Australian news, and some related international items

Rio Tinto and ERA made huge profits from Ranger mine: now not paying to restore the land?

Ranger-retention-damRanger mine: ERA attracts ire from local community over uranium rehab, Brisbane Times April 21, 2014  Resources reporter The relationship between Energy Resources of Australia and a crucial group of indigenous people appears to be deteriorating, after the miner raised doubts about its ability to pay for the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine near Kakadu.

The open pits at Ranger have already come to the end of their working lives, and the only chance of further mining is if an exploration campaign on site, known as ”Ranger 3 Deeps”, is successful.

ERA surprised its stakeholders last month when it suggested it might struggle to pay for the rehabilitation if Ranger 3 Deeps did not go ahead.

”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.

ERA is 68 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, but Rio boss Sam Walsh indicated last week that Rio had already contributed to the rehabilitation costs at Ranger when it participated in a $500 million equity raising for ERA in 2011………

The comments have worried the local indigenous group – the Mirarr people – whose permission is required before ERA can conduct any further mining at Ranger.

Justin O’Brien, who runs the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation for the Mirarr people said the group’s land was being held to ransom by the miners.

”The attitude of Rio and ERA shows that little has changed in more than three decades since [land rights campaigner] Galarrwuy Yunupingu described talks over the Ranger mine as ‘like negotiating with a gun to my head’,” he said. ”The mining giants have made enormous profits at the expense of Mirarr traditional lands and are now holding the World Heritage-listed area to ransom.”

ERA has already started some rehabilitation work at Ranger, has made provisions and also has a trust for rehabilitation in place with the Australian government, which was holding $63.9 million at December 31.

A spokesman for ERA said the company’s long-term business plan was to ensure the business could meet its rehabilitation obligations.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Aboriginal protest against the royals

Aboriginal activists stage royal protest AAP APRIL 19, 2014  ABOUT 30 Aboriginal activists are staging a protest at South Bank, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to arrive soon.

The protesters are gathered at the park precinct, where the couple is due to attend a civic reception before a brief public walk later this afternoon.

“Always was, always will be Aboriginal land,” the protesters chanted.

One held a yellow placard that read: “Give back what is ours.”

Police told AAP a small number of Aboriginal protesters had been moved on at South Bank.

One activist was ushered away after going behind barricades meant to keep the royal route along Grey Street clear, outside the South Brisbane train station.

No arrests have been made.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Abbott government’s RET review policy designed to stop investment in renewable energy

Abbott-destroys-renewablesFederal renewable energy review leaves investors nervous, ABC News By Lucy Shannon. 19 Apr 2014A Federal government review of the renewable energy target scheme appears to be making industry investors nervous.

The Environment Protection Authority approved a $200 million wind farm proposal for Tasmania’s west coast earlier this month.

Despite the approval, the proponent of the Granville Harbour wind farm, West Coast Wind, is not confident of securing investment until the outcome of the Commonwealth review is known.

The renewable energy target scheme, set up by the Howard Government in 2001 aims to ensure 20 per cent of Australia’s energy is produced from renewable sources by 2020.

The scheme is required to be reviewed every two years.

Reports the Prime Minister Tony Abbott has faced strong internal pressure to scrap the RET from both the Nationals and the Liberals have led to fears it will be watered down.

West Coast Wind Director Royce Smith says he does not expect to secure investment for the 33 turbine project while the review is underway.

“It’s certainly got a few investors a bit shy at the moment, until we get the review in from the Federal Government everything’s on hold certainly at the moment,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s just a bit hard to invest money if you don’t know what the outcome is going to be, they’re just a bit nervous.”……

April 21, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby getting desperate? Flogging Small Modular Reactor Fantasy to Australia

To The Editor, The Advertiser, by Dennis Matthews, 19 April 14 Boy, do we have a deal for you! We have these super-dooper compact modular nuclear reactors (The Advertiser,19/4/14). We can’t say how many MW they would generate or how much they would cost, but the output will be less than 1/10th of the smaller (oops bigger) reactors and the proposed costs can be a fraction, somewhere between ½ and whatever.

But wait, there’s more. The essence of the technology already exists in nuclear submarines, which find them useful because they are not as smelly as generators using fossil fuels. We will put yours underground thus making it less polluting for your neighbours, except of course if they malfunction, which happens very rarely. You may have trouble with insurance but rest assured your government, like the US government, will pick up the costs at no charge to you.

SMRs Australia

It will be at least six years before the first one is built so beat the rush and get your orders in now.

