Australian news, and some related international items

Secrecy on nuclear waste plans, as Fed govt delays announcing site for radioactive trash dump

radioactive trashsecret-agent-AustFederal Government delays announcement of Australian waste dump site after silence from NT October 5, 2015  NT News
THE Federal Government has missed its due date to announce a shortlist of potential sites for Australia’s nuclear waste dump.
And despite promising last week the process would be “open and transparent”, new Northern Australia and Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg will not reveal how many nominations have been put forward, where they have come from, or when any government announcements will come.
The month-long call to nominate sites for Australia’s radioactive waste management facility was thrown open to all landholders in March because Northern Territory traditional owners, who had exclusive nomination rights, had not offered land before the Government-imposed deadline.
A controversial bid by traditional owners north of Tennant Creek to house the facility on the Muckaty Land Trust collapsed in June last year amid clan feuds and environmental activism.
The deal would have netted traditional owners about $12 million in compensation.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane left Cabinet after the Malcolm Turnbull leadership coup and Mr Frydenberg assumed responsibility for the facility in the subsequent reshuffle.
In his first interview about the troubled quest to store 70 years’ worth of Australia’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste, Mr Frydenberg told the The Adelaide Advertiser last week “the (Federal) Government is running an open and transparent process to choose a voluntary site for a national radioactive waste facility.”
Mr Macfarlane had also promised “extensive public consultation” at every stage.
But nearly five months after nominations have closed, the government will not reveal any details about the search.Ironically, Mr Frydenberg’s office has twice referred the NT News to the “open and transparent” remark while at the same time refusing to answer questions.
Australia, specifically Lucas Heights in Sydney, has already begun to take back nuclear waste from Europe, meaning the government can ill afford more Muckaty Station-style stops, starts and failures.
According to government timelines, the minister in charge, then Mr MacFarlane, was due to shortlist sites before August.
By July next year, Mr Frydenberg is supposed to announce the government’s preferred site, and by 2020 the facility is supposed to be operational. Moves to offer another site on Muckaty Station north of the original plan fell away early this year. Traditional owners from the Tanami Desert, under the auspices of the Central Land Council, had also indicated support but never nominated a site.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, politics, wastes | 1 Comment

Uranium mine fire in Kakadu National Park

bushfireNT uranium mine fire: Traditional owners call on mine operator to take responsibility for blaze owners are calling on the operator of the Ranger Uranium Mine to take responsibility for a fire that is threatening important cultural sites in Kakadu National Park.

They are also warning if the out-of-control fire spreads into Kakadu’s escarpment country, it will be too difficult to contain. Parks Australia said the blaze started when the mine’s operator, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), began weed management burning which then spread into Kakadu.

Justin O’Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area’s traditional owners, said ERA should fund efforts to put out the fire. “I mean there’s an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they’ve done, this is the second year in a row that they’ve done this, It’s almost a replica of last year,” he said. “They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they’re operating in.”

Mr O’Brien said the fire was close to escarpment country, where it would be very difficult to put out. “If this fire gets into the escarpment, there’s no water in there,” he said “You can’t do suppression from the air, you cannot get boots on the ground in that country, it’s too rugged. “All you can do is wait for it to put itself out, that’s not acceptable.”

ERA said it notified Parks Australia about the controlled burn and was not instructed to stop the fire from going ahead. Kakadu rangers are due to fly over Kakadu this morning to assess the fire.

Mr O’Brien said hundreds of rock art galleries, plants and animals in Radon Springs are threatened by the fire. One of Kakadu National Park’s most significant cultural sites, Nourlangie Rock, featuring Indigenous rock art showing early contact with Europeans, as well as other art up to 50,000 years old, has been closed to tourists.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | - incidents, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Mirrar people mourn Hiroshima, and regret impacts of uranium sourced from their land

Mirarr recognise 70 years since nuclear bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki  06 Aug 2015  The Mirarr traditional owners of lands in Australia’s Northern Territory, including parts of Kakadu National Park and the Ranger and Jabiluka uranium deposits, acknowledge with sadness the seventy year anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb attacks.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr, is supporting commemoration events around the country in recognition of the strong links between Mirarr country and Japan and the great damage that the nuclear industry has inflicted on people and country over these 70 years.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Justin O’Brien said: “There is a strong history between Mirarr country and Japan. Mining began at Ranger- against the wishes of the Mirarr – in large part because of agreements between the Australian and Japanese governments.”

