Australian news, and some related international items

Scott Morrison gives a boost to uranium mining at Olympic Dam

Poor old BHP. My  heart bleeds!     The so-called “Big Australian”  (about 70% owned by overseas interests), is so poor that it’s had to get exemptions from just about every regulation that matters.  The SA Roxby Downs Indenture Act legislation allows the mine to operate with wide-ranging exemptions from the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Act, the Environment Protection Act, the Natural Resources Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.   There are constant problems with tailings such as ongoing seepage and large numbers of bird deaths.  

Probably  worst of all,  BHP plans to increase extraction of precious Great Artesian Basin water to an average 50 million litres per day for the next 25 years, with likely serious adverse impacts on the unique and fragile Mound Springs ‒ which are listed as an Endangered Ecological Community and are of significant cultural importance to Aboriginal people.

BHP plans to  to increase extraction of Great Artesian Basin fossil water “up to total maximum 50 million litres a day annual average” (above the volumes last assessed in 1997 and set at a max of 42 Ml/day) and give BHP rights to take GAB water – potentially up to 2070
Mining industries are becoming increasingly mechanised and automated.  If Scott Morrison were serious about promoting jobs, he’d be giving support to the service industries. But then, that would mean more jobs for women, and of course, Australia needs more “real’ jobs, blokey jobs

Olympic Dam expansion on fast track,e InDaily, 15 June 20

The Olympic Dam expansion is being fast-tracked as part of a Federal Government plan to boost employment and reduce the length and severity of the coronavirus-induced recession.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to today announce $1.5 billion to immediately start work on priority projects identified by the states and territories…….

BHP is proposing for a staged increase in copper production at Olympic Dam from 200,000 to up to 350,000 tonnes per annum.

The expansion has been granted Major Development status by the state government  ….

June 16, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Olympic Dam, politics | Leave a comment

BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine: tailings dump to larger than Adelaide and up to 30 metres high

David Noonan shared a link. No Nuclear Waste Dump Anywhere in South Australia    June 22 19
BHP Olympic Dam Tailings dump to be larger than the CBD of Adelaide AND to be up to 30 metres high at the centre of the tailings pile – around the height of a 10 story building.
All BHP Olympic Dam radioactive toxic mine tailings waste must be isolated from the environment for over 10,000 years…
Please consider making a submission to the federal government who are inviting comments on the BHP Olympic Dam Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) 6 project – but only up to cob Friday 28th June, with no extensions (scroll down for info). Tell the fed’s they must not just approve this TSF 6 on the basis of the vested interest BHP Referral documents.
Key Recommendations are provided along with two Briefing papers prepared for Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) and available on-line:
“BHP seek a Toxic Tailings Expansion without a full Safety Risk Assessment” (DN, June 2019, 3 pages)
“Migratory Birds at Risk of Mortality if BHP continues use of Evaporation Ponds” (DN, June 2019, 3 pages)
A set of Key Recommendations on these issues to put to the federal government:
1. The Olympic Dam operation be assessed in its entirety with the full range of project impacts subject to public consultation
Given that uranium mining at Olympic Dam is a controlled “nuclear action” and Matter of National Environmental Significance (NES) under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the integrity of environmental protection requires that the entire Olympic Dam operation be subject to impact assessment so that regulatory conditions can be applied “to consider impacts on the whole environment”. Continue reading

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

BHP’s grand plans for Olympic Dam uranium mine, using old legislation for open slather on water, Aboriginal rights, environment

Initial Scoping – Olympic Dam Expansion Issues 22 Feb 2019 David Noonan B.Sc., M.Env.St., Independent Environment Campaigner The BHP Roxby ‘Major Project’ Copper & Uranium Mining Proposal: ‘Olympic Dreams: Major step for $3 billion, 1800-job North mine expansion’ (15 Feb, p.1 promo The Advertiser) as SA Gov. grant’s “Major Project” status to assess BHP’s latest expansion plan, to:

