Community opposition to Yeelirrie uranium mining should influence EPA’s assessment of Cameco’s plans
Conservation council highlights opposition to Yeelirrie uranium mine bid http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-10/conservation-council-highlights-opposition-to/5957632
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is currently assessing the company’s plans to mine uranium at Yeelirrie, an open pit mine site 70 kilometres south-west of Wiluna.
The EPA approved a similar proposal for the same project submitted by BHP Billiton in 2010, before it was sold to Cameco in 2012.
The council’s Mia Pepper said a public inquiry into the project was needed.
She said traditional owners and locals in the area had opposed uranium mining at Yeelirrie for 40 years.
“Yeelirrie in the traditional language means place of death which is a strong indication about local knowledge and there’s also white communities there that have opposed the project for over 40 years,” she said.
Perth council to seek mandate on renewable energy for new homes, ABC News, 10 Dec 14 720 ABC Perth By Emma Wynne A Perth council is hoping to radically alter its planning scheme to require new homes to have their own energy supply.
Nedlands council, which covers some of Perth’s wealthiest suburbs, will apply to the WA Planning Commission to alter their planning scheme to require installation of onsite power generations, such as solar panels or wind power, in all new home building…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-10/perth-council-hopes-to-mandate-renewable-energy/5954842
Shutting down Australia’s Aboriginal areas, Aljazeera, New funding laws threaten the existence of remote indigenous communities already facing profound social issues. Royce Kurmelovs 07 Dec 2014 Perth, Australia - The West Australian state government may bulldoze 150 remote indigenous communities that it says are too expensive to keep open under a new funding arrangement between federal and state authorities.
Canberra has offered each state a one-time, lump-sum payment to take over the responsibility of financing remote Aboriginal communities indefinitely.
In an ultimatum, Western Australia was offered $90m, enough to fund remote communities through to 2017.
But as of June 30, 2015, past federal funding agreements will end, effectively giving Western Australia authorities about seven months before they must start working out how to fund remote communities in the future – and which ones will have to close.
Similar arrangements have been made with South Australian, Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian state governments.
All have so far remained silent on the details with the exception of South Australia, which rejected a $10m payment on the basis that it was not enough for the obligation being created.
South Australia’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Ian Hunter warned if his government was forced to accept the new arrangement, 60 remote communities – home to 4,000 people – would have to close.
Futures in question
So far, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has taken a cautionary tone, telling Al Jazeera it is “still very early”, while admitting that community closures are inevitable……………
The fear is that changes to federal policy and funding arrangements that have raised the possibility of community closures only threatens to derail any achievements made to date.
That such closures may occur around the country is also what has lead the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (NCAFP) to label the issue one of the “most significant” facing Australia’s indigenous peoples to date.
“This is about our people’s right to stay on our land,” NCAFP co-chair Kirstie Parker told Al Jazeera. “People are very frightened that the days are numbered and their communities will be closed.”
In an effort to address the issue, Parker and her co-chair Les Malezer called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to act in an open letter last week, but so far they have not received a response.
For others such as Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International Australia’s (AIA) indigenous peoples rights manager, there are serious questions about the Western Australia government’s ability to properly manage the transition………….
Lessons to be learned
The risk now is that the experience of Oombulgurri’s closure may be repeated across the country, and for Solonec this would be the worst case scenario.
“We can never let it happen again. If we’re going to talk about closing communities, we need to do it in a better way,” said Solonec.
What’s needed she said are “creative solutions” to actually solve the profound social issues within some remote communities, and prevent people being removed from their land.
Her view is echoed by Parker, who said self-determination is the key and closing down communities merely on the basis that they are “dysfunctional” will not solve problems, but only push them onto other communities.
“Our communities are left wondering about the future of our communities and of our children,” said Parker.
“This scenario doesn’t address the problems in our communities everyone knows are there, it doesn’t deal with the people. To do that you sit down and talk with them.” http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/12/shutting-down-australia-aboriginal-areas-2014124124749741868.html
Solar panel safety warning http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/solar-panel-safety-warning-20141206-121n4t.html December 6, 2014 The state’s energy safety watchdog has issued a warning about solar panels installed during the past year.
The Director of Energy Safety, Ken Bowron, said some of the systems had used dangerous power switches.
“The switches are used to disconnect the current produced by solar panels so electricians can work safely on a home or business,” he said. The defective switches are NHP dc Solar Isolator Swtiches KDA-432 and KDM-432. The supplier of the switches has issued a product recall.
“The defective switches were sold between July 2013 and October 2014. It is important that anyone who had a solar system installed between these dates checks if any of the defective switches have been fitted to the installation,” Mr Bowron said.