In 1978 before Ranger mine opened, then Senior Traditional Owner Taby Gangale was worried the uranium from his land might be used in nuclear weapons stating: “What if they make an atom bomb or something? Same as they did in Japan. Very dangerous.”

The Mirarr feel great responsibility for the impacts of uranium sourced from their land. Soon after the Margarula,-Yvonnenuclear emergency started at Fukushima, Mirarr senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressing her concern and sadness at the devastation that uranium from her lands was causing in Japan: “This is an industry we never supported in the past and want no part of in the future. We are all diminished by the events unfolding at Fukushima” Ms Margarula wrote at the time.

“In 2014 the Mirarr hosted a visit from Naoto Kan, who was Prime Minister of Japan at the time of the Fukushima nuclear emergency. Mr Kan’s visit marked a new chapter in the longstanding partnership between our two countries. We discussed the ways in which uranium has damaged both Mirarr country and Japan and the importance of working together towards peaceful energy sources and better outcomes for all people.” Mr O’Brien concluded

For details of commemoration events visit the website of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons  For further information including photographs of the Mirarr, Naoto Kan and Ranger mine contact Kirsten Blair: 0412 853 641

August 7, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | 1 Comment

Uranium miner ERA losses slump, yet again

nuclear-dead-catERA’s loss widens to $255m, Yahoo 7 Finance, 1 Aug 15   Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has slumped to a $255 million half year loss after shelving a major mine expansion in challenging conditions.

The Rio Tinto-controlled miner will not pay a half year dividend and said the uranium market remained challenging as an oversupply kept prices week……Half of the company’s board quit last month after ERA decided its proposed new underground mine at Ranger the Northern Territory would not proceed to a final feasibility study due to a sluggish uranium market.

Controlling shareholder Rio Tinto then pulled its support for any expansion of the mine, despite ERA saying it would seek to extend its authority to operate Ranger in order to re-visit the expansion at some stage.

ERA’s net loss in the six months to June 30 is significantly larger than the $127 million loss incurred in the same period of 2014, due mainly to a $197 million writedown related to the mine decision……

August 1, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Northern Territory development : Aboriginal owners asked to agree to extinguish native title

exclamation-Northern Land Council calls for major rethink of northern development amid concerns about Ord expansion talks PM  By Sara Everingham ABC New, 25 July 15,   The head of the Northern Land Council (NLC) has said a major rethink of northern development is needed and he fears one of the Northern Territory Government’s key strategies for boosting agriculture will lead to little but heartache for Indigenous people.

Chief executive officer Joe Morrison said traditional owners were being asked to agree to extinguish native title to allow for the expansion of the Ord Irrigation Scheme from the East Kimberley into the Northern Territory but he said he was worried there would be few lasting benefits in return.

Continue reading

July 25, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Troubled history of Australia’s Ranger uranium mine – ABC Radio

‘So to Mirarr, I guess what they see is very, very large disturbance, they see mountains of waste rock and low-grade ore, and sometimes that does affect their views of important sites like Djidbidjidbi or just the landscape.

‘It will never look the same again and the site will have to be monitored for decades to come after it is finished being rehabilitated so that we can make sure that it is actually in a stable chemical condition, the biodiversity is doing okay and the ecosystem is functional and so on.’

Ranger 3

According to ERA figures, rehabilitation is expected to cost close to $500 million.

The long and controversial history of uranium mining in Australia, ABC Radio, Rear Vision, 14 July 2015 Keri Phillips Last month’s announcement that Energy Resources Australia will pull the plug on the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory signals the end of one of the most controversial chapters in Australian mining history. Keri Phillips traces the history of uranium mining in Australia and Ranger’s role in it……. Continue reading

July 15, 2015 Posted by | environment, history, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Mirrar people call on Abbott government to secure Kakadu National Park from further uranium mining

Ranger-pitTraditional owners ask Abbott government to fix stand-off over Ranger uranium mine, SMH. July 12, 2015 –  Resources reporter The traditional owners of the land on which the Ranger uranium mine is built have challenged the federal government to guarantee that no future mining will occur on the Ranger and Jabiluka mineral leases, and to begin preparations for the sites’ inclusion in Kakadu National Park.

In rare comments that do not bode well for the operator of the mine, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), the Mirarr traditional owners indicated they would not agree to an expansion of the Ranger mine in the future, despite ERA seeking to keep that option open.

More than a month after ERA’s major shareholder, Rio Tinto, declared it did not support the Ranger expansion project, the uranium miner continued to push that barrow, and confirmed on Friday it had asked the federal and Northern Territory governments for an extension of its lease beyond 2021 so that it might reconsider the mine expansion if commodity prices improved.

