WA uranium mines: Race for environmental ticks in Goldfields before WA election, conservationists say http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-14/wa-uranium-mine-approvals-race-ahead-of-wa-election-cc-says/7931254 By David Weber, 14 Oct 16, Proponents of uranium mines in Western Australia are racing to gain environmental approvals ahead of the state election, in case Labor wins, according to the Conservation Council.
Three projects in the Goldfields are at various stages of assessment.
They include Vimy Resources’ proposed mine at Mulga Rock, Toro Energy’s proposal to mine near Wiluna, and Cameco’s nearby Yeelirrie project.
The Council’s anti-nuclear campaigner, Mia Pepper, said companies were seeking security for the projects. “Certainly we are getting the sense that [for] the three uranium projects that’re under assessment … they’re clearly seeking some level of approval before the state election,” she said.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended conditional approval for Toro Energy’s proposal, 30 kilometres south of Wiluna.
Cameco’s project at Yeelirrie, 70 kilometres south-west of the town, was knocked back after the EPA said there was too much risk to the subterranean fauna. However the EPA in August recommended the green light for Vimy’s project at Mulga Rock, 260 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, and preliminary site works have been given the go-ahead.
Approvals could lead to ‘pressure’ on Labor Ms Pepper has met the EPA appeals convenor expressing concern about Mulga Rock. She said if a project cleared certain hurdles, it would be harder to wind it back. “An environmental approval is just one layer of approval that a uranium project requires,” she said.
“[It] is a long way from final approval, so it doesn’t lock in Labor to any of these projects, but … there would be seen to be that kind of pressure.
“It’s a political issue, it’s a very contentious issue and certainly the companies are doing everything they can.”
Even after a positive EPA assessment, uranium projects still required state and federal ministerial backing as well as other approvals and licences.
Cameco’s open cut mine at Kintyre, 270 kilometres north-east of Newman, has gone as far as gaining conditional approval from the Federal Government last year. Labor’s stated policy suggests mines that have been granted final state approval for construction will be permitted to operate and export in the same manner as other mining ventures.
Trading solar power: Retirees test way to beat shrinking feed-in tariffs http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-08/trading-solar-power:-retirees-‘plan-for-the-future’/7914736?section=environment By Kathryn Diss Retirees in the West Australian town of Busselton are trialling a new system which allows them to sell excess energy they have generated from their solar panels direct to their neighbours.
The system bypasses the state’s energy utility Synergy, saving consumers money and increasing returns for solar adopters. Continue reading
Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound, Reuters, 7 OCT 16 LONDON “……..BULGING INVENTORIES Mining executives partly blame the slump on their customers’ wait-and-see attitude, as utilities believe that the uranium market’s over-capacity will persist for years and see no need to rebuild their dwindling stockpiles.
Demand for uranium is determined by the number of nuclear plants in operation worldwide, but supply and demand are disjointed by huge stocks and uranium’s long production cycle……..
In the five years before Fukushima, utilities worldwide bought about 200 million pounds of uranium per year, he said. Although Japan’s consumption averaged only around 25 million pounds per year, when it closed its reactors demand was cut far further, falling by half. European and U.S. utilities saw that the market was over-supplied and reduced inventories, buying less.
Mining firm Energy Fuels estimates global uranium stocks held by utilities, miners and governments are now at around 1 billion pounds. That is down from a peak around 2.5 billion pounds in 1990, but still many years’ worth of consumption.
Despite the plunge in uranium prices after the 2008 financial crisis and again after Fukushima, uranium production has doubled from 80-90 million pounds in the mid-1990s to about 160 million pounds last year, according to Energy Fuels data……
With so much new supply, and demand sliding, prices have fallen to a level where most uranium miners operate at a loss.
“At today’s spot prices, the primary uranium mining industry is not sustainable,” US uranium producer Energy Fuels COO Mark Chalmers told the World Nuclear Association’s London conference last month.
He added that many legacy long-term supply contracts will expire in 2017-18, which will force many mines to close or throttle back even further than they already have.
Miners like Canada’s Cameco, France’s Areva and the uranium arms of global mining companies have closed or mothballed several mines and deferred new projects in order to cut back supply.
Paladin – the world’s second-largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth-largest globally – has production capacity of 8 million pounds of yellowcake uranium but produced just 4.9 million pounds last year at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.
