Cabinet papers: Radioactive soil from UQ dumped at Mary Kathleen mine http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/cabinet-papers-radioactive-soil-from-uq-dumped-at-mary-kathleen-mine/news-story/9bad4b01ffb900f38233aa87474d0cfd January 1, 2017 A HUGE amount of radioactive soil – enough to top-dress a football oval – from the University of Queensland was dumped in the disused Mary Kathleen open-cut uranium mine north of Mount Isa in June 1986 with the approval of the Bjelke-Petersen government.
Cabinet papers released today after 30 years reveal a submission in August 1986 from then mines minister Ivan Gibbs, outlining how 330 cubic metres of contaminated soil was trucked to the mine site and unloaded into the water.
The submission said that in 1984, the UQ Experimental Mine at Indooroopilly was found to have radioactive material from uranium ore samples taken at the Anderson Lode (14km west of Mount Isa).
“Officers of the Health Department carried out a detailed survey of the site and concluded that the pilot plant tailings had caused contamination of the soil under and around the stockpile area, the total mass of contaminated material required to be moved amounting to about 330 cubic metres,” Gibbs’ submission said.
“Discussions were held with officers of my department to identify a suitable site for disposal of the material and I approved for it to be dumped into the abandoned open cut.
“Expert advice has been received that seepage will not take place from the open cut to the surrounding rocks, and studies have shown that the water level in the open cut will stabilise at least 40m below the overflow level.’’
Gibbs said the soil was classed “low specific activity material’’ under the code of practice for the safe transport of radioactive substances. A convoy of trucks transported the soil to the open-cut mine and dumped it below water level. “The access ramp was sealed with large rocks,’’ Gibbs said. “Each truck was washed down and checked for zero radioactive contamination.”
The submission stated that the government was satisfied that material in the abandoned mine would not have any effect on surface or groundwater in the area.
Gibbs said local National Party MP Bob Katter and Mount Isa mayor Tony McGrady objected to the disposal and sought assurances that no more soil would be dumped there.
Gibbs said: “Although it is highly unlikely that the cost of transporting any radioactive material to Mary Kathleen would be justified in future, the possibility of using the abandoned open cut for special cases should not be totally excluded.’’
Arafura plans to mine, concentrate and chemically process rare earths at the Nolans site, 135km north-northwest of Alice Springs.The project is estimated to create up to 500 jobs in the two-to-three year construction phase, and employ a peak workforce of 300 in the operation phase, which is expected to exceed 40 years.
Construction is estimated to cost $866 million at Nolans, including an estimated $145 million in the Territory and $70 million in Central Australia. It is expected to cost $188 million a year to operate.
The draft EIS and associated specialist studies were on public exhibition for eight weeks last year and attracted 21 submissions, mostly from government departments.
Arafura’s NT general manager Brian Fowler said they were hoping to complete the environmental part of the project this year.
“All matters raised in these submissions were provided to Arafura for consideration and are responded to in the EIS supplement,” he said.
“We look forward to completing the approvals process for the environmental component of the project later this year.”
Rare earths are a collection of 15 elements in the periodic table that are relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, but uncommon to find in quantities that can be recovered economically, Mr Fowler said.
“They are essential to products with significant growth potential in markets associated with the electronics and technology industries, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction,” he said.
Until recently, rare earths were mostly mined, processed and refined in China and, along with Japan and the USA, China accounts for most of the world’s demand for rare earths. Continue reading
CIA documents reveal Pine Gap fears http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/cia-documents-reveal-pine-gap-fears/news-story/78dd781a58fe89fd6b7d455a662c8596 22 Jan 17 TENSION over world wheat prices led to fears by the US Government that Australia could shut the secret spy facility at Pine Gap.
A memo prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of East Asian Analysis shows the Americans were nervous Australia could lash out and use US-Australian joint facilities as a “bargaining chip” during the wheat prices stand-off in 1986.
It is among more than 900,000 documents, some of which were previously top secret, released by the CIA this week.
The briefing document says then-prime minister Bob Hawke was under political pressure from “militant farmers” to stand up for their interests as the US prepared to extend its “export enhancement program” to include the Soviet Union and China, which was expected to drive down wheat prices worldwide.
