Australian news, and some related international items

Olympic Dam uranium mine’s unlimited water access is killing the Arabana people’s mound springs

South Australia’s disappearing springs raise questions for miner BHP–

Few in big cities know about the ‘mound springs’, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds.By Richard Baker November 23, 2020

Dotted around the vast arid harshness of outback South Australia are thousands of small springs fed by ancient waters from the Great Artesian Basin.

Few in big cities know about the “mound springs”, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds. They are also a precious source of life for humans, animals and plants in a hostile environment.

A mound spring near the shore of Lake Eyre in South Australia.

But the Arabana people fear the extraction of tens of millions of litres of water from the basin each day by mining, petroleum and pastoral industries threatens the existence of the springs by reducing flow pressure in the aquifer to the extent that the springs dry up.

The federal parliamentary inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction in May of 46,000-year-old rock shelters at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia has given the Arabana people the chance to put the fate of the springs on the national agenda.

“In our country there are over 6000 of these springs and they are of great significance to the Arabana people,” said the chair of the Arabana registered native title body, Brenda Underwood, in a submission to the inquiry.

“The springs themselves can be as small as a cup or large enough that you could swim in them, however, we don’t because of the stories associated with them. To us, and to many Australians, they are a beautiful sight in a harsh environment.

“Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. How many have disappeared, we are not yet sure, but we are undertaking some research to find out just how many have actually disappeared.”

Rio Tinto’s blasting at Juukan Gorge drew widespread public criticism, prompted the resignation of its chief executive and put a spotlight on state and federal laws that are meant to balance the protection of Indigenous heritage against the commercial interests of miners.

In the case of the springs, another mining giant, BHP, is playing a central role. BHP is licensed by the South Australian government to extract the equivalent of up to 42 million litres of water per day from the Great Artesian Basin to operate the massive Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine near Roxby Downs.

Millions of litres of water are also taken from the basin each day by pastoral stations and various petroleum companies, and more is lost through evaporation from thousands of disused bores that have not been properly capped.

RMIT environmental engineering expert Gavid Mudd has studied the mound springs closely for more than 20 years and said there was no doubt the extraction of so much groundwater had contributed to a reduction in flow pressure. Some had dried up entirely.

Although the Arabana submission to the inquiry acknowledges water users such as pastoralists and petroleum companies, it largely focuses on BHP’s water use and the unique South Australian laws that grant it a virtually unchallenged right to groundwater.

Under the 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Act, the original Olympic Dam owner Western Mining and present owner BHP are afforded special privileges that trump Aboriginal heritage laws and almost all other state laws and regulations.

“Each day they [BHP] take 35 million litres of water from our springs and the Great Artesian Basin and now they wish to increase that amount to 42 million litres per day,” Ms Underwood’s statement said

“We are told that this will continue for at least the next 60 years. Given the number of springs that have disappeared, in 60 years we have a great fear that there will be none left whatsoever. The Arabana people have tasked me and the board of directors of the corporation to protect the springs. The big question is how?”

Ms Underwood and the 1000-strong Arabana community fear the South Australian government will be reluctant to change the status quo for BHP.

The mining company’s recent announcement to pause a planned $3 billion expansion of Olympic Dam is likely to see its water take remain about the mid 30 million litres per day mark.

The Arabana people have asked their Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to advise them if the Commonwealth can get involved. Mr Kenny has said the Commonwealth could act to protect the springs, but previous cases such as that involving South Australia’s Hindmarsh Island suggested it would not.




November 23, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

to 23 November – the week in nuclear news, Australia and more

As I decided previously, I’m leaving out the news on Coronavirus and Global Heating,  important though they are.

Even so, this newsletter is too long. Especially as we seem to be in a sort of timewarp, waiting for a resolution in the USA, waiting for a new direction in the pandemic.

Some bits of good news – Future Crunch’s summary of good news.  Jeff Bezos Created $10 Billion ‘Earth Fund’ to Meet Climate Crisis, First Grants of $800M Go to Iconic Environmental Groups


What next as the Senate rejects the mandatory selection of Napandee as nuclear waste dump?  Exposing the deceptions of Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources, on the failed nuclear waste dump plan.  Exposing the deceptions of Samantha Chard General Manager of the National Radioactive Waste Agency.

Can a new mine save BHP’s loss-making Olympic Dam? .

Corporate vested interests win as Australian Government weakens Environmental Laws.  Australian government is rushing to weaken Environmental Laws.

Australia’s Department of Defence captured by foreign weapons makers Thales, BAE.


Correcting 5 wrong opinions about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Nuclear power hinders fight against climate change.

Standard nuclear reactor designs are still too costly, and safety features are only a third of nuclear costs.

Solar energy is bullish in the market; the same can’t be said for nuclear.

The creeping carbon costs of digital communication.

Book review: The Case for Degrowth.

Extradition hearing of Julian Assange – defence witnesses destroy myths, demonstrate his integrity

November 23, 2020 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Exposing the deceptions of Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources, on the failed nuclear waste dump plan

Peter Remta, 23 Nov 20, With some reluctance and an apology I really must now enter the fray because of the misleading and disingenuous statements on behalf of the government regarding the choice of Kimba for the government’s nuclear waste facility

on Keith Pitt, Minister  forResources

Pitt keeps claiming that Kimba is “marginal” and “low value” land and hence the ideal site for the nuclear waste facility yet it is regarded as one of the prime and best agricultural areas in this country with an international reputation as to the wheat crop from that region

He is arguing against strong opinion and advice from  many agricultural experts and economists

His next claim is that Kimba is the ideal and most suitable location for the facility which is completely at odds from the knowledgeable opinions and advice by international experts in nuclear waste management

In justifying the storage of intermediate level waste at Kimba Pitt claims that it will take many years and huge expense to find and develop a suitable permanent disposal facility for that waste

This is completely false as the Leonora site for an underground nuclear waste repository has been described by one of the leading and largest nuclear waste engineering consultants asglobally an outstanding location for the proposed underground repository

This view is shared by many other overseas experts who cannot understand Australia’s proposals for the above program facility at Kimba

Added to this the Leonora site can be brought to operational standards in line with all international safety requirements and prescriptions for less than $50 million compared to the government estimate of up to $350 million for the inadequate facility at Kimba

This is shown by the concept planning and designs already undertaken for  the repository at Leonora which are far more advanced than the government’s proposals for Kimba


November 23, 2020 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Exposing the deceptions of Samantha Chard General Manager of the National Radioactive Waste Agency

Peter Remta, 23 Nov 20, As I have mentioned previously this is not the first time that Chard has been untruthful as was established through the questioning of Senator Patrick in the recent Senate enquiry into the legislative changes for the Kimba proposal

At the estimates hearing on 22 February 2019 Chard interrupted her then responsible Minister to claim that the community development package of $30 million (her figure) including a community fund component of $20 million had always been contemplated when the initial enabling legislation was passed in 2012

However members of the committee advising the government on the implementation of the enabling legislation spanning several years in time claim that there was never any mention or even an oblique reference to anything in the way of a community fund as claimed  by Chard

There was nothing in the various information released by the government  including the official nomination guidelines regarding the community fund until its first mention on 12 December 2018

Moreover to have not remembered 580 documents on such an important issue of national significance as judicial review regarding this situation is completely unacceptable

If this is the best that our country can offer by way of ministerial and administrative capability on such an important issue then what hope do we have for the future

The situation was only exacerbated by the incompetent and unsatisfactory performance of the ANSTO management personnel at last month’s estimate hearing

To qualify myself I probably know more about nuclear waste in a global sense than anyone in Australia and it was through my efforts that the ANSTO personnel faced some of the uncomfortable questions at the estimates hearing last month

November 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | 1 Comment