Molyneux said the firm will produce about 4 million pounds this year and will cut output further to about 3.5 million pounds next year if prices do not recover.
Paladin suspended production at its 2.3 million pounds per year capacity Kayelekera mine in northern Malawi in 2014 but maintains equipment so it can resume when prices recover.
Meanwhile it is trying to further reduce its debt, which already fell from $1.2 billion five years ago to $362 million.
Paladin has agreed to sell 24 pct of Langer Heinrich to the China National Nuclear Company and plans to use the expected proceeds of 175 million dollars to further reduce debt.
Bigger peer Cameco in April suspended production at its Rabbit Lake, Canada mine while also curtailing output across its U.S. operations, saying market conditions could not support the operating and capital costs needed to sustain production.
Cameco marketing head Tim Gabruch told the WNA conference that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.
Supply adjustments and producer discipline had not yet been sufficient to counter the loss of demand, he said.”As difficult as those decisions have been, we recognize that those actions may not be enough.”(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Peter Graff) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uranium-nuclearpower-idUSKCN1230EF
Carnegie Wave Energy up on Sri Lankan agreement https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/32773367/carnegie-wave-energy-up-on-sri-lankan-agreement/#page1 – on September 30, 2016
The wave energy firm will work with Lanka Energy Conservation to identify opportunities and development pathways for its technology on the island nation.
Specifically the two companies will examine opportunities to enable CETO wave farms to be integrated into the existing or new power infrastructure to supply clean power and freshwater.
Carnegie’s chief operating officer Greg Allen said the company had made significant progress in its entry into the “small island” market this year.
“The signing of this MOU provides us with another opportunity to provide services to explore the possibility of incorporating CETO, along with microgrid solutions, to enable high penetration of renewable energy, displacing imported diesel,” he said.
Mr Allen said island nations were assessing clean, cost effective, alternative energy solutions to remove their reliance on electricity generated using imported fossil fuels.
“These imported fossil fuels come at a high cost, do not provide energy security and have a significant environmental footprint,” he said.
“Carnegie presents an effective clean energy alternative that can provide a solution for island and fringe of grid communities globally.” Lanka Energy Conservation chairman and managing director Dammica Wickramaratne said Sri Lanka showed good potential for wave, solar and wind energy power.
WA firm’s world first wave/solar power grid https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/32755148/wa-power-firm-to-integrate-solar-wave-and-batteries/#page1 – on September 29, 2016,
The new features will be integrated with Carnegie’s CETO 6 wave technology which uses wave action to drive turbines and create electricity.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will kick in $2.5 million and construction will start by the end of the year.
The company is aiming to start commissioning in the first half of next year. “The Garden Island Microgrid Project will be the first time anywhere in the world that wave energy will be combined with solar and batteries in a microgrid configuration,” Carnegie’s managing director and chief executive Michael Ottaviano said.
“The demonstration of this microgrid project will help drive the commercialisation of CETO and will be a model we will roll out to island nations around the world.
“Island nations are desperate for an energy innovation to replace their current reliance on electricity generated using imported fossil fuels, which is extremely expensive and has a large environmental footprint.
“Now Carnegie presents an effective green alternative, with the GIMG project acting as a template for remote island and grid communities globally.”
Carnegie’s CETO technology is different from other wave energy devices as it operates under water.
http://www.robinchapple.com/crisis-confidence-over-epa-uranium-mine-push 27 September
WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Robin Chapple MLC have today questioned the EPA’s approval for preparatory works at the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, which is yet to be approved and currently subject to an appeal.
“Today’s approval for preparatory works at Mulga Rocks exposes the sham of the assessment and appeals process; the EPAs decision today is at odds with the intention of the Environmental Protection Act 1986,” Mr Chapple said.
“There has been serious public backlash against the project reflected in numerous appeals being lodged against the project, including from Traditional Owners and people in the local community.
“There is a race on in WA to get uranium mines approved before the State election. This ambition is ridiculous given the widespread opposition to the industry and the market conditions which are prohibitive to new mines.”
“World-wide we’re seeing uranium mines close and others put in to care and maintenance. Vimy Resources may have some political influence and big benefactors like Andrew Forrest, but none of these things will make this mine profitable or socially acceptable,” Senator Ludlam said.