According to the memorandum, the Americans did not take the threats to close joint facilities seriously “but if the Senate proposal becomes law, tensions will be high and thoughts of making such threats will remain just below the surface”. “Our worst case scenario, on the other hand, would have the Australians refusing to negotiate a new ten-year agreement for the Joint Defense Space Research Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory (thus the facility would be subject to closure after October 1987 with a year’s notice),” the document read.
It said wheat farmers were the most vocal primary producers “and protest most often in Canberra”.
“Hawke undoubtably believes he cannot afford to ignore wheat farmers’ pleas to use his claimed ‘special relationship’ with the US administration to win them relief,” the memorandum read.
With an election looming, domestic pressure was on the prime minister to prove he could exert influence with the Americans. “In our judgment, the current US Senate proposal, if it becomes law, would confirm Australian farmers’ suspicions that Hawke is powerless to win relief from the US government and that Australia’s faithfulness to its responsibilities in the ANZUS alliance is meaningless to the US administration,” the document said.
Concerns mining industry over-represented on NT Government-appointed board, ABC News, 4 Dec 16 By Sara Everingham The NT Environmental Defenders Office has raised concerns the mining industry is over-represented on the mining board, which was set up and appointed by the former Country Liberals Government.
A new report revealed that a directive to Glencore’s McArthur River Mine (MRM) by the Department of Primary Industry and Resources — formerly the Northern Territory Mines Department — was overruled by the Government-appointed mining board.
The report by the mine’s independent monitor, the Erias Group, said the NT Mines Department made an order last year after officers on an MRM site visit reported “unapproved works” where waste rock containing metals and salt had been placed in a facility approved for benign material only.
“The use of non-benign material in close proximity to the McArthur River diversion channel and lack of adequate environmental controls represent a risk to the environment,” the department’s officers reported.
The department directed MRM to move the material but MRM appealed against the order to the Mining Board arguing the works were temporary.
The board, now also known as the Mining Advisory Committee, found in MRM’s favour.
The principal lawyer from the NT Environmental Defenders Office, David Morris, said he was concerned the department’s directive had been overruled.
“It’s of concern to me that mining officers who go down and spend a significant amount of time on the site have said ‘we think material has been placed inappropriately, we think that’s putting the environment at risk’ and the Mining Board said ‘well no we’re going to agree with Glencore who’s appealed this decision’,” Mr Morris said………. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-03/makeup-of-nt-mining-board-questioned/8089756
Court of Disputed Returns Dismissed, Yingiya Mark Guyula is Confirmed as the Member for Nhulunbuy
http://www.yingiya.net/news/court-of-disputed-returns-dismissed-yingiya-mark-guyula-is-confirmed-as-the-member-for-nhulunbuy 1 December 2016:
MLA for Nhulunbuy Yingiya Guyula has expressed relief and satisfaction at the dismissal of the Electoral Commissioner’s challenge to his election to the NT Legislative Assembly
by consent orders sought by both parties and made by Justice Southwood today in the Court of Disputed Returns.
““From the moment it was suggested that I might be disqualified from nominating for Parliament
because of my claimed membership of a local government advisory body called the Milingimbi Local Authority,
I have said that I was never a member of that body,” Mr Guyula explained.
“I did not nominate to be a member, I did not consent to being appointed to the Authority by the East Arnhem Regional Council (“EARC”), and I did not even know it had passed a resolution to appoint me.
In fact when I was asked whether I wanted to be nominated and appointed I said no because I was too busy working in remote homeland schools and would not be able to attend regular meetings.”
“Mr Guyula’s lawyer Ken Parish explained that his evidence was not disputed, and
was corroborated by evidence from other Milingimbi community members.
Moreover, the Electoral Commission accepted in submissions to Justice Southwood that Mr Guyula had attended a handful of Authority meetings not as a member of that body but as a djirrikaymirri or senior elder of the Guyula Djambarrbuyngu tribe. …
“Mr Guyula said that the most pleasing aspect of today’s result was that he would now be
free to focus completely on providing effective representation for the people of Nhulunbuy
and North East Arnhem Land in Parliament over the next 4 years.
“I stood for Parliament with the aim of helping to create harmony, understanding and mutual respect between Yolngu and Balanda people, laws and institutions.
Today’s Court decision is one small but important step on the road to achieving that aim,” Mr Guyula said.”
Miner contemplates NT town’s future http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/miner-contemplates-nt-towns-future/news-story/ebc248cbfd26edd555465ae79964e8ad NOVEMBER 15, 2016
Discussions over the future of a community near the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park have begun as a mining company prepares to pull out.
