Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia’s rushed discussion of draconian new legislation for BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine

Nectaria Calan, 27 Oct 11, The most concerning and indeed contentious parts that I am familiar with at this stage relate to the water and freehold clauses, and continued exemptions from the Environmental Protection Act and the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Re: water –  the much publicised water levy for Great Artesian Basin Water (and perhaps water from other sources) does not address the increased volume of water to be taken from the GAB (increasing from 37 million litres per day to 42 million), nor the impact that even the current volume is having on the mound springs in the region. …

Clause 24 provides for the Minister to grant the entire 49, 700 ha of the proposed expanded mining lease (as estimated in the EIS) to BHP as freehold title free of charge. This is a huge area to be simply given away by the State Government to one mining company, and amounts to a huge subsidy for the company. The most contentious aspect of this clause is that it absolutely dispossesses the Aboriginal custodians of the area by simply giving the land away. One may ask, if the government is so keen to give it away, why they don’t return it to the Aboriginal communities of the region?

This is a new addition to the Indenture – it is not in the current Act.

In particular, the subclauses state that for the minister to grant freehold title he must first be satisfied that either Native Title has been extinguished or that the act of granting freehold will extinguish it. So the intention is clearly to extinguish Native Title if possible. Additionally, I believe (although I am not certain) that once Native Title is extinguished it is extinguished permanently – however this fades in significance when you consider that the land will be returned to the Crown (at the mines closure) contaminated with almost 9 billion tonnes of tailings and after the company has destroyed sacred sites by virtue of digging the biggest hole in the world.

The exemptions from the Aboriginal Heritage Act carry through to the amended Bill (from the current indenture). Both the Indenture Act and amended Bill exempt BHP from key parts of the main piece of legislation in the state providing protection for Aboriginal heritage sites – there is a conflict of interest here as a company with a commercial interest in the land is left to adjudicate the validity of competing non-commercial interests.

Despite the state government claiming last week in a press release that the expansion will be subject to the Environmental Protection Act (by removing the exemption from the Indenture), the amended indenture still lists the Act as one over which the indenture prevails. BHP’s environmental Management Plans are to be over-seen and approved by the Minister rather than the Environmental Protectkion Agency (which would be the norm). This is essentially the same as the current Indenture Act. There is arguable a conflict of interest here also, as the Minister (for Mineral resources and Energy) is a proponent for mining.

The Select Parliamentary Committee established to further inquire into the Indenture Bill is having its first hearing tomorrow. It will be hearing from BHP, the Olympic Dam taskforce (which is a department within the state government, and the Chamber of Mines (an industry body). Clearly all witnesses are uncritical of the Indenture, and at this stage it looks like it will be held behind closed doors. it is also unclear whether they will call for more witnesses on another day.

October 27, 2011 Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium | | 1 Comment

Make Roxby Downs Indenture Act discussion transparent, and study environmental issues, say Greens

Weatherill must back Roxby words with action, 27 Oct 11  Greens Leader Mark Parnell has welcomed Premier Jay Weatherill’s call for the special Parliamentary Committee examining the Roxby Expansion to be an ‘open process’ that hears from critics of the project.

 In response to pressure from the Greens, today’s hearings of the Select Committee into the Olympic Dam expansion legislation were opened up to the media and public.  However, at this stage the Committee – made up of 4 Labor and 3 Liberal MPs – has no plans to hear from any other witnesses apart from the 3 pro-expansion spruikers: the Government ODX Taskforce, BHP and the Chamber of Mines, despite other requests from scientific and environmental experts to appear. The Committee has only 2 days left to schedule hearings.

“I welcome the Premier’s intervention, but he has to back his words with action,” said Greens Parliamentary Leader Mark Parnell.  “Time is well and truly running out to hear from anyone else.  If the Committee is genuine about keeping faith with the Premier, it will make a public call for submissions and offer an opportunity for those who have raised concerns in the past about this project to challenge the assertions made by BHP Billiton and the ODX Taskforce.

“The Greens have forced the door to be opened on these hearings.  Now we insist these hearings must be open to other witnesses,” he said.    Mark Parnell also rejected the claim by Committee Chair Tom Koutsantonis that the Parliamentary Committee should not be looking at the project’s environmental issues.  “The Minister’s claims that the environmental issues with the expansion project were signed away with the EIS approval is rubbish,” said Mr Parnell.