April 19, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Greg Hunt Australia’s Anti Environment Minister is blind to the looming catastrophe

Coal: Stop burning it, this is the next asbestos Canberra Times, April 19, 2014 Crispin Hul In the 1960s asbestos mining was a very profitable business. And it created a lot of jobs. Asbestos was very useful – indeed, one of the best insulating materials known to humankind.

The link between asbestos and cancer was known as early as the 1930s. But mining continued. ………

But asbestos was toxic. Ultimately it was more economically beneficial to leave it in the ground than use it, aside from the human cost…….

in the long term the continued use of coal will be profoundly more damaging than the continued use of asbestos. If the world continues to burn fossil fuels the way we do, the result will not be a few mesothelioma deaths (awful as they are) and some economic loss weeding asbestos out of buildings.

Rather, the result will be massive indirect economic costs because we did not have the sense to develop a gradual transition to leave the carbon-emitting toxic fuels in the ground and develop alternatives……..

Hunt-Greg-climateEnvironment Minister Greg Hunt, for example, said this week in response to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Coal will be used for decades and decades more.”

His bedrock position is that coal continues irrespective, and he presumes someone (like the CSIRO, whose funds his government is slashing) will come up with a workable scheme to capture and bury the emissions. Idiocy when proven substitutes are available.

Hunt should not work from the base, being utterly beholden to the coal industry and that coal will continue no matter what. Rather, he should work from a base of what do we need to do to prevent global warming. How can Australia lead in a global movement?

In 30 years Hunt will look like an asbestos miner so concerned about profits and economic benefits that he is blind to the looming catastrophe.

Sensible economists tell us it will be less costly in the long run to do something than not. And it will not cost hugely to move more quickly to wind and solar generating………

 solar panels are about the best investment going. And their price is falling all the time while electricity prices continue to go up, presuming you are not renting, intend to stay put for several years and do not have shade trees all over your house.

The government should have built on this rather than continue homage to indefinite use of coal. Greg Hunt’s response to the IPPC report this week was woeful.

piggy-ban-renewablesThe federal government should do something to force electricity generators – nearly all state-government owned – to stop abusing their monopoly power by paying so little for electricity generated by residents. They should also remove their limits (usually to 5kw inverters) on the amount that can be generated from the home to the grid. That would encourage even greater investment in solar.

If they were private companies, competition law would not allow them to get away with their low feed-in prices.

A quick thought on NSW: For decades NSW politicians have pursued policies that benefit individual and sectional interests and in return have received very large donations from those interests. Those donations then go into campaigns for politicians to persuade voters that, despite the pandering to sectional interests, they are governing in the best interests of everyone in the state. Wouldn’t it be easier just to govern in the best interests of all in the first place and tell all the rich and powerful sectional interests to go jump?

April 19, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Labor and Liberal in lockstep in not supporting nuclear disarmament

TweedleDum-&-DeeDennis Matthews, 17 April 14 Given that both the ALP’s and the LP’s political agenda are tied to economic growth above all else then it is easy to understand why they would not support the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Every time that there has been a reduction in nuclear weapons stockpiles the price of uranium has gone down due to the increased supply of uranium in the form of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from nuclear weapons. Flooding the market with uranium means less income for uranium mining companies.

At the moment we are seeing the other side of the supply-demand uranium market equation. Rather than increased supply we are seeing a Fukushima driven decreased demand. The end result is the same, a decrease in the spot price ahead of a decreased contract price for uranium.

After Chernobyl in 1986 ( I was in Switzerland at the time) I came to the conclusion that the probability of a nuclear reactor disaster was primarily a matter of reactor hours. The more hours of nuclear reactor operation in a country the greater the chance of another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. On this basis I concluded that the next major disaster would occur in either France or Japan.

I still consider that nuclear hours (including processing and enrichment of uranium and plutonium) is a major determinant of nuclear disaster probability. France is still a prime suspect but it is being joined by China where nuclear, along with all other forms of electricity generation, is expanding. Despite the slowness of this expansion, the magnitude of the demand for electricity means that Chinese nuclear hours may soon overtake that of most other countries.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Morwell residents kick off campaign to keep the Renewable Energy Target

Campaign to retain renewable energy target April 17, 2014, Friends of the Earth representatives and members of the community came together in Morwell yesterday as part of a campaign to retain the renewable energy target.

FOTE recently kicked off its renewable energy target road trip, where they will visit 11 regions either currently using renewable energy or those they believe could transition from traditional fuels like coal.

Campaigns coordinator Cam Walker said the group feared the Federal Government could use a review into the target, to “gut” it.

“If they gut the RET, that removes all certainty for investors in the realm of renewables,” Mr Walker said.

“We want to see a refocusing of public funds away from fossil fuels and into renewables and it has to include some really substantial investment in the Valley.

“There’s a well-trained workforce in the Valley that could be transitioned.”

The current renewable energy target is 20 per cent by the year 2020.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Promises about power prices from Queensland govt are just not credible

QLD Government Has ‘No Credibility’ On Power Price Promises  Queensland Shadow Treasurer and Energy Spokesman Curtis Pitt has taken aim at the Newman Government’s latest promises concerning electricity prices in the state.

   Energy Minister Mark McArdle yesterday announced changes he claims will save electricity distributors $2 billion dollars.
“No-one will forget Campbell Newman’s pledge during the 2012 election campaign to lower electricity prices by $120 per year, and then driving average prices up by $460 over two years,” Mr Pitt said.
Mr Pitt also criticised Minister McArdle’s move to abolish the mandatory 8c solar feed-in tariff; leaving households with solar power systems to negotiate directly with electricity retailers for a rate on their exported power. Mr. Pitt says the Minister has admitted this would save the princely sum of less than $1 a month on the average Queensland’s household’s electricity bill.
Reacting also to comments from Minister McArdle in the Courier Mail, Mr. Pitt seized on the Minister’s admission that green energy is not the major driver of electricity price rises in the state.
“Finally the LNP has admitted that the biggest contributor to electricity price rises is the network charges they oversee as the Government,” he said.
“As the independent Queensland Competition Authority figures show if only the carbon tax and environmental policies were a factor prices rises this year would be just 3% on average not a record 22.6%.”
It’s an interesting side-point that a major beneficiary of power price rises in Queensland is the State Government. Analysis carried out last year indicates electricity price increases  have delivered a compounding 114% growth in financial returns to the State Government annually.
No doubt many Queenslanders are still considering installing solar given the ongoing financial pain at the power point. Even with the proposed changes to feed in tariffs, solar remains a solid investment. However, the future of subsidies under Australia’s Renewable Energy Target – which can take thousands off the cost of a system – are also in doubt. That being the case, the best time to go solar may be right now.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Government money for new coal projects should go to recovery from Morwell mine fire

Morwell community group wants coal money be used for mine fire recovery ABC Radio A.M.

Samantha Donovan reported this story on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 CHRIS UHLMANN: Residents of the east Victorian town of Morwell are urging the Federal and State Governments to redirect millions of dollars earmarked for new brown coal projects in the area to cleaning up their town after the Hazelwood mine fire.

The fire, which started in February, choked the town with smoke and ash for weeks and drove hundreds of people from their homes and businesses and the locals say government funding should be used to help them and not the coal industry.

Samantha Donovan reports…..

April 17, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Visual history of Aboriginal culture

see-this.wayAmy Toensing Shares the Story Behind Her Photographs of the Oldest Culture On Earth, Peta Pixel, 15 April 14 At an estimated 60,000 years old, the indigenous culture of Australia, the Aboriginals, are estimated to be the oldest still-surviving culture on the planet. And in the above video world-renown photographer Amy Toensing shares her experience photographing this incredibly unique culture for National Geographic, delivering an extremely heartfelt talk about the hardships the Aboriginal culture has continually faced since their land was colonized in 1788…….Toensing does an absolutely incredible job of balancing her own thoughts and giving a historical and personal account of the Aboriginals she came across on this journey…….

The entire presentation is just shy of 22 minutes long, but if you can afford to watch the entire thing, I highly suggest you do so. It’s a phenomenal example of how photography, at times, goes far beyond the camera and the technical skill required to use it. It’s about a connection and giving a voice to the voiceless, sharing a story a thousand words at a time, frame by frame……

April 16, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Julie Bishop visits Hiroshima. Will she reflect on the real costs of Australia’s uneconomic uranium trade?

Bishop, Julie cartoonJulie Bishop’s visit to Hiroshima: a perfect time to debate our uranium industry, Friday 11 April 2014

Uranium is not like any other mineral – and because Australia is home to around 40% of the worlds’ uranium, the decisions we make on the subject matter Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop is in Japan today attend an international meeting on nuclear security in Hiroshima a city synonymous with nuclear threat. Indeed, a visit is not complete without wandering the hallowed grounds of the famous Peace Park, the epicentre of the early morning nuclear blast that killed up to 140,000 people on 6 August 1945.Bishop is also visiting a country that is still enduring the ongoing trauma associated with  the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami and the wors tnuclear disaster of modern times – a disaster that, three years on, has left the region comprised of ghost towns and shattered lives.

In visiting Hiroshima, it would be fitting for Australia’s foreign minister to reflect publicly on Australia’s role in fuelling Japan’s continuing nuclear disaster. In October 2011, Robert Floyd, the director general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, confirmed to the parliament  that “Australian obligated nuclear material [uranium] was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors”.

Given that, it would be timely for Bishop to use the opportunity to commito an independent cost-benefit assessment  of Australia’s uranium trade, as directly requested by the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon in the wake of the accident. The need for such an inquiry has never been more pressing.

n Australia, low uranium prices have seen existing uranium mines close down. New uranium mining projects are being delayed, and the sector is under pressure. And that’s not to even mention spills – such as was seen with the December 2013 uranium tank collapse and the leak at Rio Tinto’s ranger mine in Kakadu.

Australia also continues to uncritically supply our existing uranium customers, despite evidence of alarming unsafe practices in countries like South Korea. Our deal with Russia also deserves greater scrutiny, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has not carried out any inspections there since at least 2001. We aggressively push new uranium deals to countries like India, whose nuclear industry has been called unsafe by its own auditor general, and which point blank refuses to sign the global nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Bishop’s visit to Hiroshima, of all places, is an ideal time to reflect on the very nature of Australia’s uranium – that it is not like any other mineral. Uranium can fuel both nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, and it all becomes radioactive waste. Australia is home to around 40% of the worlds’ uranium, and the decisions we make matter. In the shadow of Fukushima, we need to review the costs and consequences of our uranium trade at home and abroad and act on the UN’s inquiry call.

If Bishop continues to put the interests of a high risk, low return industrial sector before those of our nation and region, the consequence is that it is likely that Australia’s uranium sector will fuel future Fukushimas.   This need not, and must not, occur.

April 11, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Pilliga protest: Aussies against fracking gather to protect Australia’s agricultural land

protestNorth-coast artists and activists join Pilliga protest , Echo Daily, 10 April 14, The issue of CSG mining is in the forefront of people’s consciousnesses across the country and no less in the Pilliga, with activists locking on at the Santos coal seam gas drill rig site in the Pilliga forest.

On Saturday at Barkala Farm in the Pilliga, just north of Coonabarabran, a ‘Party at Maria’s Place’ concert was held to support to local residents united to protect prime agricultural land and culturally and environmentally significant country from quickly expanding CSG and coal mining in north west NSW.

Aussies Against Fracking, in conjunction with The Wilderness Society and Pilliga Pottery, organised the event, and The Echo’s Eve Jeffery and S Sorrensen were invited to make the journey, along with veteran journo Margo Kingston and Aussies Against Fracking director Nick Hanlon.

There, the group discovered sixth-generation farmers being forced out and arrested while entire farming regions are being bought up by Chinese state-owned corporation Shenhua Watermark Coal.

This fight is not about hippies with time on their hands. People from all walks of life including students, the aged, and farmers, are all downing tools and putting their life on hold to send a clear message. Lock The Gate!

There have been a reported 17 arrests so far, including eight on the weekend, says Ms Hanlon……….

The amalgamation of the Boggabri and Maules Creek mines in the northern Liverpool Plains will create the biggest coal mine in NSW. This mine will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions for Australia and will impact on global climate change. Tim Flannery said recently that this mine is anticipated to create more greenhouse gas emissions in a year than the country of New Zealand.

With renewable alternatives available, and with the health impacts of the coal- and CSG-mining industries becoming increasingly apparent, highlighting the plight of a threatened rural Australia is increasingly urgent.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s Mining operations increasingly seeking renewable energy partnerships

Business as usual’ for Government agency part-funding Broken Hill and Nyngan Solar Farms ABC News 10 April 14

Gavin Coote The peak body for the clean energy sector says it hopes the renewable energy target won’t be reduced.

The Clean Energy Council’s Kane Thornton says far-western NSW is well-positioned for clean energy projects, particularly when done in tandem with the mining sector.

“Places like Broken Hill obviously have a long and rich history in mining,” he said.

“But I think the future is going to be really interesting because it’s got a great resource in wind and solar and they provide a low-cost form of energy to continue to support things like mining and manufacturing and other important parts of the Australian economy.

“So it’s not surprising that a lot of these mining companies are actively looking at things like wind and solar in particular as a way to provide them a reliable source of lower cost energy and they can avoid the pain associated with higher gas prices and higher diesel prices.”

April 10, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Uncertainty over Renewable Energy Target puts large solar farm in doubt

First Solar reconsiders Australian investments amid ‘uncertainty’ over Renewable Energy Target, ABC News, By environment reporter Jake Sturmer The company building the southern hemisphere’s largest solar plant says it is reconsidering future investments in Australia because of uncertainty about the Government’s Renewable Energy Target.

Multinational solar panel maker First Solar is building a $450 million plant in the far west of New South Wales for energy provider AGL.

It would be enough to power 50,000 homes, the company said.

First Solar’s vice-president of business development, Jack Curtis, says a lot has changed in the eight months since the former federal government announced the project.

“Those projects … reached financial close in a different political and business environment which was almost a year ago now,” Mr Curtis said. “That’s obviously changed quite dramatically since the election. There’s now a much greater deal of uncertainty around future projects like this.”

Mr Curtis says this is partly due to the Coalition Government’s review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which currently aims to have 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity generated by clean energy sources by 2020……

April 7, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Current energy economics is unsustainable, as renewables rapidly fall in price

Parkinson-Report-Arvizu: Why the current energy system is unsustainable   REneweconomy By  on 4 April 2014

Dan Arvizu, the head of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US, the world’s largest renewable energy research facility, has some simple points to make when he says that the energy system of today is unsustainable.

The first point is on cost, as renewables become a cheaper option than coal or gas; the other is on environmental impacts, as the world finally absorbs the impact of dirty coal generation; and the third is the arrival of new disruptive (and mostly renewable) technologies, such as rooftop solar and storage. But the most stunning piece of evidence is this: the industry spends only 0.3 per cent of its phenomenal revenues (in the trillions of dollars) on R&D. And even that money is spent by new players looking to bring new technologies to the market.

In an interview with RenewEconomy on the sidelines of the 2XEP energy efficiency conference in Sydney this week, Arvizu says he knows of no other incumbent industry that has spent so little on securing its future and on innovation, and was relying so much on the models of the past.

“The energy sector has the highest level of conservatism and the lowest level of risk taking,” Arvizu says. Change, via disruptive technologies such as solar and storage and other renewables, along with smart devices, is now upon it. But it will be fighting hard to resist change.

“We need to change the business model. We need new infrastructure, and brick by brick we will dismantle the old system and make a new one,” he says……….

“The future is much more promising than a lot of people expect,” Arvizu says, adding that even he is surprised at the pace of technological change and cost reduction.

He dismisses the protests of people who say that renewables are too expensive – in particular those like Bjorn Lomborg who insist that more research should take place (ironic given the industry’s low R&D commitment so far). “That’s just kicking the can down the road,” Arvizu says.

“If we are just talking about incremental changes to the existing system, we will never fully utilise the potential.”

It is, he says, a scary prospect for the incumbent utilities, who have enjoyed decades – nearly a century – of uninterrupted growth and extraordinary market power. And they are protected by layers and layers or regulation.

“We created this monster,” Arvizu says. “You often hear the words, ‘let the market decide’, but this is such a disingenuous argument in such a highly regulated market.

“The classic supply and demand equations do not work …. because what we’ve allowed the incumbents to create a set of highly regulated markets where they have tremendous market share, and there has been an alliance between public policy markets and incumbents, where reliable power supply has been exchanged for a high return on investment.

“But now we have other options in the market place, and in order to break into that market, they need to mature and they need an ecosystem around them.”

The key to change, he says, will come in power for the consumers, and the key to that will come in storage.

“If we had storage that was cost effective – you would very quickly be able to encourage the utilities to get on to the program. Once you have got the opportunity to say, I don’t need your electrons any more, that is when consumers will have the (market) power.”………

he notes, it is important that the new model be integrated with the old, in other words, the best of distributed generation must be merged with the best bits of the old centralized model.

This will be difficult, considering the regulatory hurdles, but it is important. And in the same way he dismissed the idea of “energy independence” for a country (focusing more on energy security), he’s also not sure why individuals would want to do the same.

“I don’t think we need to go to 100 per cent renewables, although I think we can,” he says. “And I don’t know why you would want to pay to be autonomous (off grid). The extra cost that it entails … to be isolated as an act of bravado is absurd, it is an interconnected world.”


April 5, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment


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