Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s over-exploited water supply – an issue being ignored

November 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Australia’s Environment Is The Enemy – Sussan Ley faithful to Scott Morrison’s priority

Sussan Ley’s environmental law circus, Independent Australia By Sue Arnold | 5 November 2019 Vulnerable species like the koala – and the environment in general – are the losers, while developers reign supreme in Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s environmental law “review”. Sue Arnold reports.

In July, Sussan Ley sent out a statement indicating that as Minister for the Environment, she would

… commence a ten-year statutory review of the [Environment Protection and Conservation] Act by October this year. And it is the right time to have a conversation about the best ways we can ensure strong environmental and biodiversity protection measures that encourage people to work together in supporting the environment.

All Australians will have a chance to share their ideas as part of the next statutory review of the EPBC Act, due to commence by October 2019.

Exactly why Ley waited another three months before commencing the review is unclear. In a follow-up press release, she announced that former competition regulator Professor Graeme Samuel would head the year-long review, ‘to tackle green tape and deliver greater certainty to business, farmers and conservation groups‘.

Missing from Ley’s pronouncements are key issues relevant to one of the most critical problems — self-referral by developers. Under the current scenario, a developer whose project is likely to destroy or severely impact koala habitat makes the decision whether or not to “refer“ the development to the Federal government as a matter of national environmental significance (MNES), under the provisions of the EPBC Act 1999.

As the koala is listed as “vulnerable” under the EPBC, the referral should never have been reduced to the responsibility of a developer — referral to the Federal government should have been made a mandatory requirement.

A referral is designated as a “controlled action” if the result of a scorecard available from the Government’s ‘EPBC Act referral guidelines for the vulnerable koala’ reaches a certain level. Then the project is assessed by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy and the minister makes the decision whether to approve the project. Documents relevant to the project are published on the EPBC referral list website and open to public comment — including environmental impact assessments paid for by the developer.

Once the project is approved, a “koala management plan” (KMP) must be provided by the developer before the project commences. However, this is where the proverbial hits the fan as there is no requirement for any public comment, nor any access to the plan.

One of the most important koala management plans has been on Sussan Ley’s desk since July. This is the Lendlease plan for southwest Sydney koalas at their Mt Gilead, now renamed “FigTree Hill” urban project for 1700 residences. This is a project mired in controversy and public outrage because of the risks to the largest expanding healthy koala colony in the Sydney Basin.

IA has been following up this issue with the only section of the Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE) that responds in a timely manner — the Communications and Engagement Branch Media (CEBM) team. ……….

The bottom line to this Monty Python circus is not only the Lendlease koala plan of management which is being withheld, but any developer who has self-referred has no requirement by the environment minister to publish the plan other than “on the developer’s website”.

Given that this would require a large staff to check the multiple developer projects impacting koala habitat throughout Queensland and New South Wales on a daily basis, a new definition of “mission impossible” arises.

Essentially, any koala management plan may be approved. There are no published standards or requirements — much less compliance or monitoring.

review by some of Australia’s leading ecologists sums up the catastrophic situation facing koala survival.

Some 85 per cent of land-based threatened species experienced habitat loss. The iconic koala was among the worst affected. More than 90 per cent of habitat loss was not referred or submitted for assessment, despite a requirement to do so under Commonwealth environment laws.

Our research indicates the legislation has comprehensively failed to safeguard Australia’s globally significant natural values, and must urgently be reformed and enforced.

Sussan Ley’s priorities in a review of the EPBC Act reflect those of the Prime Minister: the environment is the enemy. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/sussan-leys-environmental-law-circus,13279

November 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

A NATIONAL APPROACH TO A NATIONAL RIVER SYSTEM

Senator Rex Patrick   3 Nov 19, I’m sick and tired of the NSW Government threatening to pull out of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan every time they get upset about something happening on the river.

It’s been threatened at least 4 times since February 2018, when the Senate was debating whether or not to allow an extra 70GL of extraction from the Norther Basin (Centre Alliance voted against extra extraction).

NSW pulling out of the Basin Plan would not be in its own interests. There are a number of significant NSW river projects that are or will be funded by the Basin Plan, but won’t be if NSW were to pull out.

The Murray-Darling is a national river that needs to be managed accordingly. If NSW took its bat and ball home, there would be little choice but for the Federal Government to take control, either using existing Commonwealth powers or by supporting a constitutional amendment handing powers to the Federal Parliament. Centre Alliance already has a Constitutional Alteration Bill before the Parliament that seeks to do this.

