Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Queensland splinter political party   North Queensland First pushing for uranium mining in Queensland

Jason Costigan wants Queensland to export uranium again, Canberra Times, Derek Barry  3 July 20

  North Queensland First leader and Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan wants Queensland to lift the ban on uranium mining…….
Uranium mining is legal in South Australia and NT but was banned in Queensland in 1989 by the Labor government, then repealed by the LNP Newman government in 2012, and then banned again in 2015 by the Palaszczuk government. …..
Bob Katter also supported a nuclear power push earlier this year.
The most famous site in the region is Mary Kathleen which was commissioned in the 1950s and one of the largest producers of uranium as yellowcake and sales supplied material primarily intended for USA and UK weapons programs and some electricity production until its contracts ran out……
Today the largest prospective Queensland mine is Paladin’s Valhalla, 40 km north of Mount Isa, with an estimated 8Mlbpa idled capacity. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6817318/mp-wants-queensland-to-export-uranium-again/?cs=14231#gsc.tab=0

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Queensland, uranium | Leave a comment

There is really no market in India for Australia’s uranium

No market for Australian uranium in India, 23 June 2020, M V Ramana and Cassandra Jefferyhttps://www.eastasiaforum.org/2020/06/23/no-market-for-australian-uranium-in-india/

In 2011, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) voted to overturn a ban on uranium sales to India. The Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between Australia and India was then signed in 2014. The Australian Parliament subsequently passed a bill permitting its uranium mining companies to supply nuclear material to India. These efforts were supposedly intended to allow Australia to profit from Indian uranium purchases.

At the 2011 ALP national conference, then prime minister Julia Gillard argued that India was planning to generate 40 per cent of its electricity with nuclear energy by 2050. ‘Having access to this market is good for Australian jobs’, said Gillard during the conference. The Australian Uranium Association projected that ‘Australia could expect to sell some 2500 tonnes of uranium annually to India by 2030, generating export sales of AU$300 million’ (US$205 million). But nearly a decade later, what is the reality?

Aside from a small shipment of uranium sent to India for testing in 2017, no uranium appears to have been exported to India from Australia. In 2018, India’s Ministry of Atomic Energy stated that the country had signed contracts with firms from Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia and France to procure uranium. And in March 2020, India signed a contract with Uzbekistan. There has been no mention of Australia.

A large order for Australian uranium appears unlikely in the future as well. With a net generating capacity of only 6.2 gigawatts (GW), India does not have a large requirement for uranium in the first place. Further, Australian uranium can only be used for reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which attempt to ensure that no materials are used for nuclear weapons. Such reactors amount to less than 2 GW of India’s capacity.

India’s nuclear fleet will not expand dramatically either. India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has a long history of setting ambitious nuclear power generation targets and failing to meet them. In 1984, the DAE promised a nuclear capacity of 10 GW by 2000. The actual figure in 2000 was 2.7 GW. By then the DAE had set a new target, 20 GW by 2020. Again, today’s current capacity (6.2 GW) is nowhere close to this target.

Seven more reactors, with a total capacity of 4.8 GW, are under construction. But five of these reactors have been significantly delayed. Four of them were supposed to be commissioned in 2015 and 2016. But these reactors are now expected to start operating in October 2020, September 2021, March 2022 and March 2023 respectively.

The fifth is India’s flagship project, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR). Construction started in 2004 and the reactor was supposed to start functioning in 2010 but is now ‘expected to commence production of electricity in October 2022’.

Costs have increased, too. The PFBR’s estimate has jumped from Rs 34.9 billion (US$457 million) to Rs 68.4 billion (US$896 million). And the PHWRs will cost around 40–45 per cent more than initially projected.

In contrast, India’s renewable energy sector is a different story. Wind and solar power have only recently been introduced to India’s energy mix, but both technologies are expanding rapidly while becoming significantly cheaper. Between 2016 and 2019, installed solar capacity increased from 9.6 GW to 35 GW, while wind capacity increased from 28.7 GW to 37.5 GW. In 2019, both wind (63.3 terawatt-hours (TWh)) and solar (46.3 TWh) power contributed more to overall electricity generation in India than nuclear power (45.2 TWh).