  • Increase copper production from 200,000 tonnes per annum to 350 000 tpa, with an increase in ‘associated products’ – uranium oxide: from 4 000 to approx. 6 000 tpa;
  •   Use the outdated 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Ratification Act to control this EIS assessment under the Mining Minister, with the Indenture over-riding other SA legislation and subjecting Aboriginal Heritage to a constrained version of a 1979 Act across BHP Olympic Dam operations in the Stuart Shelf Area (covering 1 per cent of SA) – rather than the contemporary standards, process and protections in the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988;
  • Use a since replaced 1993 Development Act and “Major Project” status Sec. 46 (1) that excludes Appeals regarding the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) process and outcomes;
  • Use a ‘one stop shop’ Bilateral Assessment Agreement leaving the SA Gov. to conduct the assessment, including on Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES)under the Commonwealth Environment Protection legislation (EPBC Act 1999), on nuclear actions and on the fragile Mound Springs Endangered Ecological Community – reliant on GAB waters;
  • Use the SA Gov. Declaration to “Exclude” existing mining and “enabling activities” up to 200 000 tpa Cu & associated products and resultant impacts from this EIS assessment, “such as: waste treatment, storage and disposal, including but not limited to, Tailings Storage Facility 6, Evaporation Pond 6, additional cells for the contaminated waste disposal facility, and development of a low-level radioactive waste storage facility”;
  • And to increase extraction of Great Artesian Basin fossil water “up to total maximum 50 million litres a day annual average” (above the volumes last assessed in 1997 and set at a max of 42 Ml/day) and give BHP rights to take GAB water – potentially up to 2070, with “any augmented or new water supply pipeline from the GAB along with any other wellfield”;…… ……. .

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Desert Liberation Front to rally outside Olympic Dam

protest-2Anti-uranium protesters Desert Liberation Front to rally outside Olympic Dam again March 28, 2016 ANTI-URANIUM protesters who want to shut down the Olympic Dam site are planning a “party at the gates of hell”, four years after a similar event forced police to send 500-plus officers to monitor the dangerous situation.

The Desert Liberation Front has issued an open invitation to artists, musicians, activists, community groups and media wanting to attend the protest festival to be held from July 1-3.

Under the banner “The Lizard Bites Back” the group is encouraging people to learn moves to a Zombie Lizard Flash Mob dance for its “party at the gates of hell” outside the BHP Billiton site.

Hundreds of police and protesters are expected to travel to Roxby Downs for the event, four years on from similar protests which police at the time estimated had cost the state $1 million.

During the 2012 protest more than 500 police — including STAR Group and mounted officers — worked around the clock for more than a week to monitor protesters.

Eighteen people were arrested for offences varying from loitering to resisting arrest.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Olympic Dam, opposition to nuclear, South Australia | 1 Comment

Help BHP by making South Australia the world’s radioactive trash dump!

John Read: By storing more radioactive waste at Olympic Dam, the BHPB-Olympic-Smstruggling mine may remain profitable  Adelaide Now,11 Feb 14….

For the last quarter of a century, WMC then BHP have picked the eyes out of the deposit, mining the richest, most accessible areas through expensive underground mining. Both companies have left staff, investors and governments in no doubt that underground mining is becoming increasingly unprofitable.

However, following an exhaustive study spanning over half a decade, BHP came to the conclusion that the mighty proposed open-cut expansion, deemed essential to guarantee the longevity of the mine and the best use of the resource, was uneconomical .

Every month that the mine continues to exhaust the feasible underground resource without initiating the open cut is a month closer to a Ravensthorpe-type decision when BHP will pack up its bat and ball and leave town.

When BHP singled out the poor performance of Olympic Dam at its recent AGM, hot on the heels of the announcement of imminent closures of Ford and now Holden , the Prime Minister and SA Premier have been left considering the unimaginable: closure of one of their prime assets……

If we want Olympic Dam to survive we need to rationalise our collective views on the nuclear industry and our management of radioactive waste……….

Olympic Dam, producing 70 million tonnes of radioactive tailings each year.

We need to acknowledge that the 40 cubic metres of radioactive waste generated by hospitals, research labs and the manufacturing industry each year and held in over 100 inappropriate storages around the country, is a minute fraction of what is produced and managed every year at Olympic Dam.

We should accept that the Olympic Dam region of northern SA was identified by a comprehensive nationwide search as the optimal region for an Australian radioactive waste repository……

By storing the national radioactive waste within or next to the Olympic Dam tailings dams, the struggling mine may generate sufficient revenue to remain profitable.

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Olympic Dam, South Australia, wastes | 2 Comments

BHP talking about leaching methods for Olympic Dam uranium mine

 AUDIO  No guarantee for Olympic Dam mine expansion  ABC Radio P.M.   Nicola Gage reported this story  Sept 3 2012,  

MARK COLVIN: The head of BHP Billiton, Marius Kloppers, says he cannot guarantee that the company will redevelop the Olympic Dam mine in the future.

“……NICOLA GAGE: Mr Weatherill says he was informed on the different technologies BHP are looking into. That included new forms of conveyor belts, and the potential use of heap leach technology.

JAY WEATHERILL: Which has been investigated in laboratories and is, over a period of six years, has been scaled up to a certain size in terms of tests, but needs to be tested further to see whether it can be brought to scale and be used for full production.

NICOLA GAGE: Heap leach technology was flagged as an alternative extraction option in BHP’s original environmental impact statement in May 2009. The company already uses it in South America.

Professor Bill Skinner specialises in environmental surface science at the University of South Australia.

BILL SKINNER: There is a precedent for heap leaching technology in Australia, so it’s not exactly a unique process in Australia.

NICOLA GAGE: While it might be considered a new technology in the public arena, the process has been around for years. But Professor Skinner says difficulties with constancy made it expensive.

BILL SKINNER: In the last few years, quite a lot more has been learned about the process that goes on inside a heap leach, and how one treats the ore in order to make sure that one heap behaves very similar to another, and sort of keep reproducibility up, because after all, that reproducibility of the process governs the constant, if you like, valuable recovery from those heaps.

NICOLA GAGE: Questions have been raised about whether another environmental impact statement would be needed with any future expansion. Premier Jay Weatherill.

JAY WEATHERILL: Because we don’t know what the technology is, it’s, it becomes difficult for us to make an assessment about whether there is any additional environment risk. We know that there are some leaching technologies that are used in different parts of the state, but on the face of it, yes, they do raise environmental issues. So, of course, there’s the feasibility of the technology, but then there’s the environmental approvals that may go with that.

NICOLA GAGE: The company’s 15,000-page environmental impact statement expires in 2016. …

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Olympic Dam, South Australia, technology, uranium | Leave a comment

Australia has been warned of the earthquake danger to Olympic Dam uranium mine

SEISMIC EXPERT: “MAGNITUDE 7 EARTHQUAKE RISK OBSCURED AT OLYMPIC DAM URANIUM MINE”, Coober Pedy Regional Times, 31 May 2010 “Was the Clark Shaft accident at the Olympic Dam mine preceded by a seismic event?”

A geophysicist who investigated earthquakes for the US Geological Survey for 22 years, says that the connection between mining and seismicity [earthquakes] is obscured in Australia, particularly the seismic hazard of the Olympic Dam mine.

In a communication [Memo] sent to various federal and state government ministers [and others] on Tuesday 22 May 2010, Seismologist Edward Cranswick discusses the 35-km-long, steeply dipping Mashers Fault which passes through the middle of the Olympic Dam ore body.  A fault length which implies an earthquake of maximum about 7.

The same memo is available as a PDF

BHP Billiton has proposed to dig the largest open-pit mine on the Earth at Olympic Dam, 4.1 km long, 3.5 km wide, 1 km deep. As a geophysicist who investigated earthquakes for the US Geological Survey for 22 years [1], I strongly criticised BHP’s Olympic Dam Expansion Draft Environmental Impact Statement 2009 (ODXdEIS) [2] because it omitted consideration of seismicity, i.e., rockbursts or earthquakes, caused by open-pit mining, despite the fact that seismic hazard is well-known in the Australian mining industry …..

Traditionally, underground mines are deeper, and therefore, more seismically hazardous than shallow open pits, but the proposed pit at Olympic Dam will be as deep as the underground mine it replaces. Based on the dimensions of the open-pit, the results of McGarr et al. (2002) [19] suggest an earthquake of maximum magnitude 4-6 could occur.

The 35-km-long, steeply dipping Mashers Fault passes through the middle of the Olympic Dam ore body that is to be mined – that fault length implies an earthquake of maximum magnitude about 7…….

It is absurd – irrational, unscrupulously & tragically dishonest and unprofessional – that the ODXdEIS for the proposed largest open-pit mine on Earth does not address the principal hazard to digging that mine, triggered/induced seismicity and rockbursts……

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Olympic Dam, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

BHP won’t pay a cent of Mineral Resources Rent Tax from Olympic Dam uranium mine profits

March 16, 2012 With copper, uranium, gold and silver not covered by the Mineral Resources Rent Tax, profits from biggest hole in the ground ever dug on the face of this planet, the Olympic Dam mine, will be excluded the Greens said.Greens Senator forSouth Australia, Senator Penny Wright, told the Senate last night, that while the tax was a first step towards more efficient taxation of the benefits of the mining boom, not a single cent derived from the Minerals Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) would come from the Olympic Dam mine.

“Olympic Dam is one of our largest mines and is expected to raise billions of dollars of profits from the copper, uranium, gold and silver mined there – yet not one of these minerals will be included in the MRRT,” Senator Wright said.

“The owners of this massive hole, BHP Billiton, are smiling all the way to the bank.   Their deal with the South Australian Government locks in pitifully low royalty rates for 45 years, with no guarantees of one extra job in the state, and the government footing the bill for infrastructure.  And Australians will not receive a cent from the mine under the MRRT.

“The net economic return toSouth Australiain years 10-20 of the project could be as low as $10m per year and that is even before millions are given back to BHP Billiton through federal subsidies like the diesel fuel rebate.

“But the real losers of this deal are our children and grandchildren – we are giving their resources away for a pittance while at the same time leaving them to deal with the enormous toxic legacy of managing the world’s largest radioactive waste dump.

“The Greens will ultimately support this tax, because in this case, something is better than nothing. But there is no doubt that this taxation regime needs to be strengthened so we can all get a fair return for our shared mineral wealth and invest it in things that will benefit all Australians like Denticare, the NDIS and quality public education.”


March 16, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Olympic Dam, politics, uranium | | Leave a comment

Olympic Dam “Every word of the agreement favours BHP, not South Australians” – Liberal MP

Opposition industry spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith joined the criticism of the deal struck with BHP Billiton.  Mr Hamilton-Smith said, “Every word of the agreement favours BHP, not South Australians.”

Greens turn new Premier Jay Weatherill blue, The Advertiser, Sarah Martin , November 10, 2011   “……Mr Parnell agreed that the Greens did not support any expansion of uranium mining in Australia, and argued the mine could be viable without uranium exploration. Continue reading

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Uranium: Greens are asking some critical questions about BHP’s Roxby Downs Indenture Bill

Greens put forward 100 amendments to gridlock mine’s $525 million, by:Sarah Martin, The Advertiser,   November 09, 2011  Greens MLC Mark Parnell said his minority party was “not going to be cut short and stopped from asking the questions that need to be asked”, …. BHP says the revised Indenture Act needs to pass Parliament before the end of the year to trigger spending on preparatory work for the mine…. the Bill’s passage could be delayed until Parliament resumes in February next year…..




    Why did the Government lock in a royalty regime for 45 years, and why is it based exclusively on old-style production-based royalties, rather than one that captures a fair share of mining profits?


    How good an economic deal did SA receive when BHP CEO Marius Kloppers is claiming to his shareholders that the Olympic Dam Expansion will be low cost and highly profitable?


    How many South Australian jobs will be lost by not requiring BHP to process our ore here in South Australia rather than exporting it to China?


    Why is BHP exempt from over 20 South Australian laws that every other mining company in SA has to comply with?


    Why wasnt a No Uranium Roxby Expansion considered when we know it is not only technically feasible, it would also mean less water and energy use and more jobs as the processing would be done here in SA, rather than in China?


    Why isn’t there a plan to wean BHP off using 42ML/day of ancient water from the Great Artesian Basin, when they plan double that volume in excess capacity (80ML/day) from their desalination plant?


    Why is the Government prepared to risk the breeding grounds of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish by not requiring the company to build in a different location?


    How can the Government claim that they have met their public commitment for the expansion to meet worlds best environmental practice when only 4 per cent of the tailings dams will be lined and the dams are designed to leak up to 8 million litres of toxic radioactive waste liquid/day?


    Who will ultimately be responsible to manage the open pit, tailings dams and rock waste pile for the 10,000 years after the operations cease that the radioactive risk remains: the company or SA taxpayers, and how much will that management cost?


    Why isn’t the company committing to any investment in cleaner energy to meet their whopping 650 MW electricity demand beyond the 57MW commitment for powering the desal plant (less than 10 per cent of total demand) to reduce their enormous increase in the states greenhouse pollution of 12-15 per cent?


November 9, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Olympic Dam – A detailed submission to the Roxby Downs Indenture Bill committee

SUBMISSION TO THE SELECT COMMITTEE. NECTARIA CALAN, Friends of the Earth Adelaidc  /- Conservation Council of SA
Level 1, 157 Franklin Street, Adelaide SA 5000 Contact:, 26 October 2011

Re: Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) (Amendment of Indenture) Amendment Bill 2011

I ask the Committee to revisit the issue of consultation, in regards to the approval of the Olympic Dam
expansion as set out in Clause 11(3) which ratifies and approves the amendments to the Indenture. Continue reading

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Mike Rann sold South Australia short on Olympic Dam uranium mine

A case of Olympian incompetence by South Australia, THE AUSTRALIAN, BY:PAUL CLEARY ,October 21, 2011    THE royalty agreement negotiated by South Australia for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion has robbed the state’s citizens and all Australians of the opportunity to share in the profits of what will become the world’s biggest mine. (at left, Marius Kloppers CEO of BHP BIlliton, and Mike Rann, retiring Premier of South Australia.)

This deal is a monumental example of state government incompetence when it comes to acting as custodian of the nation’s mineral wealth.

South Australia has agreed to a regime based solely on percentages and even cents per tonne of the mine’s production. Mike Rann, who stands down today as Premier, has done South Australians a disservice that will cost them dearly for almost half a century. Continue reading

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, politics, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Hindrances in South Australian Parliament to BHP BIlliton’s plan for monster uranium mine

Greens call for inquiry into Olympic Dam expansion, SMH Peter KerOctober 18, 2011 APPROVAL for BHP Billiton’s massive Olympic Dam expansion may not proceed as quickly as the global miner would like, with minor parties in the South Australian parliament seeking to slow the process by attempting to force the company to front a parliamentary inquiry.

The indenture agreement struck by BHP and the SA Government for Olympic Dam will be introduced to the state’s parliament today or tomorrow, and must be approved by both chambers to have any legal power.

The Premier Mike Rann – who will retire on Friday – wants Parliament to approve the bill as soon as possible, and BHP has promised to start spending up to $US1.2 billion as soon as the bill secures passage through the Parliament.

But Mr Rann’s Labor Party does not control the upper house of Parliament, where a group of seven minor party MP’s have the balance of power. Two of those MPs represent the Greens Party, and Greens leader Mark Parnell said the agreement was so important to South Australia’s future it must be fully analysed by a select committee with powers to call and question BHP executives.

Mr Parnell said the delay should pose no problem given BHP does not expect to take a final investment decision until mid 2012. ”What is the point of the SA Parliament cutting corners and rushing this through when the company isn’t going to decide until the middle of next year anyway,” he said.

Mr Parnell wants to quiz BHP over why more processing of Olympic Dam’s copper, uranium and gold could not take place in Australia, as well as the environmental impacts. Despite the approvals process running over many years and through hundreds of pages of environmental impact statements, Mr Parnell said the public had never had a chance to publicly question BHP officials.

“It is time, as Parliament sets to sign off on the biggest deal in South Australia’s history, to finally get some straight answers on this enormous project,” he said.   :


October 18, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

With Diesel rebates, BHP’s Olympic Dam Royalties likely to return poorly to South Australian Government

 Mike Rann has claimed that the new open-pit mine will be his “economic legacy to the state.” However, a consideration of the financial return to BHP through diesel rebates alone indicates that this legacy may be somewhat overstated…

 BHP stands to gain $128 million per year in diesel rebates in the initial development period of the mine, $144 million per year in the intermediate stage, and $178 million per year at full production.

Public resources for private profit: free water for the largest open-pit mine in the world  Coober Pedy Regional Times, by: Nectaria Calan, 13 Oct 11,  “………With approval of the new mine announced on Monday, the next stage of the approval process is the negotiation of a new Indenture Act which will apply to the new mine. It is expected that the revised Act will be introduced into the South Australian parliament next week, given Mike Rann’s commitment to finalising the indenture agreement  before his retirement on October 20.

It is within the power of the South Australian government to negotiate a substantially different indenture agreement, or to repeal the Indenture Act completely.  Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | business, Olympic Dam, reference, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Deep mining might increase Australia’s earthquake risks

about every five years there’s a potentially devastating quake of magnitude 6.0 or more. 

some scientists have suggested that mining might have been to blame in that case [Earthquake in Newcastle 28 December 1989,] …..Some experts think this [ deep-core mining] might be enough to destabilise pre-existing faults in the Earth’s crust, and to trigger an earthquake. Certainly, human activity – like large dams being filled – has been linked to quakes overseas….

Earthquakes in Australia, AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC BY:EMMA YOUNG | OCTOBER-6-2011 Earthquakes don’t only occur near our neighbours Japan and New Zealand – they’re common in Australia too  “……..Australia doesn’t sit on the edge of a tectonic plate. However, the Indo-Australian plate, at the centre of which our continent lies, is being pushed to the north-east at about 7cm per year. It’s colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates, causing stress to build up in the 25km-thick upper crust. This build-up of pressure within the plate can cause earthquakes in Australia.

In fact, Australia has more quakes than other regions that sit in the middle of plates and are considered relatively stable, Continue reading

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Olympic Dam, safety, South Australia | , | Leave a comment