NSW Nationals MPs have cried wolf on pulling out of the plan so often now that it’s becoming meaningless. They would be better off focussing their efforts on reigning in over-extraction, but that would involve acting in the national interest, not in the Nationals’ interests.

November 4, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

240 conservation scientists call on Australian government to strengthen environmental protection laws

Letter by 240 leading scientists calls on Scott Morrison to stem extinction crisis, More than 240 conservation scientists sign open letter warning PM that 17 Australian native species face extinction in next 20 years. Guardian,  Adam Morton Environment editor @adamlmorton, Mon 28 Oct 2019 More than 240 conservation scientists have called on Scott Morrison to drop his opposition to stronger environment laws and seize a “once-in-a-decade opportunity” to fix a system that is failing to stem a worsening extinction crisis.

With the federal government due to this week announce a 10-yearly legislated review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, the scientists have signed an open letter to the prime minister urging him to increase spending and back laws to help protect the natural world from further destruction.

The letter says three native species have become extinct in the past decade and another 17 could follow in the next 20 years. More than 1,800 Australian plants and animals are formally listed as threatened with extinction, but the scientists say this is an underestimate.

“Our current laws are failing because they are too weak, have inadequate review and approval processes, and are not overseen by an effective compliance regime,” the scientists say.

“Since they were established (in 1999), 7.7m hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed. That’s an area larger than Tasmania. Meanwhile, the number of extinctions continue to climb, while new threats emerge and spread unchecked.”

Environmental law was a point of difference at this year’s election, with Morrison pledging to limit “green tape” that he said cost jobs while Labor promised a new environment act and a federal environment protection authority.

Lesley Hughes, a distinguished professor of biology at Macquarie University, member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a signatory to the letter, said environmental protections had been consistently wound back over the past decade, most often by conservative governments.

She said it was having a significant impact, pointing to the 2016 state-of-the-environment report that found Australia was facing multiple environment changes and lacked a national policy that established a clear vision for the protection and sustainable management of the country’s natural heritage.

She also cited a WWF assessment that ranked eastern Australia as one of the world’s top 11 deforestation hotspots. Australia was the only developed country on the list.

“It’s a very grim picture,” Hughes said. “This letter is a pre-emptive strike to say this is an opportunity to do it better, this is not an opportunity to weaken and dilute the existing weak laws.”

Morrison’s pledge not to increase environmental laws came as a United Nations global assessment found biodiversity was declining at an unprecedented rate, with one million species across the globe at risk of extinction and human populations in jeopardy if the trajectory was not reversed.

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, said the review of the EPBC Act was an independent process that would encourage submissions from a wide variety of perspectives……. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/28/toughen-environmental-laws-to-stem-extinction-crisis-scientists-tell-morrison

October 28, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Radioactive liquids in Olympic Dam waste pools are killing native birds

Olympic Dam Alert: BHP propose a major new Evaporation Pond 6 for radioactive acid liquor wastes that will continue deaths of hundreds of birds each year

The federal government are inviting comments on BHP’s “Olympic Dam Evaporation Pond 6 EPBC Act Referral 2019/8526”  (scroll down to Date of Notice 21/10/2019).

Public submissions are only open until cob Monday 4th Nov 2019, see info on how to do so at end of this e-mail.

Please consider making a brief submission, key Recommendations are provided below, along with a Background Briefing Paper and a feature press article “BHP vs Birds”.

For info see “Migratory Birds at Risk of Mortality if BHP Continues Use of Evaporation Ponds” a 3 page Briefing written by David Noonan for the ACF, Friends of the Earth and Conservation SA (30 June 2019), at https://nuclear.foe.org.au/wp-content/uploads/ODM-Migratory-Birds-BHP-Evaporation-Ponds.pdf

see “BIRDS VS BHP: Evaporation ponds at BHP’s Olympic Dam mine are killing hundreds of birds” article in The Advertiser 10 July 2019

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/evaporation-ponds-at-bhps-olympic-dam-mine-are-killing-hundreds-of-birds/news-story/1b886e4946f87fb7a729e201282f5cfb

October 26, 2019 Posted by | environment, South Australia, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Barkindji people have title to Darling River area – but their river is dying, killed by drought, and whiteys’mismanagement

Indigenous community say they’ve lost their culture to water mismanagement, SBSThis is the final part in a series of reports from communities along NSW’s Darling River that have been impacted by water mismanagement and drought. BY ANEETA BHOLE 18 Oct 19,  An Aboriginal community in rural NSW fears their culture may be lost, as dry conditions and low river flows threaten the future of the Darling River.