India’s renewable energy sector is expected to continue growing, while nuclear energy will likely remain stagnant. Recently, the Department of Economic Affairs assembled a task force to ‘identify technically feasible and financially viable infrastructure projects that can be initiated in fiscals 2020–25’. The task force foresaw renewable capacity increasing from 22 per cent of the total installed electrical capacity in 2019 to 39 per cent by 2025. Conversely, nuclear capacity stays around 2 per cent of installed capacity.

Even the Indian government expects the divergence between the growing renewable energy sector and the stagnant nuclear sector to increase as the rapidly falling cost of solar power makes nuclear power redundant.

Australian policymakers who advocated for exporting uranium to India were betting on the wrong energy source. Perhaps there were ulterior motives, including recognising India as a major power. But good policy cannot be made on the basis of false claims.

Australian uranium companies continue to insist that India is expanding its nuclear power capacity. Energy Resources of Australia Ltd’s 2017 annual report claims that ‘India has 22 reactors in operation and plans to generate as much as 25 per cent of electricity from nuclear power by 2050’. Paladin and Yellow Cake made similar claims in 2019.

Nuclear power has never constituted more than a few per cent of India’s electricity supply. Given current trends, it will never amount to much more. Nuclear reactors are expensive and time-consuming to construct, factors that explain why the share of electricity supplied by nuclear power plants globally has declined continuously, from 17.5 per cent in 1996 to 10.15 per cent in 2018. This global trend must be considered by Australian policymakers as they deal with lobbyists for uranium mining and the push there to build nuclear plants.

M V Ramana is Professor, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security, and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, the University of British Colombia. Cassandra Jeffery is a recent Master‘s of Public Policy and Global Affairs graduate of the University of British Columbia.

June 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Why we must fight miners’ push to fast-track uranium mines

Expensive, dirty and dangerous: why we must fight miners’ push to fast-track uranium mines  https://theconversation.com/expensive-dirty-and-dangerous-why-we-must-fight-miners-push-to-fast-track-uranium-mines-139966?fbclid=IwAR173tiUPtRX3YkqQh5VlmoWHWWCUHxSFtCFxFIxKtuvI3IaghgbGhAEBAM, Gavin Mudd, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, RMIT University, June 18, 2020    Of all the elements on Earth, none is more strictly controlled under law than uranium. A plethora of international agreements govern its sale and use in energy, research and nuclear weapons.

Australian environmental law considers nuclear actions, such as uranium mining, as a “matter of national environmental significance” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This means uranium involves matters of national and international concern for which the Australian government is solely responsible.

The states, which own minerals, cannot exercise such oversight on uranium exports and use. So any new uranium mine needs both state and federal environmental approvals.

The Minerals Council of Australia wants to change this. In a submission to a ten-year review of the EPBC Act, the council argues that uranium’s special treatment is redundant, as environmental risks are already addressed in state approval processes.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that BHP’s proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold-silver mine in South Australia was one of 15 major projects set to be fast-tracked for environmental approval. This would include a single, joint state and federal assessment.

But responsibility and past performance make a compelling case to maintain our federal environmental laws more than ever. Here’s why uranium mining must remain a federal issue.

Our international obligations

Australia is a signatory to several international treaties, conventions and agreements concerning nuclear activities and uranium mining and export.

These include safeguards to ensure Australian uranium is used only for peaceful nuclear power or research, and not military uses.

As of the end of 2018, the nuclear material safeguarded under international agreements derived from our uranium exports totalled 212,052 tonnes – including 201.6 tonnes of separated plutonium.

Making sure our uranium trading partners don’t redirect that material for the wrong purpose has been the raison d’être of our nuclear foreign policy since 1977. It’s clearly a national legal and moral obligation, and something the states simply cannot do.

In response, a spokesperson for the Minerals Council of Australia said a national mechanism to manage safeguards already exists through the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, adding:

Uranium is further regulated through the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) […] under the provisions of the ARPANS Regulations 1999. The object of the ARPANS Act is “to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, from the harmful effects of radiation”.

But ARPANSA regulates radiation safety and not uranium exports. If uranium mining was removed as a nuclear action, then there would be no public process involving our uranium exports – creating more secrecy and reducing scrutiny.

Successful rehabilitation has yet to be seen

Uranium mines are difficult to rehabilitate at the end of their lives. In my 24 years of research, including visiting most sites, I’ve yet to see a successful case study of Australia’s 11 major uranium mines or numerous small sites.

For example, the Rum Jungle mine near Darwin, which operated from 1954 to 1971, left a toxic legacy of acidic and radioactive drainage and a biologically dead Finniss River.

As a military project for the Cold War, it was Australian government-owned, but operated under contract by a company owned by Rio Tinto. The site was rehabilitated with taxpayer money from 1983-86, but by the mid-1990s the works were failing, and pollution levels were again rising.
The Northern Territory government is proposing a new round of rehabilitation. After accounting for inflation to 2019 dollars, Rum Jungle has cost taxpayers A$875 million for a return of A$139 million. The next round of rehabilitation is expected to cost many millions more.

The former Mary Kathleen mine, also part of Rio Tinto’s corporate history, operated from 1958-63 and 1976-82.

Rehabilitation works were completed by 1986 and won national engineering awards for excellence. But by the late 1990s, acid seepage problems emerged from the tailings dam (where mining by-products are stored) and overlying grasses were absorbing toxic heavy metals, creating a risk for grazing cattle.

Rare earth metals are also present in these tailings, leading to the possibility the tailings will be reprocessed to fund the next round of rehabilitation. The site remains in limbo, despite its Instagram fame.

Both Rum Jungle and Mary Kathleen were rehabilitated to the standards of their day, but they have not withstood the test of time.

Australia’s biggest uranium mine, Ranger, is fast approaching the end of its operating life.

Rio Tinto is also the majority owner of Ranger. Despite Ranger’s recent losses, Rio has retained control and given Ranger hundreds of millions of dollars towards ensuring site operations and rehabilitation.

In recent years the cost of rehabilitation has soared from A$565 million in 2011 to A$897 million in 2019, over which time A$603 million has been spent on rehabilitation works.

Site rehabilitation is required to be complete by January 2026, with Rio Tinto and Ranger assuming 25 years of monitoring – although plans and funding for this are still being finalised.

The legal requirement is that no contaminants should cause environmental impacts for 10,000 years, and no other mine has ever faced such a hurdle.

Recently, it emerged that Ranger had not agreed to continue its share of funding the scientific research required for the rehabilitation – an issue still unresolved. So despite promises of world’s best ever rehabilitation, concerns remain.

The Conversation contacted Rio Tinto to respond, and it referred us to Energy Resources Australia (ERA), which operates Ranger. An ERA spokesperson stated:

Since 1994, ERA has made an annual contribution to research into the environmental effects of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region under an agreement with the Commonwealth. The agreement provides for a review of funding contributions at fixed periods or at either party’s request to acknowledge changes in Ranger operations.

ERA is required to cease processing in January 2021 in accordance with the expiration of its Authority to Operate under the Commonwealth Atomic Energy Act. Given the impending cessation in processing, ERA believes it is appropriate and reasonable to review the current research funding arrangements.

ERA has followed due process in this matter and welcomes the Commonwealth’s decision to support a process of mediation to resolve the issue.

No other former uranium mine in Australia can claim long-term rehabilitation success. Nabarlek, Radium Hill-Port Pirie, South Alligator Valley and other small mines all have issues such as erosion, weeds, remaining infrastructure, radiation hot-spots and/or water contamination. They all require ongoing surveillance.

Uranium mining is set to be outcompeted

Australia’s uranium export revenue from 1977 to December A$2019 was A$29.4 billion. Lithium has now overtaken uranium in export revenue – from 2017 to 2019, lithium earned Australia two to three times our uranium exports.

Even if Olympic Dam expands (and especially if it stops extracting uranium in favour of tellurium, cobalt and rare earths also present), this trend is expected to increase in the coming years as Ranger closes and the world transitions to renewable energy and electric vehicles to help address climate change.

In response, the Minerals Council of Australia stated that lithium’s contribution to large-scale electricity storage is just beginning, arguing:

With the development of new nuclear technologies such as small modular and micro reactors, the prospects for the future of both uranium and lithium are positive and no one should be picking winners apart from the market.
Ultimately, uranium remains an element with immense potential for misuse – as seen with North Korea and other rogue nuclear states. Federal oversight of uranium mining must remain. After all, the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

June 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, reference, uranium | Leave a comment

Don’t send uranium to India- Dr Vaishali Patil speaks to Australia

Dr Patil spoke on the first of the Yellowcake Country webinars on 10th June. She spoke of the beautiful country of the Konkon area, formerly a place of thriving agriculture, fruit growing and fishing.  It is now known for having the largest nuclear power plant in the world.  Despite the opposition of farmers and fishermen, this gigantic and enormously expensive nuclear project has gone ahead.

The local people have continued their protest for 15 years. The government has the right to commandeer land for nuclear activities, giving very little compensation.  Many protestors have been gaoled. Livelihoods are threatened, not only by the loss of land, but also, the remaining agricultural and fishing industries lose their markets, due to both the real contamination of the environment, and the perceived contamination, as the area becomes known as a nuclear hub.

Environmental damage has affected the lives of the community, as well as their livelihoods. Radiation has resulted in a rise in cancer incidence. Men who never took part in the past, in protest movements are now joiningthe anti-nucler movement. But women have always been prominent in opposition to nuclear power, in the Jaitapur Anti-Nuclear Movement. It’s a peaceful protest, following Ghandian philosophy. But activists face gaol, and condemnation – are depicted as being against development, against the national interest.

Nuclear power contributes very little to India’s energy, less than 2% of energy supply. However the government invests hugely in it.  Despite the devastation from the recent cyclone, despite the onslaught of the coronavirus, the government pours huge amounts of money into nuclear industry, nuclear weapons. This investment continues, while the cyclone destruction has ravaged the Konkon area, with 7000 school buildings collapsed, 500,000 trees uprooted, and thousands of migrant workers still walking  through.

The National Alliance of Anti Nuclear Movement of India (NAAM) continues its work  and calls for Australia’s anti-nuclear movement to join forces with it, and work to prevent the export of uranium to India.

June 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

ERA’s focus is now on rehabilitating the Ranger uranium mine site.

ERA, operator of Jabiru’s Ranger uranium mine, has held its last AGM as shutdown date looms

The company behind a contentious uranium mine in Jabiru has held its final AGM before production grinds to a halt, telling shareholders its focus is now on rehabilitating the site.

MADURA MCCORMACK, NT News, 31 May 20 https://www.ntnews.com.au/business/era-operator-of-jabirus-ranger-uranium-mine-has-held-its-last-agm-as-shutdown-date-looms/news-story/ad7601dd3ed45def1a63d8286e4b1b6c

THE company behind a contentious uranium mine in Jabiru has held its final annual general meeting before production grinds to a halt, telling shareholders its focus is now on the “successful rehabilitation” of the site. Energy Resources Australia, which has run the Ranger uranium mine since 1980, has seven months left to process remaining ore before it is legally required to shut down the site and commence a rigorous five-year rehabilitation program.Mining giant Rio Tinto, which this week made headlines for legally blasting an ancient Aboriginal heritage site in WA to expand a mine, owns a controlling 86.3 per cent stake in ERA. ERA chief executive Paul Arnold told shareholders on Friday the company had spent $92 million rehabilitating the mine in 2019, made $6 million in profit after tax, and $210 million from the sale of uranium oxide. In February, ERA finalised an offer from Rio Tinto to tip $476 million toward mine rehabilitation obligations in return for a larger shareholding slice, a deal that prevented ERA from collapsing financially.

“Expenditure on rehabilitation will only increase in coming years and this is a major Northern Territory project in its own right,” chairman Peter Mansell said in his address to shareholders. “The strategic priority for ERA now is the successful rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area.”

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said the rehabilitation standard set for Ranger mine was one “never previously attempted or achieved”, warning mining giant Rio Tinto and ERA that all eyes were on them to get this right. “The challenge is how to rehabilitate the heavily affected mine site and larger Ranger Project Area in a way that reduces adverse impacts and provides confidence that the living and peopled landscape of Kakadu is well protected, now and into the future,” Mr Sweeney said.

Rehabilitation of the mine must conclude in January 2026 and, according to ERA, it will include treating more than 16.5 gigalitres of water and planting 1.1 million trees on site.

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

The coronavirus pandemic and the uranium industry

The coronavirus pandemic and the uranium industry

Jim Green, 25 May 2020, Nuclear Monitor #885, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/885/nuclear-monitor-885-25-may-2020

The uranium industry has been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than other sectors of the nuclear fuel cycle. Major producers have sharply cut production.