Western Australian government’s high-handed changes to Aboriginal Heritage Act anger traditional owners
Traditional owners rally against changes to WA Aboriginal Heritage Act, Guardian, Helen Davidson, 290 Nov 14 Proposed amendments could see owners stripped of say over sacred site listings, which will have lower standards than buildings Proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act in Western Australia could see traditional owners stripped of any say over the heritage listing of their sacred sites in a lowering of standards compared to built heritage sites.
A representation of about 50 traditional owners from across Western Australia travelled to Perth to deliver a petition signed by 1,600 people calling for the amendment to be dropped and redrafted. Ten people also met with the Aboriginal affairs minister, Peter Collier, to discuss their concerns.
The proposed amendments would give the final say on the heritage value of cultural sites on Aboriginal land to the CEO and minister of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, speeding up the approval process for mining and development applications. There would be no avenue for appeal by Indigenous groups, the delegation said.
They also said there has been no consultation with Indigenous people in the designing of the amendment, which has no requirement for an Indigenous person to be on the Aboriginal cultural materials committee and has removed a previous requirement for at least one anthropologist.
“We want the legislation removed, brought back to the table and properly negotiated and consulted on with Aboriginal people,” Simon Hawkins, CEO of the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, told Guardian Australia.
“We want the legislation to reflect modern legislation in other states in terms of how they manage cultural heritage issues … even just brought up to the standard of built heritage legislation of WA, which has very strong controls on conservation management, protection, education on sites. Why is cultural Aboriginal heritage treated so differently and [with] such lower standards? We don’t understand that, it seems so unfair.”……..
The delegation follows a meeting of 250 traditional owners, elders and community members in Port Hedland in September, to which the minister was invited but did not attend…….
The chair of the Kimberley Land Council, Anthony Watson, was left still wary of the government’s plans after the meeting.
“We pushed the minister to try and have the discussion, but due to the timeframe it looks like they have their mind set [on introducing the bill]. It’s a very dangerous the position we’re in,” Watson told Guardian Australia.
“If the bill is getting pushed through, rushed through, without consultation then it’s discriminatory and there is going to be problems across our region for Aboriginal people.”……….http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/20/traditional-owners-rally-against-changes-to-wa-aboriginal-heritage-act?utm_source=PoliticOz&utm_campaign=2cdc26cb18-PoliticOZ_21_November_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_673b6b002d-2cdc26cb18-302705445
Aboriginal activists rallied on the steps of parliament house in Perth on November 12 to protest against the Western Australian government’s plan to close 150 remote Aboriginal communities. The rally also condemned the federal government’s plan to cut funding to 180 remote indigenous communities in Western Australia. Bropho, from the Swan Valley Nyungah community, told the rally: “Closing down these communities will only make more people homeless and [in] despair.
“The way we choose to live should be our choice. We shouldn’t have the domination of government people telling us how to live and where to live. We will fight to get our community and our land back. Our fight will continue.”
In an open letter to Colin Barnett on November 17, Nyungah activist Iva Hayward Jackson said that only a small amount of the revenue from the mining would be needed to cover the costs of maintaining these communities and other improvements and that “it’s only fair to share in the richness of the land with the idea of equality in the treatment of Aboriginal people.
“After all, Aboriginal people are the traditional ‘owners’ of the land and waterways that holds all the precious resources that made Australia a rich and wealthy country in the modern world.” Amnesty International released a statement urging the Western Australian government not to forcibly evict Aboriginal people from the communities, as demolishing houses and denying indigenous people the right to practice their culture is a breach of human rights and international law.
Tammy Solonec, a human rights lawyer working with Amnesty International, slammed the hypocrisy of Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett for admitting that closing the communities will be traumatic for the people involved, while continuing a policy that will force indigenous people to break their connections to land and culture and force them to move to larger towns where they will have greater exposure to drugs, alcohol, violence and crime……….https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57858
Cost of closing remote communities greater than tackling issues, Aboriginal leaders say, ABC News, 13 Nov 14 By Nicolas Perpitch and Anna Vidot Aboriginal leaders and advocates are warning the “chaos and dysfunction” caused by closing down remote Indigenous communities will cost the West Australian Government far more than addressing existing issues.
Premier Colin Barnett has acknowledged his decision to shut about half the state’s 274 remote communities will cause distress to the more than 12,000 Aboriginal people living there and cause problems in the towns they move to………
Amnesty International’s indigenous peoples’ rights manager Tammy Solonec said there was no plan to help people evicted from Ooombulgurri integrate into Wyndham or other towns, leaving them “highly traumatised”……..
