Australian news, and some related international items

Questionable EPA approval for Cameco’s proposed Kyntyre uranium mine

questionIncreased scrutiny needed as EPA radioactive rubber stamp fails the nuclear test National and state environment groups have called for a dedicated public inquiry into plans for increased uranium mining in WA following an EPA recommendation to conditionally approve the proposed Kintyre mine next to Kalamilyi National Park in the Pilbara.

“The proposal to mine uranium five hundred metres from a creek system that is part of a network of significant waterways in a national park is reckless and should not be approved,” said CCWA campaigner Mia Pepper.

“This polluting plan would put great pressure on one of WA’s special places – our largest national park – and would impact on scarce water resources and a number of significant and vulnerable species including the bilby, marsupial mole and rock wallaby.

The approval recommendation follows recent disturbing allegations that former mine owner Rio Tinto made secret payments of around $21 million to silence Aboriginal concerns and opposition while it negotiated the project’s sale to current owner Cameco.

“Uranium mining is a high risk, low return activity where the proven risks far outweigh any promised rewards,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Uranium is currently trading at US$28/lb. Cameco has stated it will not mine unless the uranium prices reaches upwards of US$75/lb. The EPA is recommending a green light for yellowcake when the company has stated the finances and the plan don’t stack up.

“Uranium mining poses unique risks and long term human and environmental hazards.  It demands the highest level of scrutiny and assessment – instead we have a lower order EPA report based on the hope of ‘satisfactory implementation by the proponent of the recommended conditions’. This inadequate approach is out of step with community expectations and fails to reflect the uranium sectors proven history of leaks and failure.”

“In the shadow of Fukushima, a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium, Bill Marmion and Colin Barnett should put this controversial and contaminating sector before the people and under the spotlight via a public inquiry.”

For comment contact: Dave Sweeney 0408 317 812 or Mia Pepper 0415 380 808

July 28, 2014 Posted by | environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

South Australia’s contaminated groundwater – thousands of sites

polluted-waterToxic sites in Adelaide’s suburbs number in their thousands BRAD CROUCH THE ADVERTISER JULY 22, 2014  THE Opposition has demanded a statewide audit of contaminated sites, as it emerges the dangers of trichloroethene entering groundwater was suspected as far back as the 1940s.

The call for an audit comes after Environmental Protection Authority chief executive Tony Circelli confirmed that “thousands” of sites were contaminated with various chemicals and the EPA received about 100 new notifications each year.

The State Government and Environment Minister Ian Hunter are under increasing pressure over the contamination scandal in Clovelly Park , where dozens of people have been forced to leave their homes because of health risks from the vapours of trichloroethene (TCE) rising up through the soil from industrially poisoned groundwater.

Mr Circelli, was responding to a claim by UniSA Professor Ravi Naidu, the managing director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation, that there are about 4000 contaminated sites in SA.

Mr Circelli said that claim was incorrect, but conceded the number “is in the thousands”.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said an audit was needed to clarify the exact number of contaminated sites and their locations. “The purpose of conducting a statewide audit would be to establish a hierarchy of sites based on potential public health risks,” he said.

“As well as playing an important community awareness role, the audit could also provide a benchmark for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of contaminated sites for the EPA and assist with any future contamination investigations………

July 23, 2014 Posted by | environment, South Australia, water | Leave a comment

AUDIO: Australian land management a failure, compared to traditional Aboriginal methods

Hear-This-wayAUDIO: Modern mismanagement of the Australian landscape? NSW Country Hour   By Sally Bryant Bill Gammage says modern Australians are missing the point in how we look after our natural heritage, ignoring lessons from one of the most successful and sustainable management regimes in history.

book-biggest-EstateHis view of traditional Aboriginal land management is at odds with the theory held by European settlers; that the traditional owners were hunter gatherers, opportunistic and simplistic in their approach to the land and native flora and fauna.

As an historian, Professor Gammage has studied written and visual records, from the history of the Australian landscape and he says it’s clear to him that Aboriginal people had developed a complex and sophisticated suite of tools, to keep their country healthy and productive.

He says he first became interested in the issue while working on a rural property in the New South Wales Riverina, and from writing a history of the town of Narrandera.