Jabiru town was built for a uranium mine which has been operating for more than three decades.
It was always intended to be temporary and its head lease will expire in about four years.
ERA operates the Ranger mine and has started a social impact assessment (SIA) to determine a transition and rehabilitation strategy for the township.
ERA says it’s not developing a plan for the future of Jabiru beyond the lease expiration in 2021 when production stops, which is expected to cost 350 jobs.
“It is important to note that a separate process involving the commonwealth government, Northern Territory government and traditional owner representatives has commenced to develop and agree a future plan for Jabiru,” ERA said.
“The outcome of those discussions will also have a significant influence on ERA’s plans.”
Traditional owners warn that if the NT government doesn’t commit to the town’s future it will effectively be demolished.
Justin O’Brien, chief executive of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation which represents traditional owners, says Jabiru is the gateway to Kakadu and should continue to function without the mine.
Jabiru residents and local business owners have been invited to attend 30 information sessions in November and Deccember, while more will take place early next year.
We Need To Talk Much Less About Andrew Bolt And Much More About Treaty Liam McLoughlin @situtheatre
“A Yolngu man’s extraordinary win at the Northern Territory election is a significant milestone for the Treaty movement.
Yet all the media can talk about is the ‘Indigenous’ Andrew Bolt.
“In recent weeks it was declared that Yolngu man Yingiya Mark Guyula had won a stunning victory
over Labor’s Lynne Walker at the Northern Territory election, running proudly on a Treaty platform. …
“Held by the ALP since 1980, the seat was categorised as “Very Safe Labor” with a margin of 13.7 per cent.
While Labor’s Lynne Walker won the majority non-Indigenous mining town of Nhulunbuy,
Guyula won the vote in every single Yolngu community and was declared the overall winner by eight votes. … “
Pine Gap: Important talks but who was listening? Alice Springs News, 6 Oct 16 By ERWIN CHLANDA The anti Pine Gap rally, conference and public forum wrapped up yesterday after four days of being noticed but studiously ignored.
This is surprising because two senators of the Australian Parliament were here demanding that the military base be closed, and at least three academics supported that view at a public forum, including Professor Richard Tanter from Melbourne University.
Making an enquiry about Pine Gap is a journalistic investigation quite unlike most: Usually in Australia you can ask questions and get answers and comment, and you can check your facts with the subject of your investigation. But the base is strictly zip-the-lip. One needs to work with secondary sources, such as the US Congressional record, which fortunately is quite revealing – unlike similar Australian sources.
Rather than rubbing up against characteristic Australian scepticism and democratic spirit, that attitude is spreading. A remarkable circumstance locally was that at the forum held at the Chifley on Friday evening, the sunset gathering atop Anzac Hill on Saturday, and a rally outside the gates to the base yesterday morning – all open to the public – there was no sign of currently serving members of the Legislative Assembly, nor the town council, nor any of the main lobbies for commerce and tourism in town. The leaders of Alice Springs have their head firmly stuck in the sand.
This is a worry considering that Pine Gap could be a nuclear target – increasingly plausible given its escalating role in US military action around the world – and if this were to eventuate, this town would be annihilated. It’s been a well documented discussion point since the mid-seventies……….
Senator Lee Rhiannon (at left,outside Pine Gap) told the crowd of about 80: “US people are welcome here. We want to work with people from around the world. But not where there are bases with such destructive agendas.
“The nuclear war agenda was run out of this place. Now that the drones are being directed from here is something we must inform all Australians.”
The organisers focussed on that transformation of the base, along the way prying into the private lives of billions of people under the banner of protection through global surveillance.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam on Friday gave a brilliant and scathing account of the democracy we live in, where matters of life and death are dealt with not by Federal Parliament, but by the executive and a handful officials.
We pressed him further on these issues outside the Pine Gap gates. He said: “Whether it’s defence, any kind of treaty making agreement, any of these large scale instruments that sign us up to large scale obligations, the Parliament doesn’t get a look-in until after the deal is already done.”……….
The way the cops have been dealing with the events was clearly guided by knowledge that media coverage follows arrests on camera. There were none, and consequently there was scarcely any media coverage………. http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2016/10/03/important-talks-but-who-was-listening/
A week of activities will expose the role of Pine Gap in war, surveillance and nuclear targeting. Beginning on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, 26th September, hundreds of people are gathering at the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility, just 20km from Alice Springs, NT.