First, a quick summary of the past 15 or so years to put the current turmoil in context. Uranium mine production increased by 50% from 2007 to 2016.1 But the expected nuclear renaissance didn’t eventuate so increased uranium production has resulted in ever-growing stockpiles. Those stockpiles alone would suffice to keep the entire global reactor fleet operating for roughly eight years.2

Surplus production and stagnant demand have put persistent downward pressure on uranium prices. AMP Capital estimated in 2018 that around half the world’s uranium mines are losing money.3 The World Nuclear Association acknowledged in September 2019 that oversupply in recent years has led to a sizable reduction in uranium production levels at existing mines and a sharp decrease in investment in the development of new and existing mines.4 In 2011, according to a uranium company executive, there were about 420 companies around the world exploring for or mining uranium; now, the number is 62, of which 27 have “limited to non-existent resources”.5

Even before the recent pandemic-related cutbacks, numerous mines had been put into care-and-maintenance or production was reduced:6

  • In Australia, the Beverley, Beverley North and Honeymoon mines were put into care-and-maintenance (and at the Ranger mine, mining has ceased and the processing of stockpiled ore will be soon be completed).
  • Cameco has put several uranium mines into care-and-maintenance in recent years: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US.7 Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in 2019.
  • Kazakhstan’s (mostly) state-owned uranium producer Kazatomprom cut uranium production by 20% in late 2017. Kazatomprom announced last year that the 20% curtailment of production will be extended until 2021, and its statement left plenty of wriggle-room for curtailment beyond then.8
  • In Africa, the Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines were put into care-and-maintenance (and Paladin has since sold the Kayelekera mine).9

Continue reading

May 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine operates on outdated 1991 era Occupational Radiation Exposure Limits:

BHP Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine operates on outdated 1991 era Occupational Radiation Exposure Limits:

A Bill for a new Radiation Protection and Control Act 2020 goes to the SA Parliament for debate on/from Tues 2nd June, involving a range of untenable 1982 Indenture Act legal privileges to BHP that are retained in the Bill and proposed to be just rolled over into a new Act – which is unfit for the 2020’s…

Please see a Briefing Paper (4 pages) – with sub-headings covering key points:

“BHP Olympic Dam operates under outdated 1991 era Radiation Exposure Standards”

Briefing Paper prepared by David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner, 18 May 2020

Strong evidence to Reform a 30-year old standard and apply a Safer Lower Worker Exposure Limit p.1

BHP Olympic Dam underground mine workers face a significant increase in cancer risk p.2

BHP Olympic Dam workers face radiation health impacts double that of cancer risks alone p.3

The Bill and the Olympic Dam mine expansion must trigger a Radiation Safety Review p.4

How long will SA wait to Review and Reform worker radiation exposure health risks?

May 28, 2020 Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian govt and ERA squabble over monitoring of Ranger uranium clean-up

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, politics, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

The push to weaken Australia’s law regulating the uranium industry, in the review of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act

Uranium, extinction, expedited approvals and extreme risks: the need for stronger environmental laws,   https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20887   

By Mia Pepper – 14 May 2020

This year a Review Committee is examining the cornerstone of Australia’s environmental laws – the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. This review comes hot on the heels of three inquiries into nuclear power driven by conservative politicians and pressure from the nuclear lobby. This cohort are pushing for the removal of laws banning nuclear power, a push the current federal government has already ruled out.

They are also pushing to weaken regulatory requirements for uranium mine assessments through the EPBC Act. There is currently no national prohibition on uranium mining, but prohibitions exist in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA, Tasmania and Victoria. SA and the NT have a long and contested history of supplying uranium to fuel nuclear power plants overseas. Uranium from SA and the NT fuelled the Fukushima reactor during the 2011 meltdowns, fires and explosions ‒ a discomforting legacy given that there was ample evidence long before the Fukushima disaster of corruption and inadequate safety standards in Japan’s nuclear industry.

Following the Fukushima disaster the UN Secretary General advised that Australia have “an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems.” No such assessment has been carried out. Worse still, the appointment of a former uranium mining company executive to the EPBC Review Committee suggests that there may be some support within the government for a weakening of uranium mining regulations rather than the necessary strengthening.

The reality of uranium mining in Australia has been one of leaks, spills, accidents, license breaches and a failure to rehabilitate. Of the 15 uranium mines that have operated, just two are still mining (Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile), one is preparing for closure (Ranger), another is preparing for a second round of rehabilitation failing previous attempts (Rum Jungle), three are on life support in extended care and maintenance; and the remaining sites are all contaminated and require ongoing monitoring and maintenance at the expense of taxpayers.

That track-record strongly suggests the need for greater scrutiny and a strengthening not a weakening of regulations. Proposed changes by the nuclear industry include changing the definition of ‘nuclear actions’ in the EPBC Act to remove the “mining and milling” of uranium. The impact of this would reduce requirements for whole-of-environment assessments for uranium projects and reduce federal oversight. Existing processes desperately need improvement given recent failures around transparency, upholding principles and objects of environmental laws, political influence in decision making, expedited process and unfounded exemptions.

The Ranger uranium mine in the tropical NT, owned by Rio Tinto and operated by ERA, will begin rehabilitation in 2021, a project set to cost in excess of $1 billion. There are ongoing concerns about the funding and adequacy of the proposed rehabilitation. Meeting the regulatory requirement to secure radioactive wastes and other toxins from the environment for 10,000 years is inherently difficult, not least because there is a long history of routine, daily leakage of large volumes of contaminated liquid.

Not far from Ranger, the government-owned Rum Jungle mine has been leaking radioactive and acidic materials into the East Branch of the Finniss River since it was closed in 1971. The NT government has released new plans to remediate the site which is likely to cost in excess of $300 million, but there is still no commitment from the NT or Federal governments to fund this important work.

The legacy threats from uranium mines are unlike the threats from other mines and a repeated failure to contain this waste suggests that mining uranium should be banned, or at the very least have the strictest possible regulations.

There are many other examples of industry and regulatory failure. At the former uranium mine at Radium Hill in SA, the tailings dam was shoddily constructed and was not capped when the mine closed. The Port Pirie uranium treatment plant in SA is still contaminated over 50 years after its closure. SA regulators failed to detect a mining exploration company’s dumping of low-level radioactive waste in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. At the Beverley Four Mile in-situ leach uranium mine in SA, contaminated wastewater is routinely dumped in groundwater ‒ a process permitted by regulators who should know better.

In yet another regulatory failure, BHP’s proposal for a new tailing’s facility at its Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in SA has been fast-tracked without requirements for federal approval. The decision not to assess the new tailings dam came after the Australian National Committee on Large Dams gave three existing tailings dams at Olympic Dam a risk ranking of ‘extreme’ – this ranking is given to tailings facilities that if failed would cause the death of over 100 people. The independent review of tailings followed the Samarco tailings disaster in Brazil, a joint venture project between BHP and Vale, which killed 19 people. The new proposed tailings should be assessed to determine the risk and likelihood of failure; instead, the facility has been fast-tracked avoiding scrutiny under the EPBC Act.

Cameco’s proposed Yeelirrie mine in WA provides another example of unseemly haste and unseemly exemptions. The WA EPA recommended that Yeelirrie not be approved because of the likelihood the mine would cause multiple species extinctions. Despite this recommendation the former State Environment Minister approved the mine weeks before losing his seat and the Liberal party lost Government in the 2017 WA election. In a similar scenario, the mine was given federal approval on the eve of announcing the 2019 federal election. That federal approval followed direct lobbying of Ministers and the Department and resulted in a set of conditions that no longer require the company to prove the mine won’t cause species extinction.

A 2003 report by the federal Senate References and Legislation Committee found “a pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” in the uranium mining industry and it concluded that changes were necessary “in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from serious or irreversible damage”. The same could be said now. Subsequent reviews of uranium mining regulations in Queensland, WA and Canada identify unique risks with uranium mining and calls for improved and increased regulations that meet those specific challenges and risks.

The push from the industry to weaken regulations should be wholeheartedly rejected and instead the EPBC Committee could consider advice from former UN Secretary General to hold an “in-depth” assessment of the uranium sector and its impacts.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

Minerals Council of Australia wants radiation risks to be discounted in Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Coronavirus: cut green tape delay on projects, miners say

Australia’s six peak mining and ­resources groups are pushing for a major overhaul of environmental laws, calling for the removal of “unnecessary duplication and complexity” to provide greater certainty for businesses.

In a joint submission to the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, led by former Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chair Graeme Samuel, the mining sector warns companies are facing delay costs of up to $1m a day.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said Australia was facing an unprecedented economic and social threat from the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing reforms of the EPBC Act would help reduce ­delays in project approvals and fast-track projects.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley last month flagged reforms to the EPBC and the government’s commitment to cut green tape to “get rid of unnecessary delays”.

Professor Samuel will deliver an interim report by June and a final report by October. “We are getting congestion out of the system and we will continue to do so as the economy comes through the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Ley said.

The MCA submission, co-signed by the NSW Minerals Council, Queensland Resources Council, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy and the Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing and Energy Council, suggest four key points to improve the EPBC.

These include eliminating or reducing duplication and ensuring consistency between federal and state-territory processes, reducing delays in assessment and approval processes, improving certainty for businesses and ensuring better “fit-for-purpose regulation”.

Assessing regulatory duplication and uncertainty, the ’ submission ranks NSW and Victoria lower than less mature mining jurisdictions, including PNG and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms Constable said “pragmatic and considered policy reform can build a stronger minerals industry for a faster and more durable post-COVID-19 recovery”.

“When mining projects can take more than a decade to deliver, it’s clear better regulation can help deliver Australia’s economic recovery without compromising our precious environment,” she said.

“Reform to the act is long overdue to address unnecessary duplication and complexity.”

Ms Constable said a one-year delay to a project can reduce its net present value by 10 to 13 per cent per year. “For large mining projects (with a value from $3bn to $4bn), delay costs can be up to $1m per day,” she said. “Significant growth in regulation across all levels of government including the EPBC Act has not led to better environmental outcomes.”

The groups want uranium mining, milling decommissioning and rehabilitation removed from the definition of nuclear actions under the act, to help unlock the mineral sands industry. The EPBC trigger has captured non-uranium projects, including mineral sands, rare earths and base metals, where naturally occurring radioactive ­material may be present.

Ms Constable said Australia had the world’s largest mineral sands deposits, offering significant “opportunities for growth and jobs”. “Heavy mineral sands such as rutile, ilmenite (titanium) and zircon are essential inputs to everyday life including paint, medical implants and ceramics.”

“Many of Australia’s mineral sands deposits also contain monazite and xenotime, which are sources of the rare earth elements used in smart phones and computers, as well as medical devices.’’

May 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, uranium | Leave a comment

Western Australian uranium projects floundering, as Cameco’s Kintyre environmental approval lapses

K-A Garlick at Nuclear Free WA, 6 May 20 The environmental approval for the Kintyre uranium project expired in March this year.  So there is no valid environmental approval for Cameco. There can be no mining without changing or getting new environmental approval. This is great news for the campaign and shows the uncertainty of the uranium industry and Cameo who had applied for an extension but latter withdraw their application. It is great for the Martu community who have held strong and resisted over these many years. Let’s hope their beautiful country will one day be given back!

Keeping a track on all four projects and the process of asking questions on notice through State Parliament, we have found that Toro Energy, have failed to submit their annual environment reports on the Wiluna uranium project.  This matter is now being pursued by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety to ensure the report and plans are provided and any appropriate compliance action is taken.

Further good news, Yeelirrie is getting some really good attention with some upcoming media from the Freedom of Information process that has been investigated through the Australian Conservation Foundation that found an alarming lack of transparency in the Federal approvals process. The documents show that Cameco lobbied the former Federal resource Minister, Matt Canavan to fast track the approvals process and to change the conditions. If you haven’t seen the presentation from ACF, please click here.

We are excited organising a series of webinar nuclear talks that will focus on local, national and international impacts of Australian uranium industry. We will announce next week further details, but lock in Wednesday 10 June 5.30pm – 7 pm (tbc).

May 7, 2020 Posted by | uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Flooding events highlight the danger to proposed uranium mining sites Yeelirrie and Wiluna

K-A Garlick at Nuclear Free WA

6 Feb 20, In an area where two uranium mines are proposed ~ Yeelirrie and Wiluna, there have been massive rain influx, leading to widespread floods across the Goldfields country.

Toro Energy Wiluna uranium project expands over two lake systems and over 100 kms. The project includes four uranium deposits – Lake Way, Centipede, Millipede and Lake Maitland.