“The EPA’s response to Vimy’s aggressive approach to starting this mine is not just a demonstration of a poor and non-transparent process, it is a slap in the face for the public and local community that have engaged in good faith in a process which is in essence a fait accompli.
“While the process is broken, the resolve of communities to fight this project is very much alive and well.”
Why mine lithium?
Lithium is essential for wind turbines, as well as for so many 21st Century technologies. However, it is another potentially toxic extractive industry. There’s so much of it dumped in discarded devices. Design should be the answer, so that lithium can be recycled.
MinRes beats Galaxy in lithium export race Jarrod Lucas – The West Australian on September 16, 2016 The first shipment of spodumene concentrate from the Mt Marion mine, 40km south-west of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, is set to depart Fremantle next month bound for lithium processing plants in China.
The product, the equivalent of about 6 per cent lithium, will be delivered to Mt Marion co-owners Ganfeng Lithium (43.1 per cent), which builds batteries out of Jiangxi province and recently branched out into manufacturing electric cars.
Mt Marion, jointly owned by Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources (43.1 per cent), and Neometals (13.8 per cent), will beat Galaxy Resources to market after its first shipment via Esperance from the revamped Mt Cattlin mine near Ravensthorpe was delayed until December.
It comes as Mt Marion’s neighbours Maximus Resources yesterday trumpeted a “new lithium discovery” on the doorstep of the mine……..https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/32629967/lithium-set-for-export/#page1
Appeal against WA Mulga Rock uranium mine Sky News, Tuesday, 30 August 2016 An appeal has been lodged against the Environmental Protection Authority’s recommendation to approve the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields region.
The appeal was lodged on Monday by the Conservation Council of WA, the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Friends of the Earth Australia and the Anti Nuclear Alliance of WA.
The grounds for appeal include environmental factors for flora and fauna, mine closure, tailings management and impacts to water……
Following the EPA’s recommendation with 14 conditions, including having environmental and Aboriginal heritage management plans in place, it is now up to state and federal environment ministers to decide if the project will go ahead.
But CCWA campaigner Mia Pepper says the proposed mine sits in the Yellow Sand Plain Priority Community, which supports rare and endangered species.
‘If this mine were to proceed it would take 15 million litres of water a day from the environment and clear over 3000 hectares of native bushland and important habitat for 93 reptile species, 28 bird species and 10 mammal/marsupial species,’ she said.
‘This uranium mine would leave behind a legacy of 30 million tonnes of radioactive tailings and mine waste that would pose a threat to the environment for thousands of years.’
Earlier this month, the EPA rejected Cameco’s plan to mine uranium at its Yeelirrie project, 70km southeast of Wiluna, because the project posed unacceptable risks to subterranean fauna. – See more at:http://www.skynews.com.au/business/business/company/2016/08/30/appeal-against-wa-mulga-rock-uranium-mine.html#sthash.qqOmAFyx.dpuf
Indigenous people living in the area have a bad history with uranium developments. It’s a few hundred kilometres from Cundalee, the mission where Spinifex people from the Great Victoria Desert were placed after being pushed off their traditional lands by the British government’s nuclear testing program in Maralinga, South Australia, in the 1950s and 60s
Pilanguru people to fight on as uranium mine gets environmental approval
Traditional owners say the Indigenous community has not been adequately consulted about Vimy Resources’ planned Mulga Rock open-pit mine, Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 15 Aug 16, Traditional owners have vowed to fight a proposed uranium mine at Mulga Rock, about 240km west of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, which was given conditional environmental approval on Monday.
The Environmental Protection Authority of WA recommended the Barnett government approve construction of the open-pit mine and uranium processing plant, operated by Perth-based Vimy Resources Limited, after a three-month public environmental review. Continue reading
The winning argument against the mine A joint submission was provided to the Yeelirrie Public Environment Review by the Conservation Council of WA, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth Australia, The Wilderness Society, the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, the West Australia Nuclear Free
Alliance and the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance.
Amongst other points, they called for the project to be rejected “on the grounds that the Yeelirrie Subterranean Community, a Priority 1 Ecological Community (PEC) comprises a series of highly endemic, diverse stygofauna and troglofauna species within multiple calcrete habitats). The impacts of the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, predominantly the associated groundwater drawdown, pose an unacceptable risk that could see a number of subterranean species become extinct (particularly 15 species that are currently only known from the direct impact zone).”
