights or opposed Indonesia’s brutal invasion and occupation of East Timor.
Their partners, friends and colleagues were followed, their phones tapped and mail was intercepted…….http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/asio-and-nt-cops-spied-on-meddled-with-careers-of-territorians/story-fnk1w5xx-1226806880023
Leach tank failure impacts ERA’s uranium production results, Mining Australia,10 January, 2014 Vicky Validakis Production at ERA’s uranium mine took a 60 per cent hit in the December quarter after a leach tank rupture forced operations to close at the site.
While a slight fall in production was expected after the completion of mining in the high-grade open-cut Ranger pit, matters worsened for the miner when a leach tank at the site’s processing plant ruptured and collapsed, causing an acidic radioactive slurry spill.
The incident forced the shutdown of operations and a massive clean-up at the site, with the Federal Government announcing the mine will not be able to restart production operations without regulatory approval and the go ahead from a joint operation taskforce.
Processing operations remain suspended while clean-up and recovery operations at the Ranger processing plant are ongoing.
In an ASX announcement the Rio Tinto-owned ERA revealed uranium production for the December quarter was 503 tonnes, down 17 per cent on the preceding September quarter and 59 per cent down on the previous corresponding period.
The fall cut annual output by 20 per cent to 2960 tonnes……..approval may be difficult to come by with the Mirrar people previously stating that a number of safety incidents at the site had caused distrust.
In early November a mine left the site’s controlled areas sparking fears of contamination, while later that month four uranium storage barrels were discovered in bushland near Darwin.
“Day by day, litre by litre, incident by incident, they’re losing whatever trust traditional owners have in them,” Mirrar spokesperson Justin O’Brien said. http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/leach-tank-failure-impacts-era-s-uranium-productio