“The Roxby Indenture legislation is all about the deal done with BHP on water, energy, waste tailings, the desalination plant and environmental monitoring. The reason BHP CE Marius Kloppers is crowing to his shareholders that this is a ‘low cost’ project is because SA is bearing all the environmental costs and not getting a fair share of the returns.

“So far, this Parliamentary Committee has failed to rigorously examine this project to ensure our State gets the best deal possible,” he said.

October 27, 2011 Posted by | politics, South Australia | | Leave a comment

Roxby Downs Indenture Bill Committee faced by giant radioactive waste barrel

GIANT RADIOACTIVE WASTE BARREL MARKS SELECT COMMITTEE HEARING  27 Oct 11, Anti-nuclear activists erected a 7 metre tall radioactive waste barrel opposite Parliament House this morning to coincide with the first hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the amended Roxby Downs Indenture Bill, which was introduced into both houses of Parliament last week.

“Today’s hearing will only hear presentations from BHP Billiton, the Olympic Dam Taskforce, and the Chamber of Mines and Energy,” said Nectaria Calan of Friends of the Earth Adelaide.

“It is unclear at this stage if other stakeholders and members of the public who have requested to be heard in person will be included in this process. This raises concerns that the Select Committee will simply rubber stamp the Bill after only hearing from parties with vested interests in supporting the expansion and the associated Indenture Agreement.”

“The committee has an opportunity to use its powers to investigate the social, environmental and cultural impacts of the Indenture Bill. It has an obligation to look further than representatives of the mining industry,” continued Ms. Calan.

October 27, 2011 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

China has put the brakes on its nuclear power program

 Nuclear-safety risks rising in China, warns minister, Economic Times, 27 OCT, 2011BEIJING: China is facing increasing safety risks from its nuclear power plants as existing facilities age and a large number of new reactors go into operation, the country’s environmental minister said in comments published on Wednesday. “The safety standards of China’s early-phase nuclear facilities are relatively low, operation times are long, some facilities are obsolete and the safety risks are increasing ,” said Zhou Shengxian in a speech published on the website of China’s parliament, the National People’sCongress. Zhou told legislators that the scale and pace of nuclear construction had accelerated, a larger range of technologies had been introduced, and potential sources of radiation had become more widespread, making it harder to monitor safety .

China has 13 nuclear reactors in operation and another 28 under construction, but it has suspended all new project approvals in the wake of the tsunami in northeast Japan, which left the Fukushima Daiichi reactor on the brink of meltdown. After the suspension, Beijing launched a nationwide inspection of all nuclear sites, including reactors already operating and those under construction, and is drawing up comprehensive new industry guidelines..

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Olympic Dam uranium mine unlikely to make any money from uranium

The Olympic Dam expansion would cost tens of billions of dollars, and BHP Billiton may want to secure more than longterm contracts to move forward with the expansion

URANIUM  Olympic Dam Expansion Has Doubters But China May Hold the Cards. – Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, 27 Oct 11,   . While BHP Billiton’s recent statements have indicated a willingness to proceed with the expansion of the Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine, sources throughout the uranium industry are skeptical the project will ever come to fruition…….

An expansion would boost annual uranium production capacity from the current 4,500 metric tons of U3O8
(3,392 tU) to 19,000 MT U3O8 (16,112 tU). But after conducting a thorough outside analysis of the project, the producer said he concluded “it never ever makes money.” Continue reading

October 27, 2011 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | | Leave a comment

Behind closed doors, South Australian govt and uranium miners do Indenture Act deal

BHP’s Marius Kloppers flies in to meet Premier, Adelaide Now, by:State editor Greg Kelton ,October 27, 2011  IN his last week as premier, Mike Rann flew to Melbourne to negotiate the Olympic Dam expansion with BHP boss Marius Kloppers.

But this week the BHP Billiton chief executive will fly to Adelaide to meet new Premier Jay Weatherill to discuss progress on the mine expansion indenture. The face-to-face meeting follows a telephone discussion at the weekend between Mr Weatherill and Mr Kloppers and a meeting yesterday between Mr Weatherill and BHP Billiton’s president (uranium customer sector group) Dean Dalla Valle…..

Legislation to ratify the agreement was introduced in Parliament last week by former treasurer Kevin Foley, who was minister assisting the Premier on the dam expansion….. On Tuesday the Liberal party room completed two days of briefings on the Olympic Dam project. It will have a joint party room meeting on November 8 to decide its position on the indenture.

The Greens yesterday accused the Government of turning scrutiny of the Olympic Dam indenture into a farce.

Greens leader Mark Parnell said a special parliamentary committee, which has to examine the agreement, was planning to hear from only three witnesses and prevent the media and public from attending the hearings.

Mr Parnell said the only groups invited to present evidence to the committee were the Government, BHP-Billiton and the Chamber of Mines.

“No advertising has been done and the hearings are set to be held behind closed doors,” he said, accusing the Government and Opposition of concocting the committee process.

October 27, 2011 Posted by | politics, South Australia | | Leave a comment

Radiation dangers for nurses

For patients, unnecessary procedures (usually imaging procedures) and radiation dosing errors represent the bulk of risk from medical radiation, whereas incidental, unintended radiation exposure is the primary concern for nurses and other health care workers…..

Radiation safety for patients—and nurses   Oncology Nurse Advisor, Bryant Furlow, October 26, 2011 Diagnostic and therapeutic radiation have prolonged and improved millions of patients’ lives, and represent indispensable and increasingly sophisticated tools in clinical oncology. But medical radiation’s gifts have come at the potential cost of unintended irradiation of patients and health care workers and increased lifetime risks of secondary cancers. This concern has grown with improving patient survival times, particularly among pediatric cancer patients. Continue reading

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As anti uranium protestors walk towards Perth, Western Australian police get extraordinary powers against protesors

Aussie police block “known protesters” from CHOGM venues, The Star Malaysia 26 Oct 11 PERTH: Australian police have served special notices to about 50 “known protesters” ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting here. The individuals are deemed “security risk” and prevented from entering major parts of the city until Nov 4.

Australian media reported that Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan was given extraordinary powers to create the list under a special Act of State Parliament passed specifically for CHOGM. CHOGM security areas include the University of Western Australia, Burswood, Kings Park, parts of St George’s Terrace, Adelaide Terrace and the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Western Australian reported…..

The CHOGM Action Network, a coalition of activist groups, is planning a march to the CHOGM venue at Perth’s convention centre on the first day of the summit, and has told police it is expecting 1,000 marchers to attend.

Spokesman Alex Bainbridge said the protest theme was “justice and climate action, not racism and war” and protesters hoped to get as close as possible to Commonwealth leaders to get their messages across.Aboriginal rights, freeing detained asylum seekers, ending the war in Afghanistan and promoting renewable energy would be highlighted during a number of protest events, he said….

October 27, 2011 Posted by | civil liberties, Western Australia | | Leave a comment

A breakthrough wind turbine design in Victoria, Australia

VIDEO   Australian Company Launches World’s Quietest Wind Turbine, AZO CleanTech October 26, 2011
  Australian renewable energy
innovation continues to lead the way with the launch of the worlds’ quietest wind turbine, released to market this week. The cutting edge turbine stands 21 metres high and features a unique, intuitive blade design that is virtually silent.

The Eco Whisper Turbine is set to revolutionise delivery of renewable electricity supply for urban and rural applications, and is now in operation at a leading Australian manufacturer for viewing by industry, and energy sectors.

Renewable Energy Solutions Australia Holdings Ltd (RESA) an Australian Renewable Energy company and member of the Clean Energy Council of Australia, has unveiled the Eco Whisper Turbine the world’s quietest 20kW wind turbine in Geelong, Victoria.

The new Eco Whisper Turbine is an innovative 20 kW electricity-producing wind turbine that is virtually silent due to a unique cowl/ring that prevents air from spilling off the blades.

The Eco Whisper’s silent operation, and its ability to operate in a range of wind conditions, makes it ideal for urban developments, commercial sites and agricultural applications.

Currently on showcase at AUSTENG Engineering in Geelong, the Australian designed and manufactured wind turbine, has a number of advantages compared to comparable 3 blade designs, including: Continue reading

October 27, 2011 Posted by | energy, Victoria | Leave a comment

Obama government stops new uranium mining near Grand Canyon

Obama to block new uranium mine claims near Grand Canyon, Miami Herald, 26 Oct 11, BY RENEE SCHOOF WASHINGTON New uranium mining claims on 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon will be blocked for 20 years under a decision the Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday.
The announcement confirmed that the Obama administration was proceeding with a plan that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in July and is expected to make final in 30 days. The decision withdraws a right to Western public lands that mining companies otherwise would have under the 1872 Mining Law. Continue reading

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment