Australian news, and some related international items

One small concession to Australia’s environment – BHP to pay a bit for future water grab

(once again – so much news about BHP Billiton and Olympic Dam uranium mine – more items at )

BHP forced to pay for Great Artesian Basin water,  ABC Rural By Annabelle Homer , 13/10/2011 The South Australian Government and BHP Billiton have signed an Indenture Agreement to enable the Olympic Dam mine expansion to go ahead. The Indenture Bill will be introduced to State Parliament next week to enable this agreement to be backed by the full force of South Australian law.

As part of the agreement, the company will now be charged for the water it extracts from the Great Artesian Basin and $350 million a year in royalties will be generated once the project is at full capacity…..  BHP has accepted reluctantly they will now come under Environment Protection Agency, they are paying for the first time ever for the Great Artesian Basin water.”

BHP will be charged on the current NRM Board levy rate (currently $0.0318/KL) for the region (capped at $0.10/KL), for a period of 30 years from the commencement of the project.The charge will then revert to the current NRM Levy rate.

BHP will not be required to pay for water being taken on the Special Mineral Lease.

Independent environmental consultant David Noonan says the BHP is not paying enough. “He says the company will be paying $1.3 million to $1.5 million a year for essentially a precious water resource.”

The Bill also includes a 12-month sunset clause, which means the company has one year from when Parliament passes the Bill to get the approval from its Board of Directors to formally begin the expansion.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

How Australian governments gave BHP special treatment, and free groundwater

Public resources for private profit: free water for the largest open-pit mine in the world Coober Pedy Regional Times, by: Nectaria Calan, 13 Oct 11 In August mining giant BHP Billiton announced record financial results for the 2011 financial year, recording a total net profit of US$23.95 billion, nearly double its 2010 figure of US$13.01 billion.
Despite its profits more than tripling in the last three years, BHP has never paid a cent for the water used at its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine. The mine currently takes an average of 37 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). Under the Roxby Downs Indenture Act BHP is not required to pay for this water usage.
The Indenture Act applies specifically to the Olympic Dam mine, and provides for wide-ranging legal exemptions from  s eve r a l  South Aus t r a l i an  l aws ,   including  the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Natural Resources Management Act (which incorporates water management).
It is essentially a contract between BHP and the state government, which overrides key legislation in South Australia with the terms set out in the indenture agreement. The Special Water Licence for the mine is granted under the Indenture Act. It does not allocate a fee for the water used at the mine, essentially providing BHP with a massive subsidy. The new open-pit mine at Olympic Dam will require an additional 200 million litres of water per day, with water intake from the Basin proposed to in crease to the current licence limit of 42 million litres per day. *During the construction phase, it is projected that 44 million litres per day will be required, pending further government approvals.
This sits uneasily alongside the recently announc ed  thi rd  s t age  of   the  Gr e a t  Ar t e s i an Ba s in Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), for which the State and Commonwealth Governments have committed $2 million, to preserve an additional 3.8 million litres a day.
The water intake from the GAB is already affecting the unique Mound Springs found in the Lake Eyre region. Fed by the underlying Artesian Basin, they are integral to the desert ecosystem and sacred to the Arabunna people.
Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott observes that, “since the establishment of the mine by Western Mining Corporation, people like myself, born and bred in the area, have noticed  the water level of the springs dropping. One is just about gone.”
The Great Artesian Basin Wellfields Report, published yearly by BHP in accordance with the Indenture Act, shows reduced flow rates for several springs, particularly those monitored from the mid-1980’s, when the mine was established….   Coober Pedy Regional Times 13-10-2011 (PDF)

October 14, 2011 Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium, water | , | 1 Comment

Friends of the Earth call for transparency on proposed Whyalla In Situ Leach uranium trial

14 oct 11, Public submissions for Samphire Uranium’s application for an In Situ Leach trial mine closed yesterday. Better known as the Mullaquana project, the proposed trial site is located 20km from Whyalla, 3.6km from the Upper Spencer Gulf. Samphire Uranium is wholly owned by UraniumSA, a new entrant in the uranium mining industry.

