from THE AUSTRALIAN, 26 Oct 15 …… Robin Matthews, the weathered caretaker of Maralinga nuclear test site, welcomes his visitors with some soothing words: the endless expanse of red gibber plain is safe — just as long as you do not dig.
Concealed under the rusty soil lies 60-year-old secrets of the British Empire, where seven nuclear bombs were detonated and hundreds of minor trials using plutonium and other radioactive materials contaminated kilometres of land.
But look close enough and the remnants of the tests are there — from the salt bush that refuses to grow any taller than 30cm and marks out a wide circle in the blast zones to scattered shrapnel and dark-green glass scattered across ground zero at the Breakaway nuclear test site, created by the heat of the explosion……
Most of the land was handed back to the Maralinga Tjarutja Aboriginal people in 2009 after rehabilitation work was finished, but Defence held on to the weapons-testing range in the Woomera Prohibited Area. In November last year, the 1782sq km site was officially handed back to the Aboriginal people.
Government papers released in 2011 show the site had required further remediation, with the topsoil over the massive Taranaki trench — four football fields wide and three storeys deep and now the burial site for contaminated topsoil and machinery — eroding over time.
Maralinga-Tjarutja general manager Richard Preece said the traditional owners of the land still did not want anything to do with the area, which they described as mamu (devil) country…..
Mr Preece said Maralinga was not only a legacy for Aboriginal people, but also for all Australians who had to remediate the site and were now left with buried radioactive material.
“I find it incredible that somehow it was all right for the British government on foreign soil to create a radioactive mess that was completely left to Australia,” he said.
Trans-Pacific Partnership bad for the environment, green groups say October 7, 2015 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald “……Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the Investor-State Dispute Settlement [ISDS] provisions of the pact will allow large corporations to challenge any efforts to tighten environmental regulation.
“This is a watershed moment for the Liberals and the mining industry in their continuing assault against environmental protections in Australia,” Senator Whish-Wilson said. “ISDS will provide a massive chilling effect against improvements in environmental law at a local, state and federal level.”
Kelly O’Shanassy, chair of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said it was “a very silly idea to lock in restrictions to future policy in this country”.
Corporations could now have a look at a proposed policy change and if it threatened their ability to make profit, they would go to the courts as they did to oppose the Gillard government’s plain packaging laws to curb tobacco marketing.
“It could be the plain packaging fiasco for climate change,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
With the Paris climate summit now looking increasingly likely to fall short on locking in sufficient cuts to greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees, governments will need to make regular revisions of their targets beyond this year’s summit.
The TPP is likely to limit nations’ ability to take those necessary additional steps, she said: “It means governments won’t be bold and ambitious as they should be.”http://www.theage.com.au/environment/transpacific-partnership-bad-for-the-environment-green-groups-say-20151006-gk2bga.html#ixzz3o10RNuqa
Great Artesian Basin future up for discussion at outback forum in Alpha http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-07/alpha-forum-to-discuss-future-of-great-artesian-basin/6832964 By Ash Moore The future of the Great Artesian Basin will be up for public discussion over the next five weeks.
The Department of Mines and Natural Resources is holding 25 public meetings around the state, starting in Alpha in the central west today.
It will create a new draft 10-year plan for the basin when the current plan expires next year.
The department’s Mark Foreman said anyone who wanted to could have their say.
“It’s something that is vital when you’re developing a plan, talking to the community, finding out what people think,” he said.
“We’ll have different views, conflicting views and the only way we can develop a plan that works and that reflects the needs of the community as well as government policy is by having these sorts of conversations.
“The challenge is to actually work out something that actually meets the needs of both sides of the community – those who are keen for additional development, while also protecting the incredibly diverse and amazing natural ecosystems of the area – as well as those existing water users who rely on the Great Artesian Basin, as you’d appreciate, during this drought time.”
State governments calculate the required rehabilitation bonds using a standard formula but Dr Erskine said the mining companies work off their own, and often very different numbers.