The EPA decision was based on the impacts on subterranean fauna, and disregarded other points made in the submission.
The Wongutha Traditional Owners have been fighting this project for over 40 years.
WA EPA rejects proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, Online Opinion, By Mara Bonacci – posted Tuesday, 16 August 2016 After nearly 3,000 people lodged submissions with the Western Australian EPA in opposition to the proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie, on August 3 the EPA recommended that the project be rejected. Traditional Owners and environmentalists welcomed the decision, but remain wary……. Continue reading
Vimy Resources uranium mine east of Kalgoorlie given environmental approval, ABC News, By Laura Gartry , 16 Aug 16, A new uranium mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields has been recommended for approval by the state’s environmental watchdog, just weeks after a similar proposal in the area was knocked back.
The Environmental Protection Authority [EPA] granted the approval for Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rock uranium project, which is 240 kilometres east-north-east of Kalgoorlie, subject to a range of conditions.
Final approval is still required from both the state and federal environment ministers…….
Earlier this month, the EPA rejected Cameco Australia’s Yeelirrie uranium project after it deemed there was too much risk to the area’s subterranean fauna.
The Canadian company had sought to mine up to 7,500 tonnes of UOC per year from the Yeelirrie deposit, about 420 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and 70 kilometres south-west of Wiluna.
The proposal had attracted protests, including from traditional owner and chair of WA nuclear free alliance Kado Muir, who argued there was no broad community support for uranium mining in WA…….
More than 1,000 submissions were received during the 12-week public review period…….
Two other WA uranium projects have received EPA and ministerial approval in recent years, including the Wiluna uranium mine and the Kintyre uranium project, 270 kilometres north east of Newman.
The Conservation Council of WA said it would appeal the proposed mine because it threatened a pristine environmentally and culturally-significant area.……
Vimy Resources faces many hurdles and road blocks and today’s EPA recommendation is a long way from a green light for mining yellow cake at Mulga Rock,” Council campaigner Mia Pepper said.
Pila Nguru Aboriginal Corporation chair Bruce Hogan said the site was culturally significant. “We don’t want that mine to go ahead. We will fight against that mine at Mulga Rock,” Mr Hogan said.
Spinifex Pilki elder Sandra Evans said traditional owners from the Great Victoria Desert area were not consulted properly. “There are a lot of women’s sites there – they didn’t come to talk to the tribal women from there about clearing the grass trees and other special places,” she said.
“Uranium is different to other minerals – it’s dangerous. If it leaves our country and goes somewhere else – that’s still our responsibility, we worry about that.”
The EPA’s report is open for a two-week public appeal period.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-15/epa-approves-uranium-mine-near-kalgoorlie/7734798
WA EPA rejects proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, Online Opinion, By Mara Bonacci – posted Tuesday, 16 August 2016 “…….Yeelirrie is located 420 km north of Kalgoorlie in the mid-west region of WA, the land of the Wongutha people. Yeelirrie is the name of a local sheep station and, in the local Aboriginal language, means “place of death”.
In 1973 Western Mining Corporation (WMC) found a uranium deposit there. The Yeelirrie Mine Proposal was submitted to the WA Department of Conservation and Environment in 1979. The proposal was for the development of an open cut mine, ore treatment plant, town and ancillary services and 850 employees. Environmental approval was given by both state and federal governments.
Trial mines were dug in the 1980s, which found the first large scale calcrete orebody in the world. It is estimated that around 195 tonnes of yellowcake were mined in these trials. WMC spent $35 million preparing to develop the mine until the 1983 federal election and subsequent implementation of the ALPs “three mines policy” in 1984, limiting Australia’s number of uranium mines to three.
In 2005, the mine was acquired from WMC by BHP Billiton, who concluded one stage of exploration mining. Then in 2012, Canadian mining company Cameco bought the deposit from BHP for $430 million….