She said governments needed to support communities rather than shutting them down.
Greens MLC Robin Chapple has gone one step further, accusing the Government of peddling a racially-motivated agenda. “It’s smacks of the assimilation policies over the early 60s,” he said. “It’s horrendous. This is a diabolical, in my view, highly racially motivated agenda.”
The Barnett Government has said it was forced to accept a $90 million payment from the Commonwealth to take over responsibility for the remote communities.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-13/closing-remote-aboriginal-communities-cause-chaos-leaders-say/5889278
Scientists working together with indigenous land-managers have reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tonnes. IMPROVING FIRE MANAGEMENT in the tropical savannah of northern Australia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes over the past year.
By reintroducing traditional fire knowledge and practices, local land managers have benefited through the sale of carbon credits, as well as helping the environment.
“Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from savannah burning represent about three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the CSIRO’s Dr Garry Cook at the 2014 annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in Alice Springs in September.
“Since European settlement, fires in the north have increased in size and severity. This has threatened biodiversity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Australia’s tropical savannah landscape is enormous — it covers an area of some 1.9 million square kilometres, or about one quarter of the entire continent. The landscape is mainly forests and woodlands consisting of wide fields of grass with scattered eucalypt trees.
The savannah stretches from Rockhampton on the Queensland coast up to the tip of Cape York and across to the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.
Frequent fires are a characteristic of the landscape, and the vast majority are deliberately lit without any authorisation. Tens of thousands of square kilometres burn every year during the northern dry season.
Many local Aboriginal communities have retained their traditional fire knowledge, and these communities hold deep aspirations to fulfil long-held cultural obligations regarding country. Dr Cook said the Commonwealth’s Carbon Farming Initiative provided the impetus to restore traditional fire management practices on aboriginal homelands, combining modern environmental and fire science with traditional mosaic burning practices.
“In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the methodology, land managers need to burn early in the dry season to protect the landscape from the more intense fires that would otherwise occur later in the dry season,” he said.
“Early dry-season fires are generally low in intensity; they trickle through the landscape and burn only some of the fuel, creating a network of burnt firebreaks. These stop the late dry-season fires sweeping through large areas and releasing large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.
“Most savannahs burn on average once in every two to four years, in the late dry season, and it’s these fires that produce between three and four per cent of Australia’s accountable greenhouse emissions. The methodology helps reduce these emissions by using low-intensity, patchy early dry-season fires to reduce the overall fire frequency and proportion of late dry-season fires, which tend to be much larger and more intense,” Dr Cook said.
The savannah burning methodology for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions was developed by a team from CSIRO, the Charles Darwin University’s Centre for Bushfire Research, the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and Aboriginal landowners and rangers in northern Australia.
Dr Cook said, “It’s lovely to see science being applied to improve land management in that part of the world: we’re talking very remote country, very limited resources for land management, and very sparse populations. It’s had a great impact.”
Report finds renewable energy supply critical to Esperance future By JESSE McCARTHY-PRICEhttp://www.esperanceexpress.com.au/story/2645482/renewable-energy-key-to-esperance-development/?cs=1268 Oct. 23, 2014 ESPERANCE’S economic future would be bolstered by investment in renewable energy, according to a report Esperance Region Economic Development Strategy.
It identifies Esperance as a viable place for renewable energy generation opportunities due to an abundance of natural assets, available land and being close to infrastructure. “Esperance has a strong history of embracing renewable technology with the Ten Mile Lagoon wind farm one of the state’s first commercial-scale renewable projects,” the report said.
“Energy cost and access is currently a critical barrier to economic development for a significant proportion of the Esperance region. “Enabling reliable access to cost-effective energy will greatly enhance the viability of new and existing operations and make the region more competitive with alternative residential and investment destinations.”
Not being connected to the South West Interconnected System power grid prevented large scale energy generation and export for the region.
“However, the isolation of the region may make it attractive as a trial area for new renewable technologies given appropriate marketing, incentive and inducement,” it said.
“The isolation also makes the region ideal for localised, distributed generation.” Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Grant Shipp said lowering energy costs would benefit local business.
Despite the result, WA continues to be one of the world’s biggest emitters on a per person basis.
According to Synergy, reasons for the fall included WA’s first large-scale solar power plant and a big wind farm near Geraldton coming online last year.
A spokesman noted the utility had generated more electricity from its cleaner gas-fired power stations, while closing a coal-fuelled generating unit earlier than expected. Adding to the turnaround had been an unprecedented fall in electricity demand across Australia.
The trend, which bucked decades of uninterrupted growth and has confounded industry players, has been caused by sharply higher power prices, more efficient energy appliances and rampant demand for rooftop solar panels. Another cause has been the recent closure of energy-hungry manufacturing plants.
Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen welcomed the figures as good news and suggested the trend would continue on the back of the growing viability of renewable power. https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/25241234/greenhouse-emissions-fall/
according to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, mining is returning millions to Aboriginal owned corporations. Western Australia’s Pilbara is the engine room of the nation’s mining boom. But the two billion years old 400,000 square kilometres Pilbara is home to some pretty sad poverty, all of it First Peoples – Roebourne and Wickham for starters, and any of the cluster of communities around Marble Bar, Tom Price, Nullogine, Port Hedland.
Port Hedland is Australia’s busiest port, with ships leaving daily filled with iron ore extracted from Aboriginal land but with the profits returned to multinationals – next-to-nothing for the communities where many of the native title claimants live . Native title owners? A fool’s gold many say.
But if not billions of dollars there are millions of dollars going the way of Aboriginal corporations. Continue reading
Toro seeks to expand planned WA uranium mine ABC News By David Weber 8 Oct 14
A company hoping to become the first to export uranium from Western Australia has released plans for an expansion of its currently untapped mine in the state’s mid-west.
Toro Energy last year received federal environmental approval for the Wiluna project to exploit the Lake Way and Centipede deposits.
But a new environmental scoping document included two more deposits, Millipede and Lake Maitland.
The plans are open for comment with the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)………
the WA Conservation Council said the existing conditional approval should be revoked and a completely new assessment done.The council’s Mia Pepper said the added impacts of an expansion needed to be considered.”While they might think that they know a lot, there’s a lot of impacts that are unknown when you add additional deposits,” she said.
“You add additional land clearing and impact area.”What they need to do and what they should be doing as any responsible company would is look at the cumulative impacts of that increase.”
Mr Yeeles said the start of mining was some way off.
“The market is not right, the price is not right for mining at the moment but by the time we complete the assessment for Millipede and Lake Maitland, we would expect the market conditions to have improved,” he said.
Toro expects the assessment process may take up to two years. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-06/uranium-miners-toro-seek-project-expansion-at-wiluna-site/5794318
Anglican Church transfers investments from fossil fuels to renewables, calls for carbon pricing, and assessment of fracking
Anglican Church divests from fossil fuels, calls for fracking scrutiny in WA http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-06/anglican-church-moves-out-of-fossil-fuels/5793884 By Jacob Kagi and Katrina Alarkon 6 Oct 2014, The Anglican Diocese of Perth has decided to divest itself of fossil fuel investments over what it says is a responsibility to act on climate change.
The diocese made the decision at its annual synod over the weekend and now plans to put funds into renewable energy investments. It also passed a motion calling on the Federal Government to put in place an “effective carbon pricing mechanism”.
Father Evan Pederick said he hoped the measures would help to increase pressure for action to stop climate change.”Divestment was used very successfully in relation to apartheid,” he said. “It’s people power basically, it means we’re actually withdrawing energy from the offending industries and there’s no more effective message than the price message.
“In the absence especially of effective government action in this country, I think it is actually up to private institutions, or private individuals and institutions, to show the way,” he said.
Another motion appealed for the State Government to evaluate the effects of fracking in Western Australia. Father Pederick said he feared health concerns and social impacts in relation to fracking were not being adequately explored.”At the moment shale gas fracking proposals aren’t subject to the usual environmental protection agency controls,” he said.
Its investment board, the Perth Diocesan Trustees, will release a report within the next 12 months detailing how it will redirect investments into renewable energy. In August, the Uniting Church in Australia also moved to divest itself of investments in companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels.
“Speaking with one voice” – WA’s changes to Aboriginal Heritage law rejected at bush meetings, anthropologist Dr Stephen Bennetts. Be careful what you pray for. By proposing to strip away protection for Aboriginal people’s heritage across the board, and throughout the State, the Barnett Government appears to have unwittingly conjured up a strong, united and angry Aboriginal coalition which is now mobilising against the AHA amendments. Crikey, 30 Sept 14 BOB GOSFORD | SEP 30, 2014
ABORIGINAL LEADERS IN THE KIMBERLEY, PILBARA AND PERTH HAVE REJECTED WA GOVERNMENT PLANS TO AMEND THE STATE’S ABORIGINAL HERITAGE ACT TO FURTHER STREAMLINE PROVISIONS UNDER SECTION 18 OF THE AHA WHICH ALLOW FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF ABORIGINAL SITES BY DEVELOPERS. Continue reading