A protest camp and conference will discuss the role of the highly secretive facility in drone targeting, mass citizen surveillance and in preparations for nuclear war. The facility is the most likely Australian target in the event of a nuclear war involving the US, immediately jeopardizing the 25,000 residents of Alice Springs, and others in the path of radioactive fallout. “Pine Gap makes critical contributions to planning for nuclear war.
In the fragile world of nuclear deterrence, efforts should be directed at total nuclear disarmament,” said Professor Richard Tanter, University of Melbourne. A UN working group on nuclear disarmament has issued a breakthrough recommendation for the General Assembly to convene a conference in 2017 to negotiate “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz announced last Wednesday that Austria, along with other UN members states, will table a resolution at the General Assembly First Committee in October, seeking a mandate for negotiations to begin next year.
“For 71 years the majority of countries have experienced the injustice and insecurity that nuclear weapons represent,” said Ray Acheson of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a steering group member of ICAN. “With negotiations of a ban treaty on the horizon, we are as close as we have ever been to effectively challenging the continued possession of these weapons of mass destruction.”
“When a treaty banning nuclear weapons is negotiated, Australia will be expected to sign it, as it has signed treaties to outlaw other abhorrent weapons. To enable Australia to sign on, the functions of Pine Gap should exclude preparations for nuclear war. This facility has served to implicate Australia in nuclear aggression and as a prime nuclear target for 50 years too long,” said Gem Romuld, ICAN Australia. ICAN Australia will be speaking at the IPAN Conference and participating in the protest camp this week. More information: Disarm protest camp, 26-30 September www.closepinegap.org Independent and Peaceful Australia Network Conference, 1-2 October www.ipan.org.au
Pine Gap: Secretive spy base’s role in drone strikes putting Australia in danger, expert warns http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-23/pine-gaps-actions-could-endanger-australian-security/7872190?section=environment The World Today By Brendan Trembath An expert on Pine Gap has raised concerns about the spy base’s role in supporting drone attacks on suspected terrorists overseas.
Officially called The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, the site is jointly run by the Australian and United States governments and is one of Australia’s most secret sites. The facility has been in operation since 1970 and is located half-an-hour’s drive south-west of Alice Springs.
Professor Richard Tanter, from the University of Melbourne, says Pine Gap contributes targeting data to American drone operations, including assassinations. “One of Pine Gap’s two key functions is as a control station and a downlink station for signal intelligence satellites 36,000 kilometres up in space,” he said. “They are picking up a very wide array of radio transmissions, including cell phones, satellite phones and so forth. “And that provides the data, both the contents and the geolocation data for targets of interest through the United States military.”
He said Pine Gap was also used for counter-terrorism and wider intelligence programs, as the site was able to contribute data “pretty directly — for example into drone targeting operations.”
Professor Tanter acknowledged that those type of programs were part of the alliance between the US and Australia, and Australia’s interest in the global fight against terrorism
But he said the question was whether it could be considered a good idea on a political level, seeing the potential for creating “further terrorism” if a strike were to go wrong.
“At a legal and moral level do we really want to be involved in operations which are frankly illegal under international law. In countries where we’re not at war, such as Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen, these are simply assassinations.”
“We won’t like it very much when it’s done back to us I suspect.”
Base also a likely target for nuclear missiles Professor Tanter said the site continued to be a “pretty high priority nuclear missile target” in the event of a major conflict between the United States and Russia or China.
“It would be, as they say in the military, a lucrative target of many benefits,” Professor Tanter said . “Secondly it is itself involved in nuclear war planning. I think that’s a totally awful thing for us to contemplate — you can’t use nuclear weapons except in a fairly genocidal way.”The Defence Department said that “the facility makes an important contribution to national security.”
A spokesperson said: “It provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments. “It also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements, and provides ballistic missile early warning information.”
Fracking moratorium takes effect in NT, Chief Minister Michael Gunner says, By Avani Dias A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, begins today, with Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announcing the move at an oil and gas summit in Darwin.
“I announce that the Government will as of today implement this election commitment to introduce a moratorium of hydraulic fracturing of the Territory’s unconventional gas resources,” Mr Gunner told the South East Asia Australia Offshore and Onshore Conference…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-14/nt-government-introduces-fracking-moratorium/7843502
ERA, controlled by Rio Tinto, stopped mining new ore in 2012. Since then, it has been extracting ore – totalling about 2000 tonnes a year – from tailings at a rate that leaves 999 tonnes of waste for every uranium tonne produced.
Under federal statutes, the millions of tonnes of waste rock and billions of litres of water must be stored so “radiological material is separated from the environment for 10,000 years”, Mr O’Brien said.
“All that contaminated matter … all the buildings, the mill, the power plant, all the machinery, all the trucks – everything – has to be put into pits.”
Lone Ranger: Kakadu uranium miner faces fewer safety checks, The Age, Peter Hannam, 30 Aug 16 The controversial Ranger uranium mine in the Top End has had its independent government oversight depleted just years before its closure in a move the local Aboriginal organisation describes as “absurd”.
Since December, the Supervising Scientist Branch – the agency under the federal environment department enforcing standards at the giant mine – has halted atmospheric testing of radon and other radioactive dust from the project owned by Energy Resources of Australia.
Neither has the SSB’s environmental research institute – known as ERISS – tested a range of foods including fish and wallaby eaten by the nearby traditional owners, the Mirarr people, since 2011, according to one insider. Continue reading
Energy Resources of Australia slashes asset values, The Age, Brian Robins 30 Aug 16 Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia has been forced to slash the value of its assets by $161 million, almost equal to the company’s remaining sharemarket value.
With its controversial Ranger mine, which is surrounded by the Kakadu National Park, scheduled to close within five years, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) had questioned the way ERA valued its assets in its December 31, 2015 financial report.
The miner had now conceded that the value at which it carried the Ranger mine assets in its books “exceeded fair value”, ASIC said in a statement on Tuesday.
ERA pointed to weakness in the uranium oxide price at a time when the mine had only a five-year life left, without an extension of its authority to mine, as reasons for booking the impairment.
The write-down compares with ERA’s sharemarket worth of just $173 million, which signals deep-seated investor pessimism over its prospects in light of the traditional land owners’ opposition to extending the operation of the mine.
In the June half, ERA lost $35.2 million, which blew out to $196.5 million following the write-down. Revenue slipped to $170.5 million from $185.8 million due to the weak uranium price……..
ASIC had queried the company’s use of a single discount rate when valuing its assets. ERA has agreed to use different valuation techniques for the mining and rehabilitation of the site, for example.
ERA’s biggest single asset is its accumulated losses, which now total $822.8 million and tower over the value of its dwindling equity of $273.4 million.
Timber Creek Aboriginal custodians win historic $3.3 million payout for native title rights loss, ABC News, By Avani Dias and Jessicah Mendes 25 Aug 16 “………Extinguishment principle ‘hard to accept’
In a separate decision, the Federal Court has partially recognised the rights of the Mirarr people to one of the longest-running native title claims in the Territory.
The court has recognised the Mirarr’s rights over sections of the township of Jabiru that have been subleased to government entities. But those rights only apply if and when the leases expire — a move described as the “suppression” of native title.
The ruling also rejected or ‘extinguished’ the Mirarr’s rights over areas of the town subleased to private companies such as Energy Resources Australia — the operators of the Ranger uranium mine.
Mr Morrison said the case had been a complicated one.
“I think it was a very difficult case but I think it also sets an important precedent to partially recognise, through suppression, native title in parts of Jabiru,” he said.
But he said the concept of a native title claim being rejected or “extinguished” could be very difficult for Aboriginal people to accept.
“Aboriginal people right around the country have said it’s an abhorrent feature of the Native Title Act, this extinguishment principle.”http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-24/timber-creek-custodians-payout-for-native-titles-rights-loss/7779532
Timber Creek Aboriginal custodians win historic $3.3 million payout for native title rights loss, ABC News, By Avani Dias and Jessicah Mendes 25 Aug 16 More than 20 years after the landmark Mabo decision, the Federal Court has for the first time determined how to award compensation to traditional owners who have lost their native title rights.
- First time court has quantified loss of cultural attachment to land
- Decision expected to trigger new cases
- NLC ‘very happy’ with outcome of decision
Aboriginal custodians of Timber Creek, 600km south-west of Darwin, have been awarded $3.3 million in compensation for the loss of their native title rights. Continue reading