“It became clear that what was now trees had been grassland when Europeans arrived, the riverbanks for example are described as being grassy and a pastoral paradise,…………

Professor Gammage says it’s not surprising that European settlers disregarded Aboriginal people when it came to land management; he says it is typical of the European consciousness and disregard of indigenous knowledge.

“It’s pretty typical of how Europeans treated Aboriginal people.”

And what outcome would Professor Gammage like to see, if any, from discussion of his theories? “I’d like to see us using fire to manage the landscape, to control regrowth so we’re not as exposed to the really big bushfires. “But it has to be done in conjunction with species protection.

“This is something that Aboriginal people are really good at, managing species survival; and this is when they’re managing animals and plants they are using as a food sources.” He concedes that fire might not be an ideal tool to manage large tracts of farmland, and heavily populated areas, but says there are vast tracts of Australia under natural bushland which need to be better managed.

July 16, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Aboriginal land rights and economic prosperity

Env-AustRICH SOIL: CAN INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS AND AUSTRALIA’S ECONOMIC INTERESTS COEXIST? RIGHT NOW, By Christine Todd 14 July 14  The Indigenous population in Australia has a long and proud history of careful land management. In the many centuries preceding British colonial settlement, Aboriginal people maximised productivity of the land, using their knowledge of navigation, the tides and the cyclical nature of the seasons to regulate their travel and food supply. They worked in tandem with the land; where the land didn’t suit their needs, they managed burns to clear undergrowth and fuel, with new growth luring grazing animals to hunt. Ecological management shaped the land and ensured continuity and balance.

With colonial settlement came European ideas of what it meant to manage the land. European agriculturalists worked the land to the extent they needed within their boundary fences. Lost was the management of the land as a cohesive, sustainable whole, replaced by a fragmented, needs-based exploitation of the land to achieve economic ends.

Dispossessed from the land they knew so intimately, entire Indigenous communities were often placed on reserves that remained under the control of the Crown. Even here, the right to merely exist on reserve land was not secure, if the government of the day chose to revoke use of the reserves.

Economic development in Australia and the management of traditional Indigenous land has been viewed as mutually exclusive, if not directly conflicting.

In 1963 the Commonwealth government chose to do just that, granting mining company Nabalco a long-term mining lease on Yirrkala Aboriginal Reserve in Arnhem Land. Home to the Yolgnu people, the decision provoked anxiety in the local community. A now-famous bark petition was organised by the Yolgnu to illustrate that the excised land was sacred to them, and vital to their present-day livelihood.

Despite a strong community response, the government ignored their claims to the land, instituting the Mining (Gove Peninsula Nabalco Agreement) Ordinance 1968 (NT), which revoked part of Yirrkala Aboriginal Reserve to enable the development of a mine by Nabalco. Those impacted by the government’s decision challenged the legislation in the Supreme Court in the now famous “Gove land rights case”, however lost on account of a lack of recognition for communal native title within Australian law.

Historically, the economic needs of the Australian government, particularly in the granting of mining projects and the management of vast mineral resources, has conflicted sharply with the acknowledgement of Indigenous land ownership. Small progress has been made over the past three decades as governments initiate land rights legislation and slowly navigate native title to return land to the Indigenous population.

But the mere acquisition of land is only the first step in a process of comprehensive reunification with the land for Indigenous communities. For years, economic development in Australia and the management of traditional Indigenous land has been viewed as mutually exclusive, if not directly conflicting. On the contrary, mutually beneficial enterprise and economic development of Indigenous land must occur in regions that can sustain it, not for the Indigenous population, but by the Indigenous population.

Statutory authorities, such as the Indigenous Land Council (ILC), are already assisting in achieving this goal. Central to their work is the belief that Indigenous land management can lead to the provision of training and employment outcomes for Indigenous people, resulting in a sustainable cycle of Indigenous-driven economic development.

A 2010 Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce report strengthened this resolve……….

Other bodies, such as the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, also aim to link the interests of Indigenous business with the economic prosperity of Australia, by facilitating Indigenous self-reliance and business management. Again, the sentiment here is that ownership of traditional Indigenous land and the economic prosperity of Australia ought not to be viewed as mutually exclusive. They can potentially operate hand in hand, with Indigenous knowledge of the land integrating into the Australian corporate landscape through the development of uniquely Indigenous business initiatives.

Case studies of this approach are plentiful. …….

This approach to creating Indigenous business enterprise, in partnership with building the business capacity of the community, is innovative in its ability to marry social and economic use of the land. Protection of culturally important regions can be achieved alongside an acknowledgement of Indigenous land as a unique environmental resource that the communities themselves can manage. To provide long-term benefits to Indigenous communities, a sustainable Indigenous economic foundation must be laid on Indigenous-held land. Here, opportunity, enterprise, and cultural pride may strengthen a connection to the land that many had considered lost.

Christine Todd is a staff writer for Right Now.

July 14, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

The real cost to Queensland of uranium mining may be very high

Queensland lifts its uranium ban, but is the price worth the cost? The Conversation Maxine Newlands Lecturer in Journalism, Researcher in Environmental Politics at James Cook University Liz Tynan Senior Lecturer and Co-ordinator Research Student Academic Support at James Cook University 1 July 14, 

As of today, Queensland has lifted a 32-year ban on uranium mining. That decision was taken within months of the 2012 state election, despite Premier Campbell Newman’s pre-election promise not to restart mining the radioactive mineral.


Miners are being invited to apply to restart the industry under the Queensland’s government’s uranium action plan, which will mean Canadian company Mega Uranium can reopen the Ben Lomond and other mines in north Queensland.

Queensland’s resumption of uranium mining comes only days after Australia’s newest uranium mine, Four Mile in South Australia, officially opened on 25 June.

fearYet the price of uranium has fallen from a high in 2007 of US$70 a pound to $US28, due to factors including oversupplyand what the Wall Street Journal has described as a “post-Fukushima funk”.

Given the prices are so low that The Australian has reportedthat Four Mile is already losing money, while the Beverley mine has been mothballed since January, why are Australian states looking to open more mines?………….

Battles ahead over Queensland exports

The highest concentration of Queensland’s uranium mines sit in the northern tropics, an area prone to Category 5 cyclones.

A 2013 Swiss study found uranium was far more mobile than originally thought. Uranium once extracted, becomes soluble in water, increasing the chances of contamination or radioactive dust carried in high winds and heavy rainfall.

If Ben Lomond is reopened, the quickest way to export its uranium would be through the city of Townsville, home to 190,000 people, which is only 50km from the mine.

The Port of Townsville has said it has the capability to “facilitate the transportation and export of yellowcake”. The Queensland’s government’s uranium action plan recommends that:

Queensland’s efforts should be [put] on facilitating the use of existing ports and shipping lanes by industry for the export of uranium.

However, the Port of Townsville sits within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and close to sensitive environments including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, dugong protected areas, seagrass beds, fringing coral reefs and mangrove forests.

Last year, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Russell Reichelt told the ABC that:

I think shipping of any toxic cargo would be of concern. But really we would have to see a proposal and we would have to consider that.

So this is set to be a contentious issue: while economic development of the north has bipartisan support at a federal, state and local government level, a number of locals and environmental groups have said they will challenge any plans to reopen uranium mines and exports from Queensland.

The big question for Queensland residents to consider now is whether the return of uranium mining to the state will be worth the wait for the uranium price to recover, given the risks attached to transporting the mineral through populated and environmentally-sensitive areas.

July 2, 2014 Posted by | environment, Queensland, uranium | Leave a comment

Australia needs to learn from traditional Aboriginal knowledge about fire

bushfireLiving sustainably with fire, Aboriginal Knowing 26 May 14, 
Where to burn, where to grow”………..I would suggest that the planning of Adelaide, surrounded by parklands with open spaces is based on this Aboriginal model of clearing land to create clear space around where you live. Australians need to think in this manner to protect ourselves from intense and destructive bushfires. We need to clear the trees around where we live, and we need to grow trees and plants in the right places.

Decisions of when and where to burn are informed by many environmental and social considerations, and vary with country. Our sophisticated patterns of land burning, the knowledge of what and where to burn is encoded within traditional knowledge. Such rules tell of wind directions, cloud formations, smoke patterns, soil condition, the position and movement of constellations and planets, the type of plants and stage of growth, the presence or absence of particular plant and animal species and so on.

Fire and water are interconnected. Water is a fuel for fire and fire fuels the rain. After a large fire, it usually rains.