The Barkindji people have lived, hunted and passed down their oral history on the banks of the Darling for more than 40,000 years.

Now the river is drying up due to over-extraction by irrigation upstream and drought.

The community’s fears surfaced at a recent corroboree in the small town of Wilcannia, which was once a thriving Murray-Darling River port.

The Yaama Ngunna Barka corroboree had been travelling to towns along the river from Walgett to Menindee. The corroboree have been travelling to towns in outback New South Wales in a bid to raise awareness about the plight of the Darling river.

‘Dead water’

Lilliana Bennett can still recall her grandmother talking about taking the family down the riverbank to fish and hunt for goanna. The river was a place of safety and community for her family.

“It’s a place they go to relax, to tell stories,” she told SBS News.

“For me, it’s been really devastating, I mean we went down and camped by the river where there’s still a bit of water around and it just doesn’t have the same feeling, it’s dead water.”…….

With water levels at an all-time low and the drought continuing to ravage the region, native animals have also started to disappear from the river banks. Many with spiritual significance. …….

The Barkindji community fought for Native Title of the land – covering 128,000 square kilometres — from Wentworth at the Victorian border to near Wanaaring in the state’s north-west, including Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie and Dareton.

They started the claim in 1997 and won two decades later, but many have said without water flowing in the river they feel robbed. …….

Case for change

Last month, the National Resources Commission (NRC) released an independent report looking into the water-sharing plan of the Barwon-Darling River system.

The system takes in the the Barwon River, from upstream of Mungindi at the confluence of the Macintyre and Weir rivers, to where the Barwon meets the Culgoa River.

At this point the river channel becomes the Darling River and the Barwon–Darling system extends downstream to the Menindee Lakes.

It found that provisions that allow increased access to low flows resulted in poor ecological and social outcomes downstream of Bourke, including the town of Wilcannia where part of the Barkindji community live.

The NRC has made 17 recommendations, including one which has called for stricter regulation of when irrigators, including cotton farmers, can pump water from the river……….  HTTPS://WWW.SBS.COM.AU/NEWS/INDIGENOUS-COMMUNITY-SAY-THEY-VE-LOST-THEIR-CULTURE-TO-WATER-MISMANAGEMENT

October 19, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Morrison government’s drought policy mess

Has drought policy become a casualty of the federal-state blame game? ABC The Conversation By Michelle Grattan 18 Oct 19,  Government sources insist shock jock Alan Jones didn’t drive Thursday’s announcement of a cash payment to drought-stricken farmers about to be turfed off their household support because they’d reached the four-year time limit.They say the measure — giving up to $13,000 to a couple and $7,500 to individuals at a cost of $12.8 million this financial year — had been in Cabinet’s expenditure review committee process for some time.

But the National Farmers Federation says it wasn’t given any notice, which seems odd since Drought Minister David Littleproud is constantly referencing the NFF.

Regardless of the sequencing, Mr Jones’ extraordinarily angry and emotional performance on Tuesday, haranguing Mr Morrison on radio, breaking down on TV, and warning of dire political consequences if the Government didn’t do something, certainly concentrated the Prime Minister’s mind.

As one official puts it, Mr Morrison is “attuned to the zeitgeist”.

Described more prosaically, the PM is highly sensitive to public opinion, and he judges that in metropolitan areas as well as the regions, people want more action — and then more still — to help those brought to their knees.

Can drought policy deliver better outcomes?

When he became PM, Mr Morrison was immediately anxious to own the issue of the drought. He referred to it in his news conference the day he was elected leader, saying it was “the first thing I need to turn attention to”, and was quickly off to a drought-affected area.

Now he is feeling the full cost — political as well as financial — of that ownership, as he’s confronted with pressure on all sides.

NFF president Fiona Simson continues to say she doesn’t think the Government has a drought policy…….

Drought policy is bedevilled by the old federal-state blame game, as shown by the wrangling over dam building.

A sign of weakness?

Also, the Government has no credible reason for keeping under wraps the report it commissioned from Stephen Day, who was its drought coordinator, which would provide some useful overview.

Thursday’s announcement of the cash payment was messy: Mr Morrison trumpeted it on radio at the same time as the Nationals unveiled it at a press conference.

The Coalition’s handling looks ad hoc and reactive……..

A sign of weakness?

Also, the Government has no credible reason for keeping under wraps the report it commissioned from Stephen Day, who was its drought coordinator, which would provide some useful overview.

Thursday’s announcement of the cash payment was messy: Mr Morrison trumpeted it on radio at the same time as the Nationals unveiled it at a press conference…….  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-18/drought-gives-scott-morrison-a-harsh-political-lesson/11614698

October 19, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Australia’s climate crisis: destruction of forests

Stripped bare: Australia’s hidden climate crisis, Guardian,  Anne DaviesMike BowersAndy Ball and Nick Evershed16 October 2019
An epidemic of land clearing is sabotaging efforts to address climate change. Farming communities are bitterly divided over the issue – but it also has global consequences

Roger Fitzgerald’s family has been farming near Moree since 1925. But these days he feels under siege on his own farm. His 1,700-hectare property, 50km north of the town, is now surrounded by the operations of the sprawling agribusiness Beefwood Farms, which has been steadily buying up land in New South Wales to expand its operations.

The old easement to Fitzgerald’s cottage across the sprawling Beefwood property has been planted over with crops. His letterbox has mysteriously disappeared on several occasions, making it hard for visitors to spot the entrance to his farm. But it is the extent of land clearing by his neighbour, Beefwood’s owner, Gerardus Kurstjens, that has upset him the most.

Fitzgerald says the microclimate of the nearby Welbon plains has moved a kilometre further on to his property since losing a tree line on Kurstjens’ property that once sheltered his land.

Pockets of remaining vegetation have been ripped from the grey soil to expand cultivation and square up paddocks – and the first Fitzgerald knows of it is when the bulldozers arrive.

“There is something seriously not right about the extent of land clearing in my little part of the world,” he says.

Think of land clearing like a rezoning in the city. Land cleared for cropping west of Moree sells for $2,500 a hectare whereas grazing land will sell for between $700 and $1000 a hectare. East of Moree most of the prime land has already been converted to crops and sells for $6,800 a hectare, three times the value of grazing land.

Clearing vegetation has the potential to add millions to a property’s value, as well as yielding high returns in a good year.

That alone is enough for farmers to risk up to $1m in fines for illegally clearing, according to one former NSW Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer, who asked not to be named.

But while land clearing might benefit individual farmers in the short term, the loss of native vegetation comes with enormous costs for the rest of us.

“Land clearance and degradation is one of the greatest crises facing Australia and the world,” says Bill Hare, the chief executive and senior scientist with Berlin-based Climate Analytics. “It undermines the basis for food production, is causing species loss and ecological decline, destroys climate resilience, degrades water resources and reverses carbon storage on the land.”

Pollution from land clearing is projected by the federal government to remain at about 46m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to 2030, roughly equivalent to emissions from three large coal-fired power plants. The rate at which we are clearing land in Australia is almost immediately wiping out gains being made under tax-payer funded schemes to address climate change.

Australia is among the 11 worst countries when it comes to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Queensland, with its vast swathes of untouched land on Cape York, has the highest clearing rate, but NSW is rapidly becoming a hotspot – and there is less to lose, with only 9% of the state’s vegetation in its original state.

What is becoming clear is that successive NSW governments have failed to explain the science behind preserving native vegetation – both in relation to climate change and protecting the landscape and endangered species – to farmers and the public.

Instead, land clearing laws in the state have been successively weakened, first by Labor and then more comprehensively by the Coalition, with the introduction of amendments to the Local Land Services Act in August 2017.

“NSW’s native vegetation laws were [once] based on the principle that broad-scale land clearing would not be permitted and clearing could only proceed if it could be shown to maintain or improve environmental outcomes,” says Rachel Walmsley, a solicitor at the NSW Environmental Defenders Office.

“The new act brought in a new approach with the twin stated objectives of arresting the current decline in the state’s biodiversity while also facilitating sustainable agricultural development.”

But while farmers are mostly happy with the new rules, environmentalists say they have ushered in an environmental disaster because they allow farmers to self-assess whether clearing is permissible.

The old act also protected paddock trees; the amended act has made it much easier to get rid of them.

Critics say farmers have been given the green light to clear.

“I have sat in meetings where arguments have been put that driving a tractor around a tree is a significant cost in diesel for farmers,” Walmsley says.

“There’s no valuation of the ecosystem services these trees provide: clean water, clean air, healthy soils and hosting pollinators. There’s no dollar value put on vegetation.”………

The facts are unequivocal. NSW is losing vegetation at an alarming rate………………… https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/oct/17/stripped-bare-australias-hidden-climate-crisis

October 17, 2019 Posted by | business, climate change - global warming, environment, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Minister Canavan and Department of Industry Innovation and science ready to spoil beautiful, sacred, and arable land – for nuclear trash

Goodes abuse mirrors SA nuclear fight, Eureka Street, Michele Madigan, 03 September 2019   On 21 August I came out of an Adelaide preview of The Australian Dream, Stan Grant’s documentary about the racialised mistreatment of the former AFL footballer Adam Goodes, for a brief interview on our local ABC’s Evening Show. The topic: the resumption of federal government visibility and determination to both deposit and dump nuclear waste in either the Flinders Ranges or Kimba regions.

Later I reflected on this synergy. One of these threatened areas was the location for The Australian Dream’s dramatic opening panoramic shot: Adam Goodes, a tiny figure in a vast landscape, with the Ranges of his ancestors in majestic background. …..
I wonder sometimes if this kind of vehement rage towards certain persons has parallels with the attitude and actions of some among us ‘latecomers’ to this country, to the country itself. It shows itself in a determination to exploit the country, to commodify it, to rape it of its resources; all done with entirely no regard for the consequences — on lands, on precious waters and eventually on all of us, the human race, who rely on creation for our survival.

There is at best exasperation, and at worst, genuine anger shown to many Australians seeking to defend country: to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defenders certainly. In regard to non-Aboriginal people, the word ‘greenie’ has become largely a term of derision………

The Flinders became a place of healing refuge for Goodes. Yet the glory of its incredible antiquity has not been enough to shame the Minister and the Department for Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) in the four-year journey of seriously considering this place of ancestry, beauty, earthquakes and floods as host to Australia’s nuclear waste which will remain dangerous for 10,000 years. Neither has being part of just six per cent of Australia’s arable lands served any protection for the international grain-farming region of Kimba as the alternative choice.
As Goodes paid heavily for his defence against racism, defending country continues to be a costly business for the people of the Flinders and Kimba regions whose communities are irrevocably torn apart by the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility project. Despite Barngala Traditional Owners appealing against Justice White’s 12 July decision that their native rights give them no right to vote, the Kimba Council has recently decided their opinion ballot is to go ahead anyway — from 3 October to 7 November. In contrast, the Flinders Ranges Council is requiring a risk assessment before proceeding with their ballot. The Adnyamathanha people’s appeal remains undecided.

On 13 August, DIIS, in meeting with the Barndioota Consultative Committee in the Flinders, confirmed that the size of the proposed site would now be 60 per cent larger. On 21 and 22 August Minister Canavan visited both areas for brief ‘consultative’ meetings, declaring the site decision is likely before the end of this year, and acknowledging that this may take place before the Flinders ballot. While again refusing to give a named acceptable percentage on such a ballot, Senator Canavan stressed the ballot was just one component in the decision making. Other evidence will include the 1000 submissions in this still open process.

On his 26 August Evening Show, Peter Goers interviewed an enthusiastic proponent — the Member for the vast federal seat of Grey. Rowan Ramsey was indignant that ‘outsiders’ were daring to protest the project. As well as ignoring his companion interviewee, local Greg Bannon, Ramsay revealed his misconception that other South Australians and indeed other Australians have no right to object. In claiming no knowledge of nuclear transport accidents, clearly he had not heard of the 1994 spill near Port Augusta, to name just one example; nor that transporting and simply ‘storing’ the spent fuel rods from the Lucas Heights reactor is exponentially more dangerous than Olympic Dam yellowcake transport……    https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/goodes-abuse-mirrors-sa-nuclear-fight?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Eureka%20Street%20Daily%20-%20Wednesday%204%20September%202019&utm_content=Eureka%20Street%20Daily%20-%20Wednesday%204%20September%202019+CID_df4eff5733a50d6914ba873c7e09aea7&utm_source=Jescom%20Newsletters&utm_term=Goodes%20abuse%20mirrors%20SA%20nuclear%20fight

September 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

As forests disappear in the Amazon, Australia’s rainforests are being destroyed, too

August 27, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Mirrarr people to lead the Kakadu region’s transition from uranium mining

Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison, 15 Aug 19,   Gundjeihmi Aboriginal CorporationToday GAC chairwoman, Toby’s Gangale’s daughter: Valerie Balmoore signed an MOU with the Federal and NT Governments as well as mining company ERA committing all parties to a Mirarr-led post-mining future for Jabiru.

