Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

With uranium mining closed, Kakadu ‘stagnates” during long wait for proposed federal funding.

Fears Kakadu is ‘probably going to stagnate’ during the long wait for promised federal funding, ABC
By Roxanne Fitzgerald  11 Apr 21
, The federal government has been urged to fast-track an investment worth more than $200 million it promised two years ago to revitalise the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

Key points:
Kakadu National Park has been waiting two years for a pivotal federal investmentPoliticians and traditional owners fear Kakadu will ‘stagnate’ without it

A Senior Advisory Group has been established to examine the management of the park.

The Australian government has allocated only $5.4 million so far to transition Jabiru — the community in the centre of the park — from a mining town into a world-class tourism hub.

Outlined in 2019 federal budget papers, the $216.2 million was also meant to fund road upgrades, a new park visitor centre and more than $50 million in tourism infrastructure over a 10-year timeframe.The federal government’s promised spending has now grown to $276 million.

Parks Australia has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and consultations with traditional owners for delays in approving funding………….. .
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-11/nt-calls-for-kakadu-investment-to-be-fast-tracked/100054140

April 11, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Australia’s part in continuing nuclear havoc in Pacific islands – legacy of atomic bomb tests

75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc    https://theconversation.com/75-years-after-nuclear-testing-in-the-pacific-began-the-fallout-continues-to-wreak-havoc-158208?fbclid=IwAR3q9QJvy507ds2kD0ibOvkD6ZzxFqgGjfHsGrwqJUVMNpujOu8sAeLVPtY
April 6, 2021 
 Patricia A. O’Brien Patricia A. O’Brien is a Friend of The Conversation.Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University,    This year marks 75 years since the United States launched its immense atomic testing program in the Pacific. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands, then a UN Trust Territory governed by the US, have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation.Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, the legacies of this history are shaping the present in myriad ways.

This history has Australian dimensions too, though decades of diplomatic distance between Australia and the Marshall Islands have hidden an entangled atomic past.

In 1946, the Marshall Islands seemed very close for many Australians. They feared the imminent launch of the US’s atomic testing program on Bikini Atoll might split the earth in two, catastrophically change the earth’s climate, or produce earthquakes and deadly tidal waves.

A map accompanying one report noted Sydney was only 3,100 miles from ground zero. Residents as far away as Perth were warned if their houses shook on July 1, “it may be the atom bomb test”.

Australia was “included in the tests” as a site for recording blast effects and monitoring for atom bombs detonated anywhere in the world by hostile nations. This Australian site served to keep enemies in check and achieve one of the Pacific testing program’s objectives: to deter future war. The other justification was the advancement of science.

The earth did not split in two after the initial test (unless you were Marshallese) so they continued; 66 others followed over the next 12 years. But the insidious and multiple harms to people and place, regularly covered up or denied publicly, became increasingly hard to hide.

Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia, thyroid and other cancers became prevalent in exposed Marshallese, at least four islands were “partially or completely vapourised”, the exposed Marshallese “became subjects of a medical research program” and atomic refugees. (Bikinians were allowed to return to their atoll for a decade before the US government removed them again when it was realised a careless error falsely claimed radiation levels were safe in 1968.)

In late 1947, the US moved its operations to Eniwetok Atoll, a decision, it was argued, to ensure additional safety. Eniwetok was more isolated and winds were less likely to carry radioactive particles to populated areas.

Australian reports noted this site was only 3,200 miles from Sydney. Troubling reports of radioactive clouds as far away as the French Alps and the known shocking health effects appeared.

Dissenting voices were initially muted due to the steep escalation of the Cold War and Soviet atomic weapon tests beginning in 1949.

Opinion in Australia split along political lines. Conservative Cold War warriors, chief among them Robert Menzies who became prime minister again in 1949, kept Australia in lockstep with the US, and downplayed the ill-effects of testing. Left-wing elements in Australia continued to draw attention to the “horrors” it unleashed.

The atomic question came home in 1952, when the first of 12 British atomic tests began on the Montebello Islands, off Western Australia.   Australia’s involvement in atomic testing expanded again in 1954, when it began supplying South Australian-mined uranium to the US and UK’s joint defence purchasing authority, the Combined Development Agency.

Australia’s economic stake in the atomic age from 1954 collided with the galvanisation of global public opinion against US testing in Eniwetok. The massive “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in March exposed Marshall Islanders and a Japanese fishing crew on The Lucky Dragon to catastrophic radiation levels “equal to that received by Japanese people less than two miles from ground zero” in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. Graphic details of the fishermen’s suffering and deaths and a Marshallese petition to the United Nations followed.

When a UN resolution to halt US testing was voted on in July, Australia voted for its continuation. But the tide of public opinion was turning against testing. The events of 1954 dispelled the notion atomic waste was safe and could be contained. The problem of radioactive fish travelling into Australian waters highlighted these new dangers, which spurred increasing world wide protests until the US finally ceased testing in the Marshalls in 1958.

In the 1970s, US atomic waste was concentrated under the Runit Island dome, part of Enewetak Atoll (about 3,200 miles from Sydney). Recent alarming descriptions of how precarious and dangerous this structure is due to age, sea water inundation and storm damage exacerbated by climate change were contested in a 2020 Trump-era report.

The Biden administration’s current renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and its prioritisation of action on climate change, will put Runit Island high on the agenda. There is an opportunity for historical redress for the US that is even more urgent given the upsurge in discrimination against US-based Pacific Islander communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are peoples displaced by the tests.

Australia is also embarking on a new level of engagement with the Marshall Islands: it is due to open its first embassy in the capital Majuro in 2021.It should be remembered this bilateral relationship has an atomic history too. Australia supported the US testing program, assisted with data collection and voted in the UN for its continuation when Marshallese pleaded for it to be stopped. It is also likely Australian-sourced atomic waste lies within Runit Island, cementing Australia in this history.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, history, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research into the effects of nuclear bomb tests on Montebello islands

 

March 22, 2021 Posted by | environment, weapons and war, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Time for Australia to clean up uranium mining damage, and end this toxic industry

It’s time to clean up not start up!    https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=21352 On this 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time to learn one simple lesson; radioactive risk is more constant than a politician’s promise. It is time to move beyond the risk of opening a uranium mine to safely rehabilitating existing exploration and trial mine sites. If we fail to act and allow small unproven company assurances to take the place of evidence, then we are both failing those affected by Fukushima and increasing the odds of fuelling a future one.

By Kerrie-Ann Garlick – , 12 March 2021
On the 10th anniversary of the Australian uranium-fuelled Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time for a rethink on uranium Australia-wide and for WA to look beyond mining towards rehabilitation. WAs four proposed uranium mines and the 85 exploration sites have been unable to develop into mines and all pose serious environmental, economic and public health risks. Some of the companies involved no longer exist, others are hanging on by a thread. With a stagnant uranium price and a global nuclear power industry that is struggling to maintain status quo, we should be looking to clean up Barnett’s failed attempt to establish uranium mines in WA and close that chapter in our history book.

Ten years after the devastating earthquake and Tsunami and subsequent multiple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Fukushima is still one of the most radioactive places on earth. It remains a profound human, economic and environmental tragedy one that was fuelled by Australian uranium. In Parliament in 2012 Dr Robert Floyd, Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation confirmed that Australian uranium was in each of the reactors at the time of the meltdown. Following the disaster, the UN Secretary General urged every uranium producing country to hold “an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems.”

Our government did not respond to the catastrophic disaster at Fukushima with any kind of review of our role in supplying uranium. There was no critical review from Australia of the warning signs we missed with TEPCO who had a history of falsifying records, mismanagement and accidents.

In the decade since the disaster there have been no new uranium mines in Australia. After 40 years of imposed mining in Kakadu the Ranger uranium mine has now closed and in attempting rehabilitation. Uranium mining in Australia is now confined to South Australia with just two operating mines – Olympic Dam and Four Mile and three mines – Honeymoon, Beverley & Beverley Four Mile – all in extended ‘care and maintenance’ (not closed but not operating). What is needed to make sure Australian uranium is not fuelling another Fukushima nuclear meltdown, is clearly to leave it in the ground.

The four uranium projects, Kintyre, Wiluna, Yeelirrie and Mulga Rock have all been unable to proceed in the face of high operating costs, a low uranium price and continued and sustained community opposition to mining uranium. With the imminent expiry of environmental approvals for the four uranium sites, the WA Government has an opportunity and a responsibility to manage these sites in a way that protects the environment, public & workers health and the WA taxpayers. The incoming government would be uniquely placed to legislate a ban on uranium mining in WA avoiding a repeat of the last decade of uncertainty, legal and procedural battles, and significant government resources.

There are a further 85 exploration sites, of those 56 projects are listed as being inactive or suspended of those 23 do not have an active owner, any rehabilitation of those sites would now be a cost to WA taxpayers. The risk of uranium will far outlive the uranium companies who have exploration sites across our state. The WA government should act now and ensure the best possible rehabilitation outcomes for those sites while there are still companies who can be held to account.

Small uranium companies like Vimy Resources who have the Mulga Rock uranium proposal to the NE of Kalgoorlie and Toro Energy with the Wiluna proposal, and underdeveloped projects like Cameco’s Kintyre and Yeelirrie have been deferred or placed on extended care and maintenance due to the depressed uranium market and low commodity price. Their time is up, we need to start to clean up these sites – not lock in an industry that has a history of being constrained by political uncertainty, that has a consistent lack of social license and one that has been met with strong Aboriginal and community resistance.

On this 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time to learn one simple lesson; radioactive risk is more constant than a politician’s promise. It is time to move beyond the risk of opening a uranium mine to safely rehabilitating existing exploration and trial mine sites. If we fail to act and allow small unproven company assurances to take the place of evidence, then we are both failing those affected by Fukushima and increasing the odds of fuelling a future one.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | environment, Western Australia | Leave a comment

The remediation of Ranger uranium mine: will it really restore the environment?

Traditional owners were given land rights in return for their support for the Ranger mine, and Kakadu National Park was born.   ……. the land will finally be returned to the traditional owners… the question is, in what state?  ………    we could find the site an eroding heap of substandard scrub.    

As part of cleaning up the mine site, contaminated buildings and equipment will be buried in one of the mine’s enormous pits.    

  We’ve been told that burying the equipment and the contaminated material in the mine site is out of step with global best practice in the mining industry.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Mediation continuing over rehabilitation of Range uranium mine

Mediation continues behind closed doors, but the case is a clear reminder that commitments are not set in stone and that clean-up funding for even the most environmentally destructive projects is not guaranteed.

While national and/or state law jurisdictions regulate specific requirements for closure and associated financial assurance, which also determine the period of rehabilitation, it is essential that members of the mining community are aware of applicable law and regulation in all jurisdictions of operation……….

“In the context of price volatility, investment shifts and now Covid-19, many major companies have been mothballing operations and selling mines to juniors, smaller and/or less resourced companies around the world. The most notable may be Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland, sold for $1 in 2016.”

The socio-economic and financial arrangements for closure agreements are especially important in order to avoid dumping the costs on taxpayers and society .

How long should a miner commit to oversight?  https://www.mining-technology.com/news/mining-rio-tinto/   Yoana Cholteeva11 February 2021 

A subsidiary of Rio Tinto is currently in mediation  with the Australian Government over continuing commitments to scientific monitoring of the Ranger mine. We examine the dispute and take a look at some positive examples of land remediation.

Land rehabilitation as part of mining oversight is an essential process where the land in a mining area is returned to some degree of its former state. Recently, a new dispute over the rehabilitation of the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory of Australia, owned by a Rio Tinto subsidiary, once again reignited the debate over how long a miner should maintain oversight once operations have stopped.

Rio Tinto’s oversight dilemma

Continue reading

February 18, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian government will probably ignore most recommendations in the environmental report

Jim Green and Mia Pepper (WA) 3 Feb 21,  – on the nuclear issues in the final Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation review Samuel report, which finds that the Act is not doing its job and the environment is in big trouble (as we all know).

We expect the recommendations in the report to be mostly ignored by the government as they are focussed on removing the need for federal approval of projects and handing it to the states (who of course will want to approve everything for the money no matter the environmental cost).

February 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

”Nuclear Actions” in the final report on environment laws in Australia

In this week’s news, the final report on environment laws in Australia has been made and in summary, recommends that “nuclear actions” remain a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES). This means all proposals that are a “nuclear action” eg uranium mining, need to be assessed and approved in accordance with national environmental laws (EPBC Act).  Initially “nuclear actions” will have to be assessed and approved based on “the whole of environment” impact – this means they would require a full environmental assessment.

Final Report on environment laws  https://dont-nuke-the-climate.org.au/environment-laws-australian-nuclear/, February 2, 2021 The final report on environment laws in Australia has been made public this week.

In Summary, the Final Report:

  • recommends that “nuclear actions” remain a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) this means all proposals that are a “nuclear action” eg uranium mining, need to be assessed and approved in accordance with national environmental laws (The EPBC Act).
    • recommends that State and Territory Governments be accredited to assess and approve projects in-line with the EPBC Act and with “National Environment Standards.” National Environmental Standards do not yet exist but would be legally enforceable standards. In the case of nuclear it is likely that National Environmental Standards would be derived from national and international standards on the nuclear industry. o Nuclear projects, including uranium mines would then be assessed and approved by state and territory governments, not the federal government.
    • recommends a second phase of reform that “the EPBC Act and the regulatory arrangements of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) should be aligned, to support the implementation of best-practice international approaches based on risk of harm to the environment, including the community.”
      • describes the section 140A prohibition on some nuclear actions (like nuclear power and reprocessing) reflects a policy choice and that to change this would also be a ‘policy’ or political decision – but notes that legislative changes would be required. Important to note that there is emphasis on elected parliamentarians making policy choices, a subtle hint on the lack of a mandate to lift the prohibition.

      Initially “nuclear actions” will have to be assessed and approved based on “the whole of environment” impact – this means they would require a full environmental assessment. It is unclear if this would be retained under the proposal to make ARPANSA the regulator and with National Environmental Standards for nuclear actions or whether assessments and approvals would only be required for aspects of a project that involve radiation.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Clean-up plan for Ranger uranium mine is ”woefully inadequate”

Gundjeihmi and ERA enter negotiations to extend Ranger Uranium Mine rehabilitation

By https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-09/gundjeihmi-era-negotiate-ranger-uranium-mine-rehabilitation/13043076 Matt Garrick

An Aboriginal group in Kakadu National Park says the rehabilitation plan for a decommissioned uranium mine is “woefully inadequate”, and is calling for a 26-year extension to the process.

Key points:

  • Mining at the Ranger Uranium Mine wound up yesterday after more than 40 years
  • Traditional owners in Kakadu are now calling for an extension of the project’s rehabilitation phase
  • The company that runs the mine has signalled its support for the move

Production at the Ranger Uranium Mine, on the outskirts of the national park, drew to a close yesterday after more than 40 years of operation.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr traditional owners, has used the closure to demand owner Energy Resources Australia (ERA) rehabilitate the site beyond its current lease expiry in 2026.

Within that timeframe, the company is required to restore the site to its previous pristine state.

“That’s not long enough,” the corporation’s CEO, Justin O’Brien, said.

“We are now awaiting a drafting from the Commonwealth Government for amendments to the Atomic Energy Act such that you can actually put in place an extension to the rehabilitation period.”

Mr O’Brien said traditional owners were pushing for the rehabilitation period to be extended by an additional 26 years, which would carry the process through until 2052.

He said ERA and its parent company, Rio Tinto, had signalled their support for an extended term of rehabilitation — but the timeframe and details of that extension are still being negotiated.

In a statement, the company said it was committed to “achieving all documented rehabilitation outcomes in its Mine Closure Plan (MCP) by January 2026”.

It confirmed negotiations were underway with traditional owners to “determine an appropriate mechanism” to extend the company’s tenure at the Ranger site, which would allow it to continue rehabilitation beyond 2026.

Environmental group the Australian Conservation Foundation yesterday welcomed the end of production at the site, the last active uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

The foundation’s Dave Sweeney, who is an anti-nuclear campaigner, said he was supportive of the push to extend the rehabilitation period.

“The company should not be approaching clean-up asking itself what it can do in five years,” he said.

“It should be approaching clean-up asking ‘What is the best possible way to reduce and address the damage that has happened?’

“What’s the best outcome — not the best outcome we can do in five years.”

The wind-down of production at the mine is expected to prompt an exodus from the nearby town of Jabiru, where ERA holds the lease for about 300 houses.

One hundred and twenty-five ERA staff were made redundant this week.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

End of an ERA: four decades of radioactive risk come to an end at Kakadu

Over 40 years of high-impact uranium mining and processing at Energy Resources of Australia’s (ERA) Ranger mine in Kakadu ends today.

Australia’s longest-running uranium operation was licensed to operate until January 8, 2021.

“This is a very good day for Kakadu, the Northern Territory and Australia,” Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said.

“The Ranger mine has generated controversy, headlines and heartache for four decades. The focus must now be on ERA and parent company Rio Tinto doing comprehensive and credible site rehabilitation and supporting the transition to a post-mining regional economy.

“Today we should also acknowledge the sustained efforts of the Mirarr Traditional Owners and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation to protect their country and culture from the impacts of mining.

“The Mirarr opposed the Ranger mine 40 years ago, led a successful campaign to stop ERA developing a further mine at nearby Jabiluka 20 years ago, and are now driving the re-shaping of a culture- and conservation-based local economy.

“Plans for cleaning up the site of the Ranger mine are being hampered by an unrealistic rehabilitation time frame, funding uncertainty, and fears about a tailings dam leaking toxic contaminants into the surrounding national park.

Closing Ranger, protecting Kakadu, a recent report co-authored by ACF, also found data deficiencies and technical issues, particularly around groundwater and tailings management.

“Australia has a long history of sub-standard mine rehabilitation in both the uranium and wider mining sectors. A far better approach and outcome is needed at Ranger. This work is a key test of the commitment of ERA and Rio Tinto, as well as the NT and federal governments.”

January 9, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Ranger Danger: Rio Tinto Faces Its Nuclear Test in Kakadu Uranium

December 17, 2020 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Australian government’s Bill to weaken Environmental Law will be rejected in the Senate

Key crossbench senators say they won’t support bid to change Australia’s environment laws

The Coalition plan to hand development approval powers to the states hits a further roadblock after Senate inquiry, Guardian,   Graham Readfearn, @readfearn   27 Nov 20, 

A Morrison government plan to change Australia’s environment laws to allow development approval powers to be handed to the states has hit a further roadblock, with three key crossbench senators saying in a report they will not support them.

The crossbenchers’ opposition means that, together with Labor and the Greens, the Morrison government’s laws would be voted down in the Senate.

But one crossbench senator told Guardian Australia he could change his mind once he had seen details in documents that the government has so far withheld.

A rushed Senate inquiry into the controversial changes delivered four reports late Friday, with Labor, the Greens and a crossbench group all confirming their opposition.

The government had gagged debate to push the legislation through the lower house – a move that outraged the Greens and Labor.

A final report from a major review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, carried out by Prof Graeme Samuel, was handed to the environment minister, Sussan Ley, in early November.

That report supported a move to devolve powers to the states, even though Guardian Australia has revealed the government was making moves to devolve powers months before the Samuel review.

Samuel’s interim report, released in July, found the environment was in unsustainable decline and the EPBC Act was not fit-for-purpose.

In their dissenting report to the inquiry, the crossbench senators Rex Patrick, Jacqui Lambie and Stirling Griff said they could not support the bill while key information was withheld……… https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/nov/27/key-crossbench-senators-say-they-wont-support-bid-to-change-australias-environment-laws

November 27, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Olympic Dam uranium mine’s unlimited water access is killing the Arabana people’s mound springs

South Australia’s disappearing springs raise questions for miner BHP–  https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/south-australia-s-disappearing-springs-raise-questions-for-miner-bhp-20201117-p56f6m.html

Few in big cities know about the ‘mound springs’, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds.By Richard Baker November 23, 2020

Dotted around the vast arid harshness of outback South Australia are thousands of small springs fed by ancient waters from the Great Artesian Basin.

Few in big cities know about the “mound springs”, but they are of deep cultural significance for the Arabana people who hold native title over Lake Eyre and its surrounds. They are also a precious source of life for humans, animals and plants in a hostile environment.

A mound spring near the shore of Lake Eyre in South Australia.

But the Arabana people fear the extraction of tens of millions of litres of water from the basin each day by mining, petroleum and pastoral industries threatens the existence of the springs by reducing flow pressure in the aquifer to the extent that the springs dry up.

The federal parliamentary inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction in May of 46,000-year-old rock shelters at the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia has given the Arabana people the chance to put the fate of the springs on the national agenda.

“In our country there are over 6000 of these springs and they are of great significance to the Arabana people,” said the chair of the Arabana registered native title body, Brenda Underwood, in a submission to the inquiry.

“The springs themselves can be as small as a cup or large enough that you could swim in them, however, we don’t because of the stories associated with them. To us, and to many Australians, they are a beautiful sight in a harsh environment.

“Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. How many have disappeared, we are not yet sure, but we are undertaking some research to find out just how many have actually disappeared.”

Rio Tinto’s blasting at Juukan Gorge drew widespread public criticism, prompted the resignation of its chief executive and put a spotlight on state and federal laws that are meant to balance the protection of Indigenous heritage against the commercial interests of miners.

In the case of the springs, another mining giant, BHP, is playing a central role. BHP is licensed by the South Australian government to extract the equivalent of up to 42 million litres of water per day from the Great Artesian Basin to operate the massive Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine near Roxby Downs.

Millions of litres of water are also taken from the basin each day by pastoral stations and various petroleum companies, and more is lost through evaporation from thousands of disused bores that have not been properly capped.

RMIT environmental engineering expert Gavid Mudd has studied the mound springs closely for more than 20 years and said there was no doubt the extraction of so much groundwater had contributed to a reduction in flow pressure. Some had dried up entirely.

Although the Arabana submission to the inquiry acknowledges water users such as pastoralists and petroleum companies, it largely focuses on BHP’s water use and the unique South Australian laws that grant it a virtually unchallenged right to groundwater.

Under the 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Act, the original Olympic Dam owner Western Mining and present owner BHP are afforded special privileges that trump Aboriginal heritage laws and almost all other state laws and regulations.

“Each day they [BHP] take 35 million litres of water from our springs and the Great Artesian Basin and now they wish to increase that amount to 42 million litres per day,” Ms Underwood’s statement said

“We are told that this will continue for at least the next 60 years. Given the number of springs that have disappeared, in 60 years we have a great fear that there will be none left whatsoever. The Arabana people have tasked me and the board of directors of the corporation to protect the springs. The big question is how?”

Ms Underwood and the 1000-strong Arabana community fear the South Australian government will be reluctant to change the status quo for BHP.

The mining company’s recent announcement to pause a planned $3 billion expansion of Olympic Dam is likely to see its water take remain about the mid 30 million litres per day mark.

The Arabana people have asked their Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, to advise them if the Commonwealth can get involved. Mr Kenny has said the Commonwealth could act to protect the springs, but previous cases such as that involving South Australia’s Hindmarsh Island suggested it would not.

 

 

 

November 23, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian government weakening of Environmental Law will weaken nuclear and uranium safeguards

Extract of Submission to Federal Environment , David Noonan, 18 Nov 20,       “………..I have made a submission to the Independent Review of the EPBC Act, focusing on operation of the Act in protection of MNES under the “nuclear actions” trigger, and Discussion Paper Q.14 on failings of State roles through a case study on BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine public interest issues.
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In the case of EPBC “nuclear actions”, including EPBC Act Section 21 & 22 controlled actions in uranium mining and milling, the EPBC Act protected Matter of NES is “the environment” – requiring “whole of environment” scope of impact assessments, and Protection of the Environment such that authorized actions do not have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts.
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The Samuel Review, Box 12 Nuclear activities (p.52) states: “To be able to ensure community confidence in these ‘nuclear’ activities, the Commonwealth should maintain the capacity to intervene. To achieve this, the key reform directions proposed by the Review are:
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• The National Environmental Standards for MNES should include one for nuclear actions. To provide community confidence, the Standard should reflect the regulatory guidelines and protocols of all relevant national laws and requirements.”
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However, the Samuel Review (p.110) specifies inadequate ARPANSA Codes as a ‘National Standard’ for nuclear action assessments; OR use of State frameworks judged compliant with these Codes.
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In addition, “graded” (limited) assessments as set out in ARPANSA Codes are to replace the scope of “whole of environment” impact Assessments for ‘nuclear actions’ – including for uranium mining.
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ARPANSA Codes can reflect vested nuclear industry practices rather than best scientific evidentiary standards. For instance, applying outdated 1991 era ionising radiation occupational exposure limits.
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Australia already has a failing record in regulation of uranium mining, in environmental protection and mine rehabilitation issues. Transferring Approvals to States and use of ARPANSA Codes in graded assessments will further compromise environmental protection standards and practise.
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By January 2021 South Australia will be the only Australian jurisdiction conducting uranium mining. A case study of BHP Olympic Dam provides a cogent context to evaluate this Bill & Samuel proposals.
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Importantly, “whole of environment” scope of uranium mining impact assessment encompasses social, economic, cultural and spiritual impacts, and not just environmental & radiological impacts.
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Outdated BHP Olympic Dam legal privileges that override Indigenous Heritage are now under scrutiny before Parliament’s Juukan Caves Inquiry, see Submission No.73 and 73.1 by David Noonan.
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It is typical that uranium mining disproportionately affects Indigenous People. ARPANSA Codes do not provide an appropriate basis to assess or respect Indigenous and Cultural Heritage issues.
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State governments in SA have failed to revoke BHP’s untenable Olympic Dam legal privileges.
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It is a travesty that BHP has deliberately retained 1982 era over-rides of Aboriginal Heritage across the 12,000 km2 “Stuart Shelf Area” around the Olympic Dam mine, and retains outdated legal rights to take excessive volumes of GAB waters affecting the integrity and very survival of GAB Springs.
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BHP’s influence in excessive mining of Great Artesian Basin water for Olympic Dam mine shows a State’s inability,
and given real ‘conflict of interest’, a State’s unwillingness to reform such issues.
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This scope is necessary to respect Indigenous rights and interests to protect their country & culture.
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It is a warning to this Inquiry that the State of SA has failed to protect the unique and fragile Mound Springs. The integrity of Springs relies on continued natural flows and pressure of GAB waters.
These Springs are a protected Matter of NES under the EPBC Act as a listed Endangered Ecological Community and are of significant ongoing cultural and spiritual importance to Aboriginal traditional owners, the Arabana People, who have called for real effective Federal protection of the Springs.
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Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. … The cause of the disappearance of our springs, is water that is being taken from the Great Artesian Basin by BHP’s mine at Roxby Downs. … Unless something is done by the Commonwealth, our springs will disappear… It is unsustainable, destructive of nature, and destructive of our culture to allow the springs to die. Will you please enact laws that ensure our mound springs and culture are recognised, respected and protected?”
This Inquiry must not condemn the GAB Springs to State control of EPBC Act Approval powers.
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I commend the strong Arabana Aboriginal Corporation Submission No.92 (11 August) to the federal Juukan Caves Inquiry and the Arabana Chairperson’s call for protection of their GAB Springs: …… “

November 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government is rushing to weaken Environmental Laws

David Noonan, 18 Nov 20, The Federal Liberal gov has called a rushed Committee of Inquiry into Federal Environment and Nature Laws.

But limited the scope of their Inquiry to their Abbott era untenable ‘One Stop Shop’ Bill to divest EPBC Act Approval powers to the States & Territories…

Public submissions close tomorrow Wednesday 18th, and only one day of Hearings is to be allowed.

New Inquiry:  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020
Date Referred: 12 November 2020 to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee,
Reporting Date: 27 November 2020

see Inquiry homepage:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/StreamliningEnviroApp

My 3-page input of concern at a rushed Inquiry & a flawed Bill itakes a national interest focus on ‘nuclear actions’,

Extracts:

Due process and the national interest responsibility to the protection of Matters of National Environmental Significance (NES) are compromised by this deeply flawed Bill and rushed Inquiry. …

It appears reckless that a core pre-requisite audit of State resourcing and capacity to undertake EPBC Approvals and enforcement roles has not been undertaken at this late stage of events. …

Community confidence requires the EPBC Act to retain Approval powers at a Federal level, and to retain the “whole of environment” scope of Assessment and Protection of the Environment in ‘nuclear actions’ as has been required in our national EPBC Act laws since 1999.

This Inquiry should take up the Arabana People’s call for Federal protection of their GAB Springs. 

 

Contacts: The Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications
Phone: +61 2 6277 3526
Fax: +61 2 6277 5818
ec.sen@aph.gov.au

Note the ACF has provided a proforma sign on letter option to this Inquiry – which you may wish to avail of,. (see sidebar at right.)

November 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | 1 Comment