Cameco’s Yeelirrie mine proposal includes:
- A 9 km long, 1.5 km wide and 10 m deep open pit mine
- 14 million tonnes of overburden
- Using 8.7 million litres of water a day
- Producing 7,500 tonnes per year of uranium (10 percent of annual world demand)
- To be transported by four road trains a week
- It would produce 126,000 tonnes per year of CO2 emissions
- 36 million tonnes of tailings stored in the open pit2,421 hectares would be cleared
- 22 years of operation
- Highly variable work force – average of 300………http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18451&page=1
Environment groups and Traditional Owners have vowed to fight the proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine, 260 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, despite today’s recommendation by the state EPA that the Environment Minister approve the mine.
Environment groups and Traditional Owners said the mine threatened the pristine environmentally and culturally significant area.
Bruce Hogan from the Council of Tribal Elders and Chair of Pilanguru Native Title Group said “We use to go out there with our Elders. We can’t see how this mine could go ahead. The seven sister’s tjukupa (dreaming) goes through there and the two wadis (lore men) went through that area too. The elders use to take us there for cultural practice, they would leave us there for a few days and then come back to pick us up. We don’t want that mine to go ahead. We will fight against that mine at Mulga Rock.”
Conservation Council Nuclear Free Campaigner Mia Pepper said “Conservation groups will be lodging an official appeal against this recommendation by the EPA.
“The Mulga Rock uranium proposal is unsafe and unwanted. The company has continually dismissed the cultural values and importance of the area and has failed to properly consult with Traditional Owners.”
“The Mulga Rock area is a rare and significant environment and part of the Yellow Sandplain Priority Ecological Community. The planned mine threatens a number of rare and endangered species. Taking this unique and pristine desert ecosystem and turning it into a polluted, radioactive uranium mine is not a proposal that should ever be entertained” Ms Pepper concluded.
“The planned mine does not enjoy bi-partisan state political support, broad social license or favourable market conditions,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Vimy Resources faces many hurdles and roadblocks. Today’s EPA recommendation is a long way from a green light for mining yellow cake at Mulga Rock.”
Native title win in WA’s remote desert https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/32304974/native-title-win-in-was-remote-desert/#page1 AAP on August 11, 2016,
A native title claim for a 20,000sq km area in a remote part of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia has been won by the Ngurra Kayanta people.
They first applied for native title over the land, which straddles the Shire of East Pilbara and the Shire of Halls Creek, in December 2012.
Federal Court of Australia Justice Michael Barker said none of the claimants now lived permanently in the area but continued to adhere to traditional laws and customs by visiting and maintaining a physical association with the country, and passing on traditional songs, stories and knowledge of sites to children and grandchildren.
“The claimants have maintained a presence in the determination area since the acquisition of British sovereignty,” Justice Barker said. “In addition, evidence of the continuing physical or spiritual involvement of the claimants in the determination area is accepted to conclude that this connection has not been severed.
“Ultimately, the state is satisfied that the material presented is sufficient to evidence the maintenance of connection according to traditional laws and customs.”
Solar could be game changer for rural communities going off the grid, ABC News By Kathryn Diss , 7 Aug 16 For decades, farmers in Western Australia’s south have put up with the most unreliable electricity supply in the state, now they are about to find out if they can live off-grid, surviving on solar power instead.
- Farmers in Western Australia are investigating using stand-alone solar power systems
- Solar battery technology is making this more easily achieved, and the State Government will pay for it
- Power-supply to south west WA has been unreliable, a problem in other regional areas
Ros and Bernie Giles are part of a handful of farming families giving the technology a crack after living through years of frustration at their farm in West River, 500 kilometres south of Perth.
“Summer is our worst time, we seem to have more fluctuations then,” Ms Giles said……
Power problems span farmland across nation
WA’s south west grid spans more than 250,000 square kilometres, an area the size of the United Kingdom, yet it only services a 50th of the population, making it unreliable and expensive to maintain.
But the power problems faced by the people of West River are hardly unique.
Matthew Warren heads up the Australian Energy Council, which formed earlier this year to respond to the world’s rapidly changing energy market.
He said most edge-of-grid communities around the nation suffered the same problems……….
Renewable energy reaches tipping point
The move by WA’s Liberal-National Government to invest in the technology is seen as a step towards a greener future.
It is not just environmental goals driving the innovation but the financial realities of providing an expensive poles and wires network versus the improving economics of renewables……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-06/solar-could-be-game-changer-for-rural-communities-on-grid-edge/7681398