“The rehabilitation costs held independently by the mining companies are often much larger than the rehabilitation bonds paid to state governments,”
An environmental scientist who works with the mining industry has broken ranks to warn that Australian taxpayers will be left with a bill running into tens of billions of dollars unless government and industry start taking mine rehabilitation seriously.
- More than 50,000 abandoned mines in Australia
- Scientist says mines must be rehabilitated
- Report says rehabilitation bonds ‘insufficient’
- Concerns over Peabody Energy’s plummeting share price prompts rehabilitation bonds questions
Dr Peter Erskine from the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute said although state governments hold financial securities for mine rehabilitation, they are nowhere near enough.
Across Australia there are more than 50,000 abandoned mines — a legacy of the early mining days when resource companies simply walked away when the profits dried up.
To avoid repeating its past, Dr Erskine said Australia must ensure that operating mines are properly and progressively rehabilitated while they are turning a profit.
What is in the rehabilitation kitty? Continue reading
Victorian Environment Protection Authority wants ILuka Resources to explain radioactive trash dump plan
Iluka Resources asked for more proof that waste won’t pollute river, KATE DOWLER THE WEEKLY TIMES SEPTEMBER 16, 2015 THE Environment Protection Authority Victoria has asked miner Iluka Resources to provide more proof that its plans to continue dumping radioactive waste south of Horsham will not pollute the Glenelg River.
The EPA has formally asked Iuka to provide more information by Friday on the company’s works approval application to continue dumping interstate mining waste at its former Douglas mine site.
Among the EPA requests, Iluka has been asked to install new groundwater bores to prove potentially contaminated water from the dump site is not moving from the dumping pit into the Glenelg River or local lakes, and raw groundwater data from before and after dumping at the site began.
Many residents in the Douglas and Kanagulk regions, and in the surrounding regions that are linked to the Glenelg River catchment — Balmoral, Rocklands, Harrow, Casterton, Cavendish, Hamilton, Digby, Dartmoor and Nelson — are concerned the radioactive waste could leach into waterways and threaten human health and the environment.
The Horsham Rural City Council, with EPA support, must decide if Iluka Resources can continue using the pit to dump mine waste — low-level radioactive byproducts and concrete and steel that has been in contact with radioactive material — from both old Victorian mines and active sites interstate……….http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/iluka-resources-asked-for-more-proof-that-waste-wont-pollute-river/story-fnkfnspy-1227530458473
According to the South Australia Country Fire Service, nearly 1/2 of people living in bushfire prone areas don’t understand the threat. This is apparently true of those proposing adding nuclear anything in Australia.
Wilderness and nature photographer Steve Parish rates South Australian landscape best in country 891 ABC Adelaide By Brett Williamson 22 July 15 Celebrating more than four decades as a freelance nature photographer, Steve Parish rates South Australia as the best place he has ever shot.
Mr Parish, who grew up in the eastern Adelaide suburbs of Norwood and Burnside, said he found his love of nature when exploring the local coastlines…….
After leaving the Navy at 29, Mr Parish joined the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Services as a wildlife photographer for five years before working freelance across the country.
“My favourite landscape is northern-central South Australia, [Kati Thanda] Lake Eyre up to Innamincka, that beautiful channel country, the Gibber Desert,” Mr Parish said.
Mr Parish said South Australians were spoilt by the beautiful, natural light experienced across the state during winter as weather systems rolled across the state……..
“Instead of bland, empty skies that we tend to get more in the north in the different times of the year, you get that wonderful shafting, golden light,” he said.
“You have the wonderful granite coasts, Kangaroo Island, thethe Flinders Ranges– you get that wonderful light, and photography is very much connected to your emotions, feelings and the light that paints the scene.”……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-21/photographer-steve-parish-rates-south-australia-landscape-best/663423
why should the people of Esperance have any faith they will be protected this time around by those with responsibility to regulate mining companies and protect the community, when they failed so badly last time?
During the Esperance lead crises, Government agencies continually downplayed the seriousness of the problem and denied any serious risk to human health.
Martin Bruckner’s remarkable book Under Corporate Skies tells the shocking story of another Western Australian “Sacrifice Zone”
The inability of WA Government agencies to effectively regulate and monitor the operations and performance of multinational corporations whose rationale is profit maximization was confirmed in a recent WA Auditor General’s Report.
Esperance WA: Sacrifice zone for the profits of the uranium industry?, The Stringer, by Colin Penter July 20th, 2015 A mining industry media outlet hasreported that the uranium industry in WA is keen to establish Esperance on WA’s southern coast, as a port export hub for radioactive uranium material mined in Western Australia. Continue reading
‘So to Mirarr, I guess what they see is very, very large disturbance, they see mountains of waste rock and low-grade ore, and sometimes that does affect their views of important sites like Djidbidjidbi or just the landscape.
‘It will never look the same again and the site will have to be monitored for decades to come after it is finished being rehabilitated so that we can make sure that it is actually in a stable chemical condition, the biodiversity is doing okay and the ecosystem is functional and so on.’
According to ERA figures, rehabilitation is expected to cost close to $500 million.
The long and controversial history of uranium mining in Australia, ABC Radio, Rear Vision, 14 July 2015 Keri Phillips Last month’s announcement that Energy Resources Australia will pull the plug on the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory signals the end of one of the most controversial chapters in Australian mining history. Keri Phillips traces the history of uranium mining in Australia and Ranger’s role in it……. Continue reading
Radioactive gas levels at Wimmera mining site near Horsham too high says Landcare group, ABC News, 30 June 15
A Wimmera Landcare group in south-western Victoria says monitoring it has done shows levels of radioactive gas at a mine near Horsham far exceed the maximum for public exposure.
The Kanagulk Landcare Group placed four radon gas monitors at properties surrounding Iluka Resources’ mining operations at Douglas over a three-month period.
It said analysis of the monitors’ data by Australia’s nuclear industry regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, reveals levels of the gas were four times the limit.
The group’s Albert Miller said the State Government needed to step in…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-29/fears-aired-over-radioactive-gas-levels-at-wimmera/6579670
Environmental Defenders Office NT to stay open; other jurisdictions enter ‘caretaker’ mode following funding cuts 105.7 ABC Darwin By Emilia Terzon The Northern Territory wing of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) will stay open another year despite Federal Government funding cuts, after holding an Indigenous art auction and receiving an emergency grant.
The news comes as EDOs in other jurisdictions enter caretaker mode, following the loss of $10 million in funding for the nationwide network of environment-focused legal centres.
EDO NT lost $450,000 in funding following a 2013 announcement that EDOs across the country would be completely defunded by July 1, 2015.
Offices in northern Queensland and South Australia are now entering caretaker mode, while the Western Australia office also had its State Government funding entirely withdrawn last month. Continue reading
ERA cans Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu by: BARRY FITZGERALD , Resources Editor The Australian June 12, 2015 The crash in uranium prices in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has claimed the controversial Ranger mine inside the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory as its latest victim.
Operated by the Rio Tinto-controlled Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), Ranger’s long-term future was to be secured by the development of an underground uranium resource known as Ranger 3 Deeps.
But ERA has canned the development, citing the “current operating environment”. The decision leaves ERA to process stockpiles from the previous open-cut operation which was dogged in recent years by water handling issues and process plant spills.
Shares in ERA plummeted after the announcement. At 2:10pm the shares were down 61c, or 47 per cent, to 69c each in trading on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Rio (RIO) owns 62 per cent of the ASX-listed ERA and said last night that it would likely take a $US300 million impairment charge on the investment — an acknowledgment that in the current environment, its investment is near worthless.
Rio could also be compelled to step in to ensure that in the event that Ranger’s life is not extended beyond the current treatment of stockpiles, ERA will be able to meet its rehabilitation costs of more than $600m…….
Despite seeming to baulk at having to help ERA at its annual meeting in April, Rio said last night that it recognised the “importance of ongoing rehabilitation work at the Ranger mine site”.
It said it was “engaged with ERA on a conditional credit facility to assist ERA to fund its rehabilitation program, should additional funding be required beyond ERA’s existing cash reserves and the future earnings from processing ore stockpiles”…. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/era-cans-ranger-uranium-mine-in-kakadu/story-e6frg9df-1227394169459
WWF welcomes cancellation of Kakadu uranium mine http://www.theadvocate.org.au/wwf-welcomes-cancellation-of-kakadu-uranium-mine/
WWF has welcomed the cancellation of a planned controversial underground uranium mine in Kakadu National Park.
Energy Resources of Australia, whose parent company is Rio Tinto, cancelled the Ranger 3 Deeps project in a statement to the Stock Exchange last night.
The proposed mine was in an area that had previously been excised from the Kakadu National Park and World Heritage Area.
WWF said the move was not only a victory for Australia’s environment, but also important for further economic empowerment of Indigenous communities.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman backed calls by the Mirarr Traditional Owners to ensuring the permanent protection of the natural and cultural values for which Kakadu is inscribed World Heritage.
“Kakadu is one of Australia’s environmental treasures and this development presents an ideal opportunity for the area to be rehabilitated and incorporated into the Kakadu World Heritage Area,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
“Now that the mine will not go ahead, WWF looks forward to ERA and Rio Tinto accelerating the rehabilitation program, ensuring that it results in the full reinstatement of the internationally recognised outstanding natural and cultural values of this important site.
“With a World Heritage Committee meeting now less than a month away, the eyes of the world will be watching how the Australian Government and Rio Tinto manage the rehabilitation of Ranger.”
The indigenous people who used to wander these lands called the radioactive plume the “puyu,” or black mist, and still are reluctant to visit despite having fought hard for the land to be returned.
“They deem it as a bad place, what they call ‘mamu,’ like a devil country,” says Mr. Matthews, whose wife is indigenous to the area…….
Maralinga, a deserted former military base in the Outback, has become ground zero for an unusual type of vacation Down Under. In a country best known for its white beaches and coral reefs, Mr. Matthews wants vacationers to wish they were here: on land once used for nuclear-weapons explosions.
Nearly 2,000 warning signs ring the red soil around Maralinga, displaying a Ghostbuster-style graphic prohibiting camping ……
The stark beauty of the hills here, on the edge of the vast Nullarbor Plain where the sun sinks in the same ocher color of the desert, belies its notorious past. Continue reading
Environmental standards face decline if all approval powers are handed to states, report finds, ABC News, By Jane Ryan, 21 May 15 Environmental standards would drop under a proposed state-based one-stop-shop environmental approval system, a new report has found.
The proposed legislation, which is before the Federal Senate, seeks to streamline environmental approval processes by giving power of approval to state governments and cutting out the Commonwealth.
But a report by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) warns against relegating environmental approval powers to state governments, saying the environment will suffer.
EDO principal lawyer Jess Feehely said there were several areas where state legislation did not meet the standards set by Commonwealth protections……..
Ms Feehely said Tasmania would not meet international obligations on environment protection under the proposed legislation change.”There’s a real risk that matters of national environmental significance will receive less protection,” she said. “Matters of national significance include threatened species, so habitat for the Tasmanian devil, and it includes world heritage areas and endangered ecological communities.”
She said there were four main areas where the Tasmanian law fell short of the protection afforded under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. “They don’t apply the precautionary principle, they don’t take account of our international obligations, and they don’t make it easy for people to find access to information about development decisions,” she said.
The report also commended the strong rights for public participation currently provided in many Tasmanian laws.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-22/one-stop-shop-system-would-reduce-environmental-standards-report/6489168