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
Production slump caps a horror year for ERA BARRY FITZGERALD THE AUSTRALIAN JANUARY 10, 2014 RIO Tinto’s listed uranium subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has finished off a horror year by reporting a near 60 per cent slump in December quarter production from its Ranger mine in the Northern Territory.
A severe production fall was expected because of the absence of high-grade material following the cessation of mining operations in the open-cut at Ranger. But things got worse on December 7 when a leach tank at the processing operations collapsed, forcing a shutdown for clean-up and a wait for regulatory approval to restart processing operations. … (registered readers only) HTTP://WWW.THEAUSTRALIAN.COM.AU/BUSINESS/MINING-ENERGY/PRODUCTION-SLUMP-CAPS-A-HORROR-YEAR-FOR-ERA/STORY-E6FRG9DF-1226798542510#
a few unsettling home truths about Australia, as a far-flung outpost of what the writer B. Wongar has called the ‘Nuclear Empire’.
the plunder of native land for its enormous reserves of uranium has entrenched the country’s problematic engagement in world nuclearism and undermined its international credentials as a leading proponent of nuclear non-proliferation.
Anzac, New Mexico: Placing Australia in the Nuclear Empire, Meanjin, Robin Gerster, Dec 13 It is a lament that many Australian readers will recognise: an indigenous narrator is telling the story of colonial dispossession, from the time of white settlement to the rampant mining activity of today, expressing his helplessness in the face of an implacable force that reinscribes the very landscape it has taken over, mapped and mined………….
In August 1945, unable to boast a military role in such a king-hit to its hated enemy Japan, Australia sought another way to take a small slice of the wretched glory. Two days after the Hiroshima bombing, the claim was circulated that ‘Little Boy’ was fuelled by Australian uranium: ‘Uranium from S.A. source’, ran a story on page one of the Sydney Morning Herald. But the text itself says nothing more than the fact that uranium is vital to nuclear fission, that it had been mined at Mt Painter in South Australia, and (portentously) that supplies of the element had been ‘flown out’ from the mine’s newly constructed aerodrome. The Herald soon retracted the story, quoting Prime Minister Ben Chifley to the effect that ‘though Australia attempted to secure uranium for the atomic bomb, the production stage was never undertaken’. This was a minor humiliation in the scheme of things, but a reminder that Australia’s part in these epochal events was essentially peripheral. Undeterred, a Courier-Mail correspondent on 9 August, the day of reckoning for Nagasaki, claimed that Australia ‘gained prestige’ from the advent of the atomic bomb merely by being one of the world’s leading sources of the element.
Former judge urges a clean-up of APY Lands board , REBECCA PUDDY. THE AUSTRALIAN, DECEMBER 23, 2013 SOUTH Australia’s remote Aboriginal lands could be set on the path towards economic development by reforming the state’s Aboriginal land rights act.
Retired Supreme Court judge Robyn Layton has provided interim recommendations into the reform of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act to the state government, calling for gender equality and a clean-up of the APY Lands executive board.
Ms Layton told The Australian yesterday she believed reform of the lands’ governing council would pave the way towards economic development.– ……
Ms Layton’s recommendations to government also would pave the way for equal gender representation on the APY executive.
Men and women living on the lands were united in their desire for equal gender representation on the board.
The Land Rights Act was anchored in a system that focused primarily on the leadership of male elders and traditional owners, Ms Layton said.
Modernising the act to include a minimum representation of women in leadership positions would take account of the greater role women were playing within Aboriginal communities.
“Women have taken a far more important role within communities because they have been the power where men have fallen away, ……http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/former-judge-urges-a-clean-up-of-apy-lands-board/story-fn9hm1pm-1226788507581#
the Ranger mine is more than 30 years old and we are increasingly seeing metal fatigue and accidents, such as the one we saw so spectacularly 10 days ago.
Kakadu mine: risk of uranium leakage could be greater than thought
Study shows the radioactive particles can escape into the environment, raising alarms about the national park Oliver Milman theguardian.com, Wednesday 18 December 2013 The risk of uranium leakage from filtration systems used by facilities such as the Ranger mine in Kakadu could be greater than is currently acknowledged, with new research showing that the hazardous substance is far more mobile than previously thought.
A study published in Nature Communications found that seemingly immobile uranium“piggybacked” onto iron and organic material and flowed into a stream that joined a wetland in France.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said the findings were “alarming” given the proximity of the Ranger mine to the World Heritage-listed wetlands of Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory. The ACF said the new European research called into question mine operator Energy Resources of Australia’s practice of using a wetland filtration system to ensure uranium doesn’t escape into the environment. A community of Mirarr people live about 10km from the Ranger mine. Continue reading
The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) has welcomed the formation of a task force to investigate the recent tank collapse at Ranger uranium mine. Federal Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane and Northern Territory Mines Minister Willem Westra Van Holthe announced the investigation today noting that a representative of the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the mine site will be invited to join.
GAC Chief Executive Officer Justin O’Brien said “We welcome the Government’s proactive closure of operations at Ranger and believe that mining should remain suspended until the completion of this investigation and the subsequent implementation of all recommendations.”
The investigation has been established to:
i) identify the immediate cause of the incident;
ii) examine the integrity of broader processing operations;
iii) identify any gaps in operating procedures or maintenance practices;
iv) undertake a comprehensive examination of corporate governance arrangements; and,
v) provide recommendations to the Commonwealth Minister for Industry and the Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy.
Mr O’Brien continued: “This inquiry must be given full access to ensure the condition of infrastructure and the rigour of procedures at this aging mine are fully scrutinised. We look forward to assisting with the appointment of an independent investigator.”
“We are hopeful that this process will set a strong precedent for government listening to and including aboriginal landholders in decisions about the management of their land” Justin O’Brien concluded.
Traditional owners in Kakadu National Park still fear for their safety and the health of their country after a technical team visited the Ranger Uranium mine today, following a series of pollution spills and safety breaches.
The Mirarr Traditional Owners – who do not feel safe to enter the mine area following Saturday’s tank collapse – sent a technical officer from the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) to visit the site on their behalf this morning.
GAC acting Chief Executive Officer David Vadiveloo said “ERA is telling the public that the area is safe but our officer reports that they are still conducting radiation testing in the area and there is still toxic slurry lying exposed, outside the containment area.”
“The Mirarr are worried sick about the safety of people, the land and the future of this World Heritage park – meanwhile ERA is worrying about getting roads cleared and getting this aging and incident-riddled mine-site, back to processing without an independent assessment being done” Vadiveloo said.
“There has been no independent testing so we are all left relying on the mining company’s testing to confirm the area is safe. We want a presence on the taskforce and an independent audit of plant and facility” said Vadiveloo.
A taskforce involving government regulators, departments and the miner has been appointed to investigate the recent radiological accidents but GAC was not invited to participate.
GAC has written to the Federal Minister for Industry, Ian MacFarlane welcoming the current halt to processing at Ranger and to request a seat on the taskforce.
Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula will make a statement in coming days.
AUDIO Worker ‘fell in’ to radioactive slurry pit, ABC Radio AM Michael Coggan reported this story on Saturday, December 14, 2013
SIMON SANTOW: The operators of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory are facing fresh allegations they are cutting corners on safety.
A worker told his union he sunk up to his armpits into radioactive slurry while helping to clean up a massive toxic spill caused by the collapse of part of the mine’s processing plant last weekend.
The company that runs the mine, Energy Resources of Australia, says it can’t confirm the workplace accident and is checking the validity of the claim. Michael Coggan reports from Darwin.
MICHAEL COGGAN: When a 1,400 cubic metre leach tank at the Ranger uranium mine fell apart last Saturday, workers had to evacuate to avoid being hit by the mixture of sulphuric acid and uranium it was holding…….
MICHAEL COGGAN: What does that say about the safety of the mine site?
BRYAN WILKINS: I think this is fairly typical of safety on that mine site. And it goes to show when the minister said the mine was safe the other day, he obviously wasn’t right. There still are safety issues on that site, and there needs to be that full independent inquiry that we called for…….http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3911651.htm
Kakadu uranium leak: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’ SMH,December 14, 2013 Tim Elliott To the Jawoyn people, of southern Kakadu, it’s known as buladjang, or ”sickness country”, pockets of land not fit for regular habitation.
It was here, they believed, that the creation ancestor Bula ended his travels and left his spirit underground. Only recently have scientists found a correlation between mineral deposits such as uranium and the location of major Bula sites.
Ranger uranium mine, north of the Jawoyn, unleashed its own kind of sickness last Saturday when a leach tank burst, spilling 1 million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry that engulfed the mine and breached containment lines. The mine’s operator, Energy Resources Australia, said no one was hurt, and that the spill had no effect on the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, which surrounds the site.
But photos obtained by Fairfax Media for the first time show the extent of the damage. ”I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Melanie Impey, environmental officer for the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the local Mirarr people. ”The tank was just a mangled mass of metal.”…..
Ranger has experienced more than 200 spills, leaks and breaches since opening in 1979. In 2002, ERA detected high uranium levels downstream from Ranger but failed to inform the traditional owners for five weeks. In 2004, 28 Ranger workers were found to have drank and showered in water containing 400 times the legal limit of uranium. Later, an excavator covered in radioactive mud was taken to the town of Jabiru for cleaning, contaminating a mechanic and his children.
Ranger’s chief regulator is the Northern Territory government, which takes advice from the Supervising Scientists Division, a Commonwealth agency that oversees environmental standards within Kakadu. ERA says its record is good, pointing out the SSD has always given the mine a clean bill of health …. http://www.smh.com.au/national/kakadu-uranium-leak-ive-never-seen-anything-like-it-20131213-2zcy5.html#ixzz2nU8DGzF
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/kakadu-uraniu
13 Dec 13, ACF has called for a widening of the scope of the planned review into safety at Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu following last weekend’s equipment failure and spill of a million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry.
Today the federal and NT Mines Ministers have outlined the terms of reference for a joint investigation but many questions remain unclear, including:
· Details on the ‘independent expert’ who has the key role to ‘review the broader integrity of the processing plant’
- · How stakeholders including environmental NGO’s and trade unions will engage with this process and whether there will be a public hearing and submission process
- · Whether operations at Ranger mine will remain halted pending the outcome plant integrity assessment
- · How the adequacy of the remediation and clean up works and related OHS response will be assessed
- · The extent of dependence of company supplied – as opposed to independently obtained – data and monitoring results Continue reading
Ranger clean-up ignores traditional owners 9 News, December 12, 2013 Aboriginal traditional owners have been left off a taskforce convened by the government to investigate a massive leak of uranium and acid at the Ranger mine in Kakadu National Park.
At 1am on Saturday a leach tank with a capacity of about 1.5 million litres collapsed, spilling out a mixture of uranium, sulphuric acid, and mud at the mine site, which has operated for 30 years inside the boundaries of one of Australia’s largest protected areas.
The federal government suspended operations at the mine and has formed a taskforce with regulators and the mine operators to respond to the incident, but traditional owners have not been invited to participate, says David Vadiveloo, acting CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), which advocates on the behalf of the Mirarr people.
He told AAP the lack of an invitation to play a role “goes to the heart of our calls for the desperate need for independent oversight of that mine”.
“The regulatory procedures are just as archaic as the mine,” he said……..
an on-site GAC representative says radiation testing is still being carried out, with a large volume of contaminated material sitting on the ground outside the contaminated area.
Mr Vadiveloo said he was “stunned” to see ERA reassuring the community before testing was complete.
“Through good fortune – clearly not good planning – it hasn’t rained here since the accident, but what would ERA have done had the skies opened up and a huge dump of rain come in?”
Traditional owners did not feel safe on their own land, he said………GAC is calling for a fully independent review of the leak, along with a full audit of operations at Ranger.http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/2013/12/12/18/42/ranger-clean-up-ignores-traditional-owners
EDONT to watch regulator response with interest in wake of Ranger Uranium Mine incident. ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS OFFICE NT, DECEMBER 11, 2013 “………What can the Commonwealth and Territory Government do to respond to the spill?
Clearly an incident of this nature demands a strong response from regulators of the mine. Currently the Office of the Supervising Scientist and the Northern Territory Government are investigating the spill.
Under the AEA the Commonwealth Minister has the power to impose an indefinite suspension of operations at Ranger if ERA refuses or fails to comply with or observe a condition or restriction provided in its Authority. It is unclear whether the Commonwealth Minister has given a direction under the AEA or whether he has directed ERA to cease operations pending investigation and ERA have voluntarily complied.
It is interesting to note that while ERA have stated that the spill was contained on site, Ranger Environmental Requirement 1.2 requires that:
the company must ensure that operations at Ranger do not result in environmental impacts within the Ranger Project Area which are not as low as reasonably achievable, during mining excavation, mineral processing, and subsequently during and after rehabilitation.
Additionally, Environmental Requirement 12 requires the use of Best Practicable Technology (BPT) at Ranger. While it is contemplated that equipment on site may be able to fulfill its serviceable life, in light of this weekends events ERA appears to be failing in its duty to adequately review and update its equipment in line with Environmental Requirement 12.
Given that preliminary reports have suggested that the tank was over 20 years old, EDO NT would suggest that a full scale review of the mines equipment to ensure that there are no further equipment failures at the mine and compliance with the BPT requirement of ERA’s Ranger Authority is achieved.
Under the Atomic Energy Act it is an offence for a person to fail to comply with a condition of their authorisation. The maximum penalty for this offence, in the case of a body corporate like ERA, is $10,000.
Northern Territory -
The Northern Territory Government’s powers to regulate Ranger arise from the provisions of the MMA, which as stated above provides for the General Authorisation for Ranger, the Schedule to which set out the way mining operations are undertaken and the requirements for environmental protection.
In the event that the NT Government believes ERA has contravened an environmental obligation under the MMA and caused environmental harm, it is able to commence proceedings under the MMA.
The MMA provides three tiers of offences, namely for conduct causing:
- serious environmental harm (level 1 and 2);
- material environmental harm (level 1 and 2); or
- Environmental nuisance.
The penalties for the various tiers (and levels) range from about $55,000 for a body corporate who causes environmental nuisance to over $2.75 million for a body corporate that causes serious environmental harm.
The way forward
The time for taking a strong legal stance against lack luster performance at Ranger would appear to have come. The Northern Territory Government must send a message to ERA, and other mine operators within the Territory, that the Territory community will accept nothing less than strict compliance with the laws put in place to protect the environment.