Australian news, and some related international items

Federal Court challenge to Olympic Dam approval

 Environmental Defenders Office (SA) Inc, 22 March 12, Mr Kevin Buzzacott has filed an application in the Federal Court challenging the  Commonwealth Environment Minister’s approval of the Olympic Dam expansion. He is  represented by the Environmental Defender’s Office (SA) Inc (EDO) in those  proceedings.

Mr Buzzacott (known as Uncle Kevin) is an Aboriginal Elder of the Arabunna Nation in  Northern South Australia, who is concerned about the impacts of the mine on the  environment. The EDO is a community legal centre that specialises in public interest  environmental law.
In October last year, the Hon Tony Burke MP approved the project under the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Mr Buzzacott says that “The mine will be the largest of its kind in the world, on the
largest uranium deposit, and will also mine copper, gold and silver. It is likely to use up
to 200 megalitres of water a day and a significant amount of South Australia’s electricity.”
“I’m happy to have an opportunity to challenge the Minister’s decision because I’d like to
know and understand how he’s given full approval with all the uncertainties of this
proposed expansion. I feel like a tiny voice in this issue because BHP Billiton is so
powerful but my role is to protect the old country.”
Ultimately, the open cut pit will be approximately 1 km deep and 4 km wide, and the
radioactive tailings (waste) will be stored above ground covering an area of up to 40
square kilometres in piles of which approximately 5%-15% are to be lined.
Ruth Beach, solicitor at the EDO in Adelaide, said “This case is about making sure that
the proper legal process is followed in approving the mine, and if successful has wider
significance for other similar approvals in Australia. The EDO’s client is seeking orders
from the Federal Court that the Minister’s approval be reviewed and, subject to the
Court’s findings, may be set aside and referred back to the Minister for further
consideration according to the law.”
Mr Buzzacott is challenging the Minister’s approval on the following grounds: 2
1. The approval is so uncertain that it does not constitute a proper approval under the
Act. This is because much of the environmental assessment and decision-making is left
up to plans and studies that have not yet been prepared or considered by the Minister or
the public.
2. The Minister did not properly consider the impact of the Olympic Dam expansion on
the environment. In particular, the EDO’s client is arguing that the Minister has not
properly considered impacts from the above ground storage of radioactive tailings waste.
3. The Minister failed to consider the environmental impacts associated with the export
of uranium.
4. The Minister failed to properly consider the impacts of the expansion on groundwater
resources including the Great Artesian Basin.
Ms Beach said, “Through this legal challenge, our client is seeking to ensure that the
Minister has put the proper environmental safeguards in place, and has properly
considered all the environmental impacts of the proposal, as he is required to do under
the law.”
EDO contact: Ruth Beach, Solicitor, 8410 3833
Environmental Defenders Office (SA) Inc

March 22, 2012 - Posted by | legal, South Australia |

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