In Situ Leach mines pump highly acidic substances into an aquifer to mobilise uranium. The liquid is then pumped out of the aquifer and processed to remove the uranium. The waste liquid is then pumped back into the aquifer.

Two grassroots environmental groups, Friends of the Earth Adelaide and West Mallee Protection, stated in their joint submission that:

“Given the number of risks involved with the proposed Mullaquana trial, particularly the routine contamination of groundwater by heavy metals and radioactive materials associated with In Situ Leach mining…we strongly recommend that this proposal is rejected.”

“Using…questionable, fuzzy logic, attempts are made to argue that low soil productivity and the low quality of groundwater negate potential risks and minimise the impact of contamination…this is essentially saying that it’s okay to pollute soil and groundwater with radioactive materials and heavy metals simply because it is of a lower quality.”

Friends of the Earth Adelaide and West Mallee Protection are calling on PIRSA to reject the application.

“The In Situ Leach method of mining has left numerous sites in Eastern Europe heavily contaminated. In South Australia, there have been over 20 spills at the Beverley In Situ Leach mine. In January 2002 a pipe burst, releasing 62, 000 litres of contaminated water. UraniumSA claim that they have recruited heavily from within this sector,” said Nectaria Calan, of Friends of the Earth Adelaide.

No commercial acid leach mine in the USA has ever been given environmental approval because of the high risk of contamination.

 “Given UraniumSA’s public commitment to transparency, we are calling on the company to commit to making publically available the In Situ data that will be obtained during the trial, and the models they use to obtain it,” stated Ms Calan.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Opposition to nuclear, South Australia, technology, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Soouth Australia’s Mike Rann gives freehold to BHP over Olympic Dam uranium mining lease

“They have a code of silence at that mining lease that’s stronger than any code in downtown Calabria,”  “They even have the government tied up because when BHP says jump, the government says how high.”

Yesterday, Rann again signed off on BHP’s powerful proprietary interests over the site. BHP gets freehold over the extended Olympic Dam mining lease. Few mining companies have this ultimate level of control.

The estimated mining royalties for South Australia ($350 million) from the “world’s biggest mine in human history” are around one tenth of what Western Australia pulls every year from iron ore.

Mike Rann delivers Kloppers’ Kingdom in Melbourne, Crikey, by Kevin Naughton of InDaily, 13 Oct 11, 
“…….Rann was in Melbourne at BHP Billiton’s headquarters to sign the indenture agreement that specifies several of the terms under which BHP can expand its mine at Olympic Dam. Marius Kloppers, the busy global boss of the company with more than $72 billion turnover, held the whip hand on the Premier of a state with annual turnover of about $13 billion.

The indenture agreement goes before Parliament next week where there will be some token debate, but little in the way of exhaustive analysis of the terms of a deal that gives BHP 45 years of certainty, control and exclusive access rights that make this mine site look more like Kloppers’ Kingdom than a part of South Australia. Continue reading

October 14, 2011 Posted by | politics, secrets and lies, South Australia | , | Leave a comment

Unlikely to succeed – Tony Abbott’s “pledge in blood” to repeal carbon tax law

Abbott’s gory pledge would be a legal bloodbath , 13 Oct 11, by Fergus Green, a lawyer and policy analyst specialising in climate change  Abbott’s hyperbole has certainly attracted the headlines, but it betrays a curious tactic. By using such uncompromising rhetoric John Howard gave us the “non-core promise”. Now Tony Abbott has added a new category to the hierarchy of political commitment with his “pledge in blood” to repeal the carbon tax, which passed the lower house of Parliament yesterday (unless, of course, that was just an “unscripted remark” made “in the heat of verbal combat”.)

Abbott has left himself no room to move if repealing the nascent scheme becomes legally impossible or popularly unpalatable.

No amount of blood-pledging, pinkie-swearing, or scout’s-honouring will change the constitutional and political obstacles that an Abbott government would face if it tried to repeal (what will soon be) theClean Energy Act and its 18 associated acts of Parliament…..

October 14, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Indian protesters blockade nuclear power plant

Jaya supports Kundankulam nuclear plant protesters Money Control,    Oct 13, 2011 
The agitation against Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KNPP) near Tirunelveli reached a feverish pitch on Thursday with thousands of activists blocking all the entry points to the project  site.

Employees who reached the KNPP for shift could not enter the premises which brought routine works to a grinding halt.

This is the first time that a nuclear reactor was affected following agitation by the local residents. However, protests are only set to intensify with the Tamil Nadu chief minister openly supporting the protestors. Jayalalithaa has said that the people’s interest will not be compromised.

This comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged her to support the nuclear plant.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Distressed French nuclear industry pushing nuke sales to South Africa

 The French nuclear industry is in distress, with an ageing domestic-reactor fleet and a decline in the international nuclear market. The French companies Areva and EDF need to sell reactors abroad to survive and, after Fukushima, the number of countries investing in new nuclear industry is very limited. Hence France’s strong nuclear lobby and “friendship” with South African politicians over the past few years.

Nuclear power will cost the country dearly Mail and Guardian RIANNE TEULE: ENERGY Oct 14 2011  The Mail & Guardian’s front-page story last week (October 7) highlighted the upcoming nuclear battle for a total of R1-trillion worth of reactors in South Africa and the fact that the country is being forcefully lobbied by the French and other nuclear countries. The exorbitant costs and the nuclear industry’s desperation prove that it is absolute lunacy for South Africa to choose the nuclear route.

Governments around the world are rethinking nuclear energy after the Japan nuclear disaster. The German government has decided to phase out nuclear energy and in a recent referendum in Italy, 95% of Italians voted against the use of nuclear. By contrast, South Africa plans to launch a tender for 9 600MW of new nuclear energy, requiring an investment of up to R1-trillion.

That R1-trillion would take Africa a long way towards alleviating energy poverty or achieving the Millennium Development Goals, improving the lives of billions. How can anyone justify spending this sum of money on building six nuclear reactors that will not produce any power until 2024? Nuclear power delivers too little, too late and at too high a price…….. Continue reading

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian Greens may yet put a spanner in the works of expanding Olympic Damn Uranium mine

Greens threaten BHP deal, BY:MICHAEL OWEN ,The Australian ,October 14, 2011  KEVIN Foley, who for six years led the South Australian government’s negotiations with BHP Billiton over its planned Olympic Dam expansion, has slammed the Greens for threatening to stall the passage of an indenture agreement through parliament in a spat over royalties.

  • The indenture, signed by the former treasurer and Premier Mike Rann with BHP chief Marius Kloppers in Melbourne on Wednesday, fixes royalties at the current 5 per cent for uranium and 3.5 per cent for other minerals for the first 45 years of the project.
  • The indenture needs to be ratified by the state’s parliament and a bill will be introduced on Tuesday, but there is no guarantee of a swift passage through the upper house, where the Labor government does not have a majority.
      Greens upper house MP Mark Parnell yesterday vowed to move amendments to the royalty deal. “All companies want security, they love to know things that will be set in stone forever but . . . royalties go up and down, mostly they go up,” Mr Parnell said. “A lot of states are thinking of putting theirs up higher, so to lock in a company with its own special act of parliament to not have to pay any higher royalties for 45 years I think is wrong and I think we have sold ourselves short.”..

October 14, 2011 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s carbon tax – an economic opportunity for regional businesses


 it’s really in our interest economically to start becoming more efficient and do more with less.

How to stop whingeing and get with the carbon program, ABC Rural News, By Caddie Brain, 13 October  2011  Many businesses in regional Australia are concerned about higher energy costs under a carbon tax.

But Jon Dee, the founder of Do Something! and a former NSW Australian of the year, says it’s not all bad news.

He says the carbon tax presents an opportunity for businesses to innovate and become more efficient. Continue reading

October 14, 2011 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment