Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Uranium miner BHP under criticism for guzzling precious artesian water, and for not keeping its word to Aboriginal native title holders

Environment campaigner and consultant David Noonan, who provided submissions to the Juukan Inquiry, is sceptical of the desalination plant announcement.

Mr Noonan says even if it was built, BHP could be taking GAB water until the end of the decade. He wants to hear a formal commitment about alternative water sources.

Why BHP is facing a minefield, CHRIS MITCHELL, Adelaide Now, 4 Mar 22,

AUSTRALIA’S biggest company and the world’s secondbiggest miner, BHP, may disappoint conservationists and Aboriginal native title holders who had hoped for commitments to reform of heritage issues and underground water use at its Olympic Dam mine before the March 19 state election BHP, the Big Australian, with market capitalisation of $230bn, paid the state government royalties of $136m last year. Its Olympic Dam project 560km north of Adelaide is South Australia’s largest mining venture and the world’s biggest uranium mine, a global top-four copper mine and producer of gold and lead. BHP is powerful in SA.

Premier Steven Marshall is Aboriginal Affairs Minister but it would be fair to say native title holders do not wield the sort of power in Adelaide that big miners do.

Yet BHP has flagged some changes to the way it operates that could reduce its own power over its own asset.

Under the 1982 Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) Act signed with former mine owner Western Mining, BHP, which bought the mine in 2005, has almost unprecedented powers over resources and water within its 12,000sq km Stuart Shelf exploration lease.

BHP has been criticised by conservation groups and Aboriginal interests in last year’s report into rival Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge in Western Australia. The report includes criticism from the Arabana tribe of the mine’s heavy reliance on water from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), and particularly from the so-called “Mound Springs” Aboriginal heritage sites north of the mine.

On February 15, The Advertiser revealed BHP would back a new $15m study, partly funded by state and federal governments, into a Spencer Gulf desalination plant to pump water to SA’s northern mines. But BHP is still far short of publicly committing to end its use of GAB water.

Conservationists say BHP is trying to control the water agenda, to maintain its privileges under the Indenture Act. But some hope it will be pragmatic enough to cut water demand from the GAB if it eventually decides to proceed with its Oak Dam copper-gold-uranium mine 65km southeast of Olympic.

Asked last week if BHP was formally committed to ending GAB water use, a spokesman said: “We continuously monitor and publicly report our water draw under a program approved by the SA government.”

BHP is not just under pressure for environmental reasons.

It is in discussion with three native title groups about the Olympic Dam Agreement it settled in 2008 with the Kokatha, Barngarla and Kuyani.

Of these, only the Kokatha have been granted formal native title over parts of BHP’s Stuart Shelf.

BHP’s problem now is how to balance the very valuable 40-year-old legal rights it has under the indenture with rights found in a native title determination in favour of the Kokatha in 2014……….

The Kokatha fought a long, 18-year battle to win their native title in 2014. Kokatha directors say dealing with BHP on the ODA before and after their native title court win has been challenging.

At this point, they are not receiving mining royalties and are unhappy with employment opportunities for Kokatha people.

Michael Turner, a former Kokatha director and current adviser on the Kokatha Native Title Compensation Settlement and Kokatha Charitable trusts, says he has been dealing with BHP for much of his adult life.

At this point, they are not receiving mining royalties and are unhappy with employment opportunities for Kokatha people………

negotiations on BHP’s Olympic Dam Agreement had been disappointing.

“We have been calling for a review of the ODA for many years and it has constantly been deferred,” he said.

“They’re refusing to move forward. It would be great if BHP could keep to its word and respect the wishes of the Kokatha people and review the ODA for the benefit of generations to come.”…………….

The final report into the May 24, 2020 destruction by Australia’s second-biggest miner, Rio Tinto, of the Juukan Caves in Western Australia’s Pilbara was released in October. In it, Arabana chair Brenda Underwood says: “Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. The cause … is water taken from the GAB by BHP’s mine at Roxby Downs.”

BHP and the state government believe the springs remain healthy but environmentalists fear a possible expansion to the Oak Dam could take daily GAB water use well beyond 50 million litres a day. BHP says it is averaging 34 million litres a day.

Environment campaigner and consultant David Noonan, who provided submissions to the Juukan Inquiry, is sceptical of the desalination plant announcement.

Mr Noonan says even if it was built, BHP could be taking GAB water until the end of the decade. He wants to hear a formal commitment about alternative water sources.

BHP’s Aboriginal engagement team is mindful expectations have changed across the industry since Juukan and BHP will need to be seen to be engaging seriously with traditional owners. Some believe an ODA negotiated before the Kokatha achieved native title should be written off and a new agreement established………………………………………

more  https://todayspaper.adelaidenow.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=23a5b7bd-e6d5-4a82-972e-347f65874b3a&fbclid=IwAR11bzLNHD6mcfZaJkwLcs7cvtfeJQbEhz9btfDFZeFDTsE-BvpWFcuXQnw

March 5, 2022 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, South Australia, uranium, water

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