The project proposal includes a high risk inappropriate site to attempt disposal of up to 50 million tonnes of radioactive tailings that would be stored in mined out pits on the edge of Lake Way in a floodplain and in the drainage channel of a creek.

The company’s studies of hydrogeology, hydrology and geochemistry were all heavily criticised in Peer Reviews submitted as part of the environmental assessment.  With these floods today, the planned emplacement of 50 million tonnes of long-lived radioactive mine waste in a floodplain poses a very serious risk to the environment and public health.

February 6, 2020 Posted by | climate change - global warming, safety, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Uranium prospects poor, but Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt and Northern Land Council agree on a new mine

January 27, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | 1 Comment

Honeymoon uranium mine might restart this year, and pigs might fly

Uranium miner flags restart at Honeymoon within a year if prices jump, others aren’t so sure, ABC BROKEN HILL BY DECLAN GOOCH AND SARA TOMEVSKA 22 Jan 2020, The company behind a proposal to restart uranium mining in north-east South Australia says it would be ready to begin production within a year if prices improve.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has cast doubt on the likelihood of that occurring, arguing the market is moving away from uranium.

Key points:

  • Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence but has been mothballed since 2013
  • New owner Boss Resources says technology will help it lower operational costs and will reopen the mine once uranium prices improve
  • Anti-nuclear campaigners doubt the mine’s prospects, saying significant uranium producers have been deferring or halting development

The Honeymoon uranium mine was mothballed in 2013 because it had become too expensive to run.

But in 2015, the mine, which is about 80 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, was purchased by WA exploration company Boss Resources.

Boss chief executive Duncan Craib said the company had developed new technology to lower operational costs and had finalised a feasibility study.

He said the mine would reopen once uranium prices improved, which he was expecting to happen soon.

“We don’t want to destroy the resource at low uranium prices, so we’d like an uptick in the market before proceeding,” Mr Craib said.

Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence.

However, Mr Craib said uranium was under-utilised in Australia and he would like to see a domestic uptake of nuclear power…….

Optimism baseless, campaigner says

Anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney from the ACF said he believed the announcement was without substance.

“There is nothing new in their statement,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a holding-pattern statement from a mining company with not a lot of resources, not a lot of projects, that are trying to continue to hold a place in the market, where the market is increasingly in freefall.

“Obviously, Boss is going to say the uranium price is going to soar — they’re a uranium miner.

“We’ve got major producers in this country … We’ve got a third of the world’s uranium and we’re not digging much, and that is because the price is not there.

Mr Sweeney said significant producers were deferring or halting development.

Rio Tinto, a massive mining company, is exiting at the Ranger mine in Kakadu,” he said.

“Cameco, the world’s largest dedicated uranium producer, has written down an asset that it spent $500 million on a decade ago in WA, and says that the best way to preserve the value of uranium is to keep it in the ground.”…….. https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-22/honeymoon-uranium-mine-production-within-a-year-company-says/11889466

January 23, 2020 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

SA Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young slams investment in South Australian uranium mine

Honeymoon isn’t over: SA uranium mine to reopen, The Advertiser, 22 January 2020 A closed uranium mine near Broken Hill will be reopened to seize on a renewed demand, its owner says.

The Honeymoon uranium mine in the state’s east “will be Australia’s next uranium producer” following a $93 million restart, its owner Boss Resources says.

The ASX-listed company says the mine “can be fast-tracked to re-start production in 12 months with low capital intensity to seize an anticipated rally in the uranium market’’…..

The Honeymoon project uses “in-situ recovery”, which involves injecting solvent into wells drilled into the deposit, dissolving the uranium, then recovering it at the surface.  …..

SA Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the focus should be on renewables, not nuclear energy.

“South Australia doesn’t need to tether itself anymore to the toxic and dangerous cycle of the nuclear industry,’’ Ms Hanson-Young said

“SA is better than this and we are best placed in the world to reap the renewables and green industry revolution.

“Rather than a big new uranium mine, SA needs investment in our clean green energy industry. We should be working towards SA being a net exporter of renewable energy and technologies. ‘Green’ mining and industries like lithium for batteries, green hydrogen and renewable powered manufacturing will create jobs fit for the climate crisis Australia is in.”

Wilderness Society SA director Peter Owen said they would prefer to see investment in the state’s vast renewable resources such as wind and solar.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, uranium | 1 Comment