Burning and planting in the right place can increase rainfall. (excellent references)

May 27, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

The beautiful giant cuttlefish is back – thank goodness no desalination plant at Spencer Gulf

Here is some good news.   Note that if BHP Billiton’s plans had gone ahead – for the world’s biggest man made hole at Olympic Dam – well, this news might not have been possible.  BHP’s grandiose plan involving building a desalination plant at Mount Lowly. That would have altered the delicate balance of salinity and fresh water in upper Spencer Gulf  – a balance that is essential for the embryo cuttlefish to survive.

Australia would have lost a unique and beautiful  animal – one as special as the koala, kangaroo, platypus –  –  a gain for the uranium industry, a loss for the tourist industry, and for Australia’s ecology.


Giant Australian cuttlefish swarm back to SA Spencer Gulf breeding site ABC News, 21 May 14, Hundreds of giant Australian cuttlefish have swum into breeding grounds at the top of Spencer Gulf in South Australia, reversing a worrying decline of recent years.

The population had been dwindling and local diver Tony Bramley says he had not been expecting to see any this season, based on that trend.

He says it has been warmer-than-usual weather for the start of the breeding season and more cuttlefish might arrive as temperatures drop.

Mr Bramley says he does not know where the cuttlefish have travelled from as there has been no sign of many gathering offshore in recent weeks…….

May 21, 2014 Posted by | environment, South Australia | Leave a comment

New website makes Aboriginal ecological knowledge available

Env-AustFirst Nation knowhow to help save our landscapes May 08, 2014 The deep knowledge of First Nation (Aboriginal) people is being called on as part of a nationwide effort to stem the tide of extinction and decline that is engulfing the Australian landscape and its wildlife.

At a major scientific meeting in Canberra today, a new website will be unveiled which brings together thousands of records documenting Aboriginal traditional knowledge about Australian native landscapes, plants and animals.

The knowledge is presented in the form of a world-first map, which records publically-available Australian Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge (IBK) that is place-based. The detailed content of the identified documents is only made available with the express permission of the Aboriginal communities which own it.

Aboriginal people and non-Indigenous scientists and managers are currently working together on hundreds of projects across Australia to understand and better manage country using a combination of indigenous bio-cultural knowledge and ecological science.

The map draws together, for the first time worldwide, the wealth of projects, documents, reports, research and management plans where Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge is being used and Aboriginal people are adding value to today’s understanding of Australian ecology and .

This website maps the places where projects have been or are being carried out, documents results and provides examples of current leading practice, useful information and case studies of “living knowledge” and its practical application.

These include cases of Aboriginal-led landscape restoration, fire management, knowledge about native plants and animals and knowledge about wetlands and other important ecosystems.

“This is the first time that Aboriginal knowledge about landscape and Australian  have been brought together across the whole continent in a single resource,” says ACEAS director Associate Professor Alison Specht

“It also represents a major contribution to documenting and preserving  for future generations of Aboriginal people – and for all Australians.”

The project is part of a worldwide trend to bring the knowledge held by First Nation peoples together with science and conservation policy, and makes Australia one of the global leaders in this field, she says.

“We have shown that all of Australia’s conservation priorities could be greatly informed by Indigenous bio-cultural knowledge – although the existing opportunities far outweigh the advances made to date,” says the team behind the project, in a soon to be published discussion paper. The ACEAS IBK Working Group is led by Dr Emilie Ens and includes twenty Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and land managers from around Australia.

“Threats to global environments are increasing, so it is timely to rethink our ecological knowledge base and develop more holistic and inclusive research, management and funding options for the future.

“Enhanced cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary engagement has great potential to strengthen global capacity to build socio-ecological resilience for … inclusive and sustainable environmental management strategies.”

May 10, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Rio Tinto dodging its responsibilities for radioactive pollution of Kakadu National Park

responsibility Rio Tinto dismisses Ranger rehab funding concerns as “hypothetical” Mining Australia, 8 May, 2014  Rio Tinto has stated that concerns about the funding for rehabilitation of the Northern Territory Ranger mine site are hypothetical, and remain the concerns of the ERA board of directors.

CEO Sam Walsh once again shrugged off suggestions that Rio Tinto, as 68 per cent shareholder in ERA, is responsible as the parent company for any of ERAs financial shortcomings in regard to rehabilitation and clean-up at the Ranger uranium mine…….David Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Federation, in his question to Sam Walsh and the Rio Tinto board of executives, suggested that because ERA reports to RioTinto’s energy division, it will be “closely watched and long judged on its actions regarding ERA”……..

“I thought his response was very partial and legalistic,” Sweeney said.

“Clearly Energy Resources Australia is a separate legal entity to Rio Tinto, but Rio provides the mining instructions, they provide the management, the CEO of ERA is appointed by Rio and is always a Rio person, Rio’s energy division manages ERA.

“It is absolutely a Rio Tinto subsidiary, it is a Rio Tinto child, and it concerns us greatly now that, when it’s coming to the pointy end of what will be a costly and complex rehabilitation exercise, ERA is saying they don’t have the funding capacity and Rio Tinto is saying they don’t have the responsibility.

“Just this week, Rio bailed ERA out of a problem caused by the suspension of mineral processing, by saying that they will pool Australian and Namibian uranium through the Rio Tinto marketing authority.”……

May 9, 2014 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Unsatisfactory answers on coal seam gas radiation leak

text-radiationMore questions on CSG uranium scare #agchatoz May 5, 2014  Mike Foley A RANGE of unanswered questions have emerged over Santos’ Pilliga uranium aquifer contamination  , as the environmental watchdog’s investigation report comes to light.

In March 26, 2013, Santos advised the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) its monitoring measures had detected aquifer contamination was caused by a leaking storage pond at the Bibblewindi site, which contained salty water which had been sucked up from underground during coal seam gas (CSG) activates.

Nearly a year after Santos was fined, in March 2014, the EPA finalised its report on the contamination.

But the EPA investigation leaves key questions unanswered concerning remediation of the Pilliga’s groundwater, the reliance of the authority on companies for information and public health risks. It confirmed a groundwater system beneath the Bibblewindi storage pond contained heavy metals and other elements, including elevating uranium levels to 20 times the safe drinking limits. Santos was fined $1500 by the EPA for causing the contamination.

The investigation report details correspondence between the EPA and other government agencies, highlighting areas requiring further information, including:

Can the contaminated groundwater be repaired? Santos advised the EPA in October its trial efforts to remove contaminated water had failed.

“The results of the trial concluded that recovering the perched water by abstraction in the surrounding shallow perched bores is impractical,” Santos said. Further remediation plans are not discussed.

Have all potential health concerns been laid to rest?

The NSW Office of Health was consulted on potential impacts on drinking water. Its advice, reproduced in the EPA’s report, noted the “nearest public drinking water supply is 27 kilometres away (Narrabri) and does not appear to be affected by the Bibblewindi site.

NSW Health said it “would be appropriate” for the NSW Office of Water to independently review the technical information Santos’ provided to the EPA to establish its accuracy. “This is considered somewhat justified given that the report has some comprehensive limitation attached,” NSW Health said.

Does the EPA have enough resources to monitor effectively?

The data on which the EPA’s report is based has been provided by Santos. The Land does not suggest impropriety on either Santos or the EPA’s behalf, but this does highlight the limitations of the government regulator and the significant role the gas proponent plays in monitoring its environmental impacts.

Wilderness Society Newcastle campaign manager Naomi Hogan said: “Santos said it would never threaten groundwater, but it has polluted an aquifer with uranium and other toxic heavy metals and the EPA report says Santos can’t fully clean up the mess”.

A Santos spokeswoman said “rehabilitation works are continuing”, noting the contamination poses no health risk. The water from the storage pond will be transferred to a treatment facility, she said. “Monitoring will continue to ensure the isolated groundwater underlying the pond is rehabilitated. There remains no risk to people or livestock.”

May 6, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Uranium industry not economic for Mt Isa, and fraught with environmental problems for Queensland

bull-uncertain-uraniumUranium debate heats up in Mount Isa  Queensland labour senator Jan McLucas says the state’s uranium deposits are too small to warrant developing the industry ABC Rural  By Virginia Tapp, 1 May 14

“These mines at Valhalla and Westmoreland are not huge deposits, they will not employ large numbers of people like Mount Isa, Cloncurry and Century have done.

“These are small mines and I don’t think they are the answer to the question of employment in the Mount Isa region.”…….Senator McLucas also claims there is not enough information about managing uranium mines in areas that experience intermittent periods of very high rain fall and flooding.

She says parts of the abandoned Mary Kathleen uranium mine, situation between Mount Isa and Cloncurry, are still radioactive.


“The residents of Mount Isa are still living with the results of that mine and the inadequate capping of the spoil and the contamination of the land that even graziers today won’t go near.”…….

[Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection joint statement] ……”We are still assessing the condition of the Mary Kathleen site and looking at whether it could be mined again in the future.

“Contamination issues at the site may not have been properly addressed in the past.”…..

May 2, 2014 Posted by | employment, environment, Queensland, uranium | Leave a comment

Aboriginal climate ambassadors assess impact of climate change

Env-AustIndigenous ambassadors assess climate impact on native land SBS World NewsTwo young Indigenous climate ambassadors have been touring Australia to document the impact of the changing natural environment on traditional communities. By  Gary Cox  Source  NITV News, 27 April 14  Narelle Long and Malcolm Lynch were the first young Indigenous people to set foot in Antarctica back in 2012.

 They’ve traveled all across the South Pacific — from the Great Southern Oceans to the Tiwi Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef and they say it’s clear climate change is already having an alarming impact on Indigenous culture and community.
For the first time, they’re bringing together climate change science and indigenous traditional wisdom to assess so-called tipping points to better understand how much of our climate system is changing. Malcolm Lynch went back home in the Wurrumiyanga township on the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin. “I guess it was my responsibility to harness and impart that awareness and knowledge from my trip,” the Indigenous Environment Ambassador told SBS.
The two Australian Indigenous climate ambassadors have made a documentary called The Tipping Points – Oceans: The Last Frontier, which aired on NITV.  One of the tipping points Malcolm observed was the wattle flowering pattern. The Wattle bloom is supposed to signify the beginning of hunting season. “The wattle is flowering and at the moment this is really rare for us. It’s happening too early, I think it is about three months too early,” says Kevin, a Tiwi Island Tour Guide.
It disrupts traditional hunting practices and offers a clear indication that the population of just 1500, is already trying to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
“There’s particular, or sacred areas where you know now we can’t go because of high levels of sea rise, or flooding. So there are areas where we can’t sort of go and continue our culture and ceremony, which is a big part of Aboriginal culture,” Malcolm says.
 Community Elder Barry Wurrumiyanga says the community is having to adapt their lives to accommodate changes in the environment.
“This is the future for the young people to understand what is going to happen in the future,” he says.
It’s the same further south of Darwin, along the Daly River, on Narelle’s grandmother’s country. The Indigenous Daly River community there relies on the river and seasonal change for food…….

April 28, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Uranium mining plans by Toro Energy – expensive, polluting, and under investigation

bull-uncertain-uraniumToro uranium expansion plan: premature and polluting    | April 7, 2014 

Western Australia’s peak environmental group has condemned a move by uranium mining hopeful Toro Energy to expand their unrealised Wiluna mine plan into a much larger uranium mining precinct spanning 100km and two ecologically sensitive lake systems in the East Murchison region.

The state EPA has released details of the expansion plan while the company is under investigation by the Australian Securities Exchange for a second time over claims they have released misleading information to shareholders and the market. (See background below).

“Toro have never successfully mined anything before and have a long way to go to get their original single-mine project approved – let alone any new expansion,” said CCWA Nuclear Free campaigner, Mia Pepper.

“Contrary to their statements to shareholders, the company needs to complete additional environmental management , mine closure, tailings management and transport plans for assessment before any mining can commence at the Wiluna site.”

The company has struggled to find investors and currently needs $300 million in start-up costs and a further $300 million in upfront bonds.

“This new plan to attract investors is likely to draw further scrutiny from both regulators and the wider community who will be looking at the cumulative impacts of a regional uranium precinct covering 100km and two arid zone Lake Systems.”

“Toro plans to double its water consumption and store radioactive mine waste from several mine sites in a Lake bed. This idea lacks credibility and the company lacks capacity, experience and financial backing.”

Toro’s new plan involves four deposits over one hundred kilometres – Lake Way, Centipede, Millipede and Lake Maitland, with the company’s long term plans including mining an additional three deposits Nowthanna, Dawson Hinkler and Firestrike – covering a hundred kilometres in the other direction.

Also in the region is WA’s largest uranium deposit – Yeelirrie, which is now owned by Cameco. Traditional Owners have consistently opposed this project for forty years.

CCWA is partnering with a range of public health, union and faith groups to call for a public inquiry into the Toro mine plan.

ASX investigation

The Mineral Policy Institute and the Conservation Council of WA received formal notification that the Australian Securities Exchange is investigating Toro Energy for the second time over the release of potentially misleading information. Continue reading

April 15, 2014 Posted by | business, environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Our National Parks are no place for uranium mines

By Dave Sweeney and Mia Pepper, 17 Feb 14 When we think of National Parks in Australia we generally think of places of renewal and natural beauty where we can take the whole family to recharge and reconnect with nature – places that draw international visitors to our shores looking for a taste of the wild places that have made our state famous.

Yet Western Australia’s largest National Park is current in the cross hairs of a Canadian company for a large scale uranium mining project. Right now the Canadian mining company Cameco is proposing to mine uranium in the Pilbara at Kintyre, in an area that has been excised from WA’s biggest National Park – Karlamilyi (Rudall River).

The area that contains the Kintyre uranium deposit is one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in the country, including the fate 28 endangered, vulnerable and priority species. The proposed mine site is nestled between two branches of the Yandagoodge creek, which feeds springs and lake systems throughout Karlamilyi National Park and provides water for the communities of Punmu and Parnngurr.

On top of the question of the appropriateness of placing a uranium mine in an area well recognised for its unique and fragile environmental assets, the equation becomes even more fraught when the track record of the proponent – Cameco Resources – is given closer inspection.

Cameco’s track record overseas raises disturbing questions about the risks and potential impacts on this fragile desert ecosystem and the adequacy of the state systems that are meant to protect the people and the place. Cameco’s operating uranium mines in Canada have been dogged by leaks, floods, contamination and unsafe work environments.

Cameco has been through court over license breaches in the US, has been investigated for tax avoidance in Switzerland and has had Chinese companies turn back their leaking uranium shipments. Community divisionlowering house values,community court actions and secret deals with the US military are all things that feature in reports about Cameco.

The company is also currently embroiled in a court action with the Canada Revenue Agency, which is seeking millions in unpaid tax between 2007 and 2013. Which all begs the question – is this the kind of corporate track record to which we should be willing to open up our National Parks?

Karlamilyi National Park should not be the testing ground to see if this company can operate safely or treat communities with respect without creating division.

Despite industry assurances and government promises the Australian uranium sector has a sorry track record of failed uranium mines, with leaks, spills and license breaches from exploration projects at Wiluna and Yeelirrie in WA to operating mines at Ranger in the NT and Olympic Dam in SA.

In fact there has never been single uranium mine rehabilitated successfully in Australia – Rum Jungle, Nabarlek, Mary Kathleen and more are all names associated with  unresolved radioactive or acid mine drainage legacies.

Giving a blank cheque to a foreign company to operate a dirty mine in one of WA’s most special places is not smart politics or policy. It is a short term trade that would see a long term loss and an uncapped liability on the State and its tax-payers.

We all know from past experience both here and overseas that mining uranium is a risky business. Between the processing acids, heavy metals, radon gas, dust and radioactive mine waste there is a lot that can go wrong. This is sector facing strong opposition internationally with nuclear shut downs in Germany and Japan after the Fukushima disaster – a catastrophic natural and nuclear disaster fuelled by Australian uranium.

When you put this contaminated cocktail  next to a National Park that is home to  a network of ephemeral rivers and  numerous endangered, vulnerable and priorityspecies then the stakes get even higher. WA can – and must – do better than this.

Dave Sweeney is the Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation. Mia Pepper is the Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Conservation Council of WA.

February 17, 2014 Posted by | environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

How Australia caved in to Britain, in not properly cleaning up Maralinga bomb sites

text-historyWhy cabinet sought only a partial clean-up of British nuclear test site Archives give new insight into Hawke government’s response to royal commission on weapons testing in Maralinga region, Wednesday 1 January 2014 

  • Atomic-Bomb-SmGareth Evans, the energy minister at the time, said ‘a non-confrontational approach’ had been adopted in dealing with the Thatcher government.

    The complete rehabilitation of areas of Australia used to test British nuclear weapons may not be possible, the Hawke cabinet was advised in 1986.

    Cabinet was warned that a full clean-up may have been more expensive than the British government would be willing to contemplate, according to documents released this week by theNational Archives.

    They provide new insights into the Hawke government’s response to the recommendations of the McClelland royal commission into British nuclear tests in Australia. Continue reading

January 1, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, history, politics international, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment


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