Mirarr spokesman Justin O’Brien said the comments continued the “intense uncertainty” that had surrounded ERA’s future.

He called for certainty from the Abbott government.  Continue reading

July 13, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Telstra Business Award goes to Family-owned business Country Solar NT

solar-panels-localFamily-owned business Country Solar NT named 2015 Telstra Northern Territory Business of the Year CRAIG DUNLOP NT NEWS JULY 04, 2015

A FAMILY-owned business has taken out the Territory’s most prestigious business prize just five short years after opening its doors.

Country Solar NT, which is owned by husband and wife team Jeremy and Pam Hunt, was named 2015 Telstra Northern Territory Business of the Year at a gala ceremony at the Darwin Convention Centre last night.

The company, which began with the couple selling solar panels from the back of their ute, now has clients all across the Top End, including schools, supermarkets and remote communities.

Mr Hunt said the business was committed to providing a high quality local service.

“We’re local and we want to ensure that locals are getting the best renewable energy products available at the best prices to meet their energy needs,” he said.

“Amid the ever-changing rules about solar PV and the past performance of fly-in fly-out solar contractors, we have provided a stable alternative for the home, business and government markets.”

Mr Hunt said the business was committed to the local community and providing sustainable energy………

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Northern Territory, solar | Leave a comment

Taxpayers likely to cop the costs of Ranger uranium clean-up. if ERA goes bankrupt

text-my-money-2as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

The end of the line for uranium company Energy Resources of Australia

burial.uranium-industryERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts ERA was once one of the world biggest uranium producers, supplying about 10 per cent of the global market for ‘yellowcake’ and powering electricity utilities in Japan, Europe and North America.

It’s now pretty well friendless as its last three independent directors resigned, leaving the company in the hands of its majority shareholder Rio Tinto.

Rio for its part said there is no future for ERA’s only productive asset, the Ranger Mine, which operates in the middle of the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

With its existing open mine resources exhausted, ERA has been labouring on, processing stockpiled ore since late 2012.

Ranger’s last hope lay in an ambitious and expensive underground mine – the Ranger 3 Deeps project – which could have extended the mine’s life by another decade. That hope was extinguished earlier this month when Rio, with its 68 per cent stake in ERA, said enough was enough. The market was blindsided by Rio’s decision, with ERA’s share price tumbling more than 70 per cent in the aftermath.

In hindsight it was probably inevitable.

ERA’s losses mount to $700 million since 2011 Continue reading

July 1, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia – half of uranium company’s Board quits

Half of Australian uranium miner’s board quits after Rio shelves project SYDNEY, JUNE 22 Half of the board at uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia resigned on Monday, saying majority owner Rio Tinto’s decision to abandon work on a major mine expansion made it difficult for the company to pursue its goals.

ERA’s stock has plunged more than 70 percent since it said on June 12 that it would not proceed with the final development study for its Ranger 3 Deeps uranium project in northern Australia due to low uranium prices.

Uranium prices have tumbled since the March 2011 meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Japan has idled its entire industry in response, exacerbating a worldwide supply glut.

Three ERA directors, including Chairman Peter McMahon, resigned, leaving the board with just three members, the company said in statement. ERA, a separately listed division in which Rio Tinto holds a 68.4 percent stake, said a search for replacement directors had been approved.

Rio has said it may have to book a $300 million charge relating to its stake in ERA after the Ranger 3 project was shelved. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

June 24, 2015 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Traditional Aboriginal owners of Muckaty remain vigilant against nuclear waste dumping

text-wise-owlGovt still looking for nuclear waste site one year after pursuing Muckaty , SBS News,  Today marks one year since the federal government agreed to stop pursuing Muckaty, Northern Territory, as a site to store nuclear waste. By Andrea Booth Source: NITV News


A court case had been battling the issue for nearly 10 years.

The Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty, located 120 kilometres from Tennant Creek, as a site for a dump in 2006 with the Muckaty community to receive a $12 million benefits package. But Warlmanpa and Marumungu people in Muckaty claimed they had not been consulted about the plan.

The threat of a nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal Land continues after the government called for other land owners, councils or organisations to nominate their land for the facility.

The Department of Industry and Science told media this year it remained “committed” to finding a site.

handsoffTraditional owners of Muckaty say they feel they must continue to defend their land and culture from nuclear waste.  Aunty Jeanie Sambo told NITV News that a nuclear waste dump would destroy them. “It will probably poison [everything] that we live [from], like the animals that we hunt and the river that we drink out of,” she said. “It is not good for us.”

Australia produces nuclear waste and sends it overseas as the country does not yet have its own processing facilities. International agreements require that the processed material be returned to Australia.

Australia has about 5,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.

Protecting Manawangku was filmed through the lead up to a major rally in Tenant Creek against the proposed dump ..

June 20, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

New White Paper on Northern Australia might undermine Indigenous land rights

handsoffDon’t use northern development as ‘Trojan Horse’ to undermine Indigenous land rights, Noel Pearson warns, ABC News By political reporter Anna Henderson, 19 June 15  Influential Cape York Indigenous representative Noel Pearson has warned that development of the north must not be used as a “Trojan Horse” to undermine Indigenous land rights.

The Federal Government has unveiled the northern Australia white paper, a blueprint for policy ideas to develop the sparsely populated region and capitalise on lucrative resources.

The white paper included a section on simplifying land arrangements and a commitment that Indigenous Australians should have the “same opportunities as other Australians to leverage their land assets and generate wealth”.

It also said the Federal Government aimed to have all current native title claims finalised within a decade. Mr Pearson — who attended the Cairns launch of the policy — said the white paper’s reference to expediting native title claims was “certainly welcome”.

“They’re good words,” he said. But he said there have always been concerns that state, territory and federal governments may use the policy to erode progress in the land rights campaign.

 “The concern is that we shouldn’t use the development of the north as a Trojan Horse for undermining the Mabo decision and Indigenous land rights,” he said. “We will never agree to being railroaded by developers.”

The Aboriginal leader also said the policy would not achieve anything if land tenure issues were not addressed…….

June 20, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Northern Territory’s Environmental Defenders Office will stay open, despite federal funding cut

Environmental Defenders Office NT to stay open; other jurisdictions enter ‘caretaker’ mode following funding cuts   105.7 ABC Darwin  By Emilia Terzon The Northern Territory wing of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) will stay open another year despite Federal Government funding cuts, after holding an Indigenous art auction and receiving an emergency grant.

The news comes as EDOs in other jurisdictions enter caretaker mode, following the loss of $10 million in funding for the nationwide network of environment-focused legal centres.

EDO NT lost $450,000 in funding following a 2013 announcement that EDOs across the country would be completely defunded by July 1, 2015.

Offices in northern Queensland and South Australia are now entering caretaker mode, while the Western Australia office also had its State Government funding entirely withdrawn last month. Continue reading

June 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Developing North Australia – at the expense of Aboriginal land rights?

The really ‘horrid’ parts of Developing North Australia concern the proposed treatment of exclusive native title and of that hard-won land returned as communal Aboriginal freehold under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Both represent the highest form of recognition of Aboriginal land interests and both are targets.
handsoffIf governments want to work in a “full partnership” with Aboriginal people in The North then they must stop treating their interests in land as something to be dealt with for the convenience of those governments and the powerful interests behind them.

Abbott’s white paper for the black tropics: Boon or boondoggle? Crikey, 

BOB GOSFORD | JUN 19, 2015 “………Aboriginal people are the fastest-growing demographic, at current rates of population growth, half of the North’s population will be blackfellows by 2050.

So how are Aboriginal interests treated in Developing North Australia? This is the ‘horrid’ part. At page 4 of Developing North Australia we are told that:

Developing the north will need to be done in full partnership with Indigenous Australians, with a focus on creating opportunities through education, job creation and economic development. These opportunities for Indigenous Australians will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Noble sentiments but a reliance on the vexed Indigenous Advancement Strategy rings out some very loud warning bells. The first chapter is entitled “Simpler Land Arrangements to Support Investment” and some elements of the plan are welcome–particularly the fast-tracking of outstanding native title claims for resolution within the next ten years, increased funding for native title representative bodies and modest increased support for indigenous ranger groups and pastoral land use pilot projects. A streamlining of the needlessly complex native title Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) processes, which should be simplified to resemble the standard lease arrangements used widely by the NT land councils, is also welcome.

Overall though, the approach to Aboriginal land interests in Developing North Australia appears very much to be one of “you’ve got something and we want it back.”

This is particularly apparent in the emphasis on “township leasing” that will see control of Aboriginal land in townships–by far the most commercially valuable land in the Aboriginal estate–controlled of a Commonwealth bureaucracy and  measures to “cut red tape” around hard-won cultural heritage protections. The old saw of “Aboriginal home ownership”–creating housing markets in communities largely reliant on welfare income and where no market exists–also gets a run. Continue reading

June 19, 2015 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory | Leave a comment


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