There is still much work to be done on Mirarr country including cleaning up the immense Ranger uranium mine. GAC and others will continue our diligent work in this area – and there are no guarantees the cleanup will be wholly successful – but restoration of country remains the absolute objective.

Mirarr continue to assert their rights as Traditional Owners and lead the way for people and country, this Jabiru story is evidence of a massive shift. The power in these images speaks for itself. Today is deeply hopeful for the Kakadu region and offers an incredible message for all communities resisting unwanted mining projects.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Australia’s one great river system – Murray-Darling Basin Plan ‘untenable’ – corrupt?

August 6, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, politics | Leave a comment

South Australian Labor – too pro environment ?

August 3, 2019 Posted by | environment, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Rio Tinto moves to own Ranger remediation

Rio Tinto moves to own Ranger remediation, Matthew Stevens, Jul 26, 2019

https://www.afr.com/companies/mining/rio-tinto-moves-to-own-ranger-remediation-20190725-p52ape

In pushing Energy Resources Australia towards a potentially controversial capital raising Rio Tinto has moved to take greater ownership of what is arguably the most important mine retirement and clean-up in Australian resources history.

The task ahead is the required $830 million remediation of the Ranger uranium mine, which sits in a necessarily excised pocket of the United Nations World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

Ranger has been operated by Energy Resources Australia through its often controversial 40-year life. Through that time ERA has been majority owned by Rio Tinto or its Australian forebear, CRA. Currently Rio owns 68.4 per cent of ERA.

But a plan to fill the $400 million or so gap between what Ranger’s remediation is expected to cost and the cash that ERA has at hand to pay for the big clean-up could quite easily see Rio creep to a position that would see the mine operator fully absorbed by the mother ship.

ERA revealed extended discussion with Rio Tinto over how the funding gap would be filled has ended with its Anglo-Australia overseer insisting the only path was for Ranger’s operator to make a renounceable rights issue.

Rio Tinto has committed to take up its full entitlement and to underwrite the balance of any issuance if alternatives are not available.

The erstwhile uranium miner told its minority owners that it is “considering the size, structure and terms” of any potential rights issue “having regard to the interests of ERA as a whole”.

While that is an appropriate expression of independence, the most unlikely outcome here would be an ERA board populated by Rio Tinto appointees will end up doing anything that does not concur with the parent’s view of the company’s future.

The minority question

The most likely question ahead, then, for minority shareholders is going to be whether or not they double-down on a failed punt and back the rights issue needed to sustain the long, costly wind-up of their business?

Whatever the size, structure and terms of the raising Rio Tinto wants ERA to make, it will be material to the minority owners. ERA’s current market capitalisation is $130 million. So tapping the market for even half the shortfall could prove definitively dilutive for those unprepared to throw funds at a business destined to disappear.

In most circumstances this course might be cause to wonder at whether or not this pathway might represent a level of minority shareholder oppression. Rio Tinto’s pitch though is the exception to the rule.

ERA stopped being a miner five years ago and hopes its future might be extended were dashed a few years later when Rio Tinto found itself unable to support the Ranger 3 underground expansion, a conclusion we revealed first in April 2015.

Presently ERA’s only recourse to income is through processing uranium from stockpiled ore. That production will end in 2021 and ERA has a legal obligation to safely close the operation by 2026. The cost of remediation will endure at least half a decade beyond that and so too will the risk to reputation and social licence of any and all shortcomings of that effort.

Quite sensibly, Rio Tinto assesses it fully owns the risk of any failure or future non-compliance. It is regularly reminded of that inescapable reality by the anti-uranium activists, by the increasingly power ESG lobby and by governments state and federal.

RELATED: Rio Tinto worried about ERA’s Ranger uranium mine

The funding proposal sketched out on Thursday announces those warnings were unnecessary. Rio Tinto really does want to own Ranger’s remediation.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Acute water shortage in rural Australia, as drought persists

Country towns close to reaching ‘day zero’, as water supplies dry up in the drought, ABC News, By National Regional Affairs reporter Lucy Barbour 14 July 19, Across New South Wales and Queensland’s southern downs, country towns are approaching their own ‘day zero’, as water supplies dry up in the drought.

July 15, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment