Australian news, and some related international items

One small concession to Australia’s environment – BHP to pay a bit for future water grab

(once again – so much news about BHP Billiton and Olympic Dam uranium mine – more items at )

BHP forced to pay for Great Artesian Basin water,  ABC Rural By Annabelle Homer , 13/10/2011 The South Australian Government and BHP Billiton have signed an Indenture Agreement to enable the Olympic Dam mine expansion to go ahead. The Indenture Bill will be introduced to State Parliament next week to enable this agreement to be backed by the full force of South Australian law.

As part of the agreement, the company will now be charged for the water it extracts from the Great Artesian Basin and $350 million a year in royalties will be generated once the project is at full capacity…..  BHP has accepted reluctantly they will now come under Environment Protection Agency, they are paying for the first time ever for the Great Artesian Basin water.”

BHP will be charged on the current NRM Board levy rate (currently $0.0318/KL) for the region (capped at $0.10/KL), for a period of 30 years from the commencement of the project.The charge will then revert to the current NRM Levy rate.

BHP will not be required to pay for water being taken on the Special Mineral Lease.

Independent environmental consultant David Noonan says the BHP is not paying enough. “He says the company will be paying $1.3 million to $1.5 million a year for essentially a precious water resource.”

The Bill also includes a 12-month sunset clause, which means the company has one year from when Parliament passes the Bill to get the approval from its Board of Directors to formally begin the expansion.

October 14, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

How Australian governments gave BHP special treatment, and free groundwater

Public resources for private profit: free water for the largest open-pit mine in the world Coober Pedy Regional Times, by: Nectaria Calan, 13 Oct 11 In August mining giant BHP Billiton announced record financial results for the 2011 financial year, recording a total net profit of US$23.95 billion, nearly double its 2010 figure of US$13.01 billion.
Despite its profits more than tripling in the last three years, BHP has never paid a cent for the water used at its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine. The mine currently takes an average of 37 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). Under the Roxby Downs Indenture Act BHP is not required to pay for this water usage.
The Indenture Act applies specifically to the Olympic Dam mine, and provides for wide-ranging legal exemptions from  s eve r a l  South Aus t r a l i an  l aws ,   including  the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Natural Resources Management Act (which incorporates water management).
It is essentially a contract between BHP and the state government, which overrides key legislation in South Australia with the terms set out in the indenture agreement. The Special Water Licence for the mine is granted under the Indenture Act. It does not allocate a fee for the water used at the mine, essentially providing BHP with a massive subsidy. The new open-pit mine at Olympic Dam will require an additional 200 million litres of water per day, with water intake from the Basin proposed to in crease to the current licence limit of 42 million litres per day. *During the construction phase, it is projected that 44 million litres per day will be required, pending further government approvals.
This sits uneasily alongside the recently announc ed  thi rd  s t age  of   the  Gr e a t  Ar t e s i an Ba s in Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), for which the State and Commonwealth Governments have committed $2 million, to preserve an additional 3.8 million litres a day.
The water intake from the GAB is already affecting the unique Mound Springs found in the Lake Eyre region. Fed by the underlying Artesian Basin, they are integral to the desert ecosystem and sacred to the Arabunna people.
Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott observes that, “since the establishment of the mine by Western Mining Corporation, people like myself, born and bred in the area, have noticed  the water level of the springs dropping. One is just about gone.”
The Great Artesian Basin Wellfields Report, published yearly by BHP in accordance with the Indenture Act, shows reduced flow rates for several springs, particularly those monitored from the mid-1980’s, when the mine was established….   Coober Pedy Regional Times 13-10-2011 (PDF)

October 14, 2011 Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium, water | , | 1 Comment

As Australia’s groundwater declines, BHP BIlliton should not extract GAB water for free

It is within the power of the Federal and South Australian governments to require, as a condition of consent to the BHP Billiton proposal, that at the time the desalination plant is commissioned, the company will surrender any and whatever licence it has to extract water from the Great Artesian Basin ….

It is our submission that, as the largest single extractor of water from the GAB in South Australia, BHP Billiton has created its own ethical obligation to the future of the GAB …

It is our further submission that this is not an economic issue, it is not even an environmental issue, it is about the ethics of any company continuing to assert its current right to a public resource when that company has the financial capacity to secure the same resource from its own private reserves. ….

Re:- BHP Billiton – Olympic Dam Expansion Proposal22 August, 2011  Letter to Senate Standing Committees on Rural Affairs and Transport  from Richard Quilty BHP Billiton Shareholder Willem Vervoort,Associate Professor, Hydrology & Catchment Management The University of Sydney

On the dry Australian continent groundwater is the only consistently reliable source of water; it is thus an extremely valuable resource. The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is the largest of those groundwater resources.

The total value of production supported by GAB water is estimated at $3.5 billion per annum. Without that groundwater there would be little to no economic activity and in fact little opportunity for life in much of regional Australia.

Currently, many groundwater resources are over-allocated leading to declining water tables and water quality. Federal and State governments as well as private business are investing large amounts of money to rectify this problem. An example is the $140 million GABSI program to save GAB water. Continue reading

August 27, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, uranium, water | | Leave a comment

BHP Billiton above the law, exporting megalitres of Australia’s water – for free!

BHP Billiton: Billions in profits and not paying a cent for water in SA, 
Friends of the Earth Adelaide
24th AUGUST 2011 Today mining giant BHP Billiton announced record financial results for the 2011 financial year, recording a total net profit of US$23. 95 billion, nearly double its 2010 figure of US$13.01 billion.

Despite its profits more than tripling in the last three years, BHP has never paid a cent for the vast amounts of water used by the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine near Roxby Downs. The mine currently uses approximately 35 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin. Under the Roxby Downs Indenture Act BHP is not required to pay for this water usage.

The Indenture Act applies specifically to the Olympic Dam mine, and provides for wide-ranging legal exemptions and overrides from environmental and Aboriginal heritage protection laws that apply elsewhere in the state, including the Environmental Protection Act and the Natural Resources Act (which incorporates water management issues).

“The Indenture Act means that the Olympic Dam mine is not subject to the same environmental regulatory framework as other industrial projects in the state,’ explained Nectaria Calan of Friends of the Earth Adelaide. “Additionally, by allowing BHP to take water from the Great Artesian Basin for free, the South Australian government is essentially providing BHP with a massive subsidy,” she continued.

The water intake from the Great Artesian Basin has already had adverse impacts on the unique Mound Springs found near Lake Eyre, which are fed by the underlying Artesian Basin, and are sacred to the Arabunna people, the traditional owners of the area.

As part of the proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, BHP Billiton proposes to increase its water consumption by an additional 200 million litres per day. Water intake from the Great Artesian Basin will increase to up to 42 million litres per day, with the remainder to come from a proposed desalination plant at Point Lowly. This amounts to over 100,000 litres of water per minute.

 “The vast water usage of uranium mines is often forgotten in the debate about uranium and nuclear energy. Here we are, in the driest state on the driest continent on earth, host to a mine which needs millions of litres of water each day. Due to the Indenture Act, we are essentially exporting our water overseas for free,” said Ms. Calan.

The Indenture Act is currently the subject of negotiations between BHP Billiton and the South Australian government. In the near future amendments will be introduced into parliament to extend the Indenture Act to the proposed expansion.

“The South Australian government is planning to allow the largest uranium mine in the world to go ahead with legal privileges that will allow BHP an impunity characteristic of some third world states,” said Ms. Calan. “The Indenture Act should be repealed completely, allowing BHP to be subject to the same laws as other corporations operating in the state.”

August 25, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

Australia’s radioactive waste water problem at Ranger uranium mine

the company is not planning to start processing its radioactive waste water for two more wet seasons.

Mr Mudd says a higher dam wall will mean the company will have even more radioactive water to process.

“In that sense it is still the temporary, sort of step-by-step measures,”

Ranger uranium waste water treatment plan attacked, ABC News, By Jane Bardon, 5 July 11   An environmental engineer says Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) should not have reopened its uranium mine within Kakadu National Park last month without committing to a waste water treatment plan. Continue reading

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium, water | | Leave a comment

BHP Billiton’s huge free water extraction from Great Artesian Basin, for Olympic Dam uranium mine

Save the Great Artesian Basin From Olympic Dam Uranium Mine, Save the Basin, 10 June 11 THE BLOGGER IS A BHP BILLITON SHAREHOLDER. On 13 May 2011 the company announced a proposal for six-fold expansion of Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia – to extract the most valuable single mineral deposit in the world. The mine will consume up to 42 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin for plus 40 years.

The justification by BHP Billition for its ongoing demand on the Great Artesian Basin is set out at 4.3.4 of Chapter 4 of the company’s Final Proposal published on 13 May, 2011. …

…The company does intend to increase GAB extraction by 9 million litres a day as part of the mine expansion – to that extent therefore the reference in the second paragraph to “…significant improvements in water use efficiency…” is deceptive.  Not a drop of the “significant improvements in water use efficiency” is offset against GAB demand by the mine……

  • The protection of the GAB from the expanded Olympic Dam Mine can be achieved through the Approval Process that is now in the hands of the Federal and South Australian Governments – in the form of the Conditions of Consent imposed on the company through the Approval Process.
  • This issue should now be brought to the attention of every Member of the Federal and South Australian Parliaments.  Readers of this blog may consider passing on the details of this site to your own Member(s) of those Parliaments. Or contact the relevant State/Federal Minister – see ‘USEFUL CONTACTS’ on this site).

June 11, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

Point Lowly desalination plant – profit for BHP, destruction to environment

 the Rann Government’s lack of foresight is being clouded by the short term financial windfall created by the mine. “It’s just the cheapest, nastiest alternative,” said Melville-Smith. “There is no planning for the future of South Australia,

The Point Lowly desal plant that’s got SA squabbling Crikey   Esther Ooi 23 May 11: BHP Billiton refuses to back down from its controversial plans to build a desalination plant at Point Lowly, South Australia. The plant forms part of the proposed Olympic Dam mine expansion, but fears are growing over the possible risk of significant environmental damage.

“The fact is, it is just the worst place you could put a desalination plant,” Dr. Andrew Melville-Smith, chairperson of the Save Point Lowly group, told Crikey. He also says there will be severe ecological damage on Point Lowly’s recreational, coastal and living areas. Continue reading

May 24, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

ERA uranium company delays improvements to Ranger water management

Ranger uranium miner accused of delays, ABC News, 2 May 11, By Anna Henderson, An environmental scientist is calling on a uranium miner in Kakadu National Park to urgently improve its water management or it risks serious harm to the environment. Continue reading

May 2, 2011 Posted by | Northern Territory, water | | Leave a comment

Famous Kakadu National Park in peril from radiation

For 30 years about 100,000 litres of contaminated water a day has been leaking from the tailings dam into fissures beneath Kakadu

Radioactive water threatens Kakadu, The Age, Lindsay Murdoch, April 16, 2011  Radioactive water is in danger of spilling into an Aboriginal community and Kakadu’s World Heritage-listed wetlands if record rainfalls continue to deluge the vast Ranger uranium mine. Continue reading

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Northern Territory, water | | Leave a comment

Productivity Commission condemns desalination plants

The 600-page report is highly critical of decisions by state governments across the country to overinvest in expensive and inefficient desalination plants, with economic modelling indicating desalination plants in Melbourne and Perth alone could cost consumers between $3.1 billion and $4.2bn more than cheaper water-saving measures over 20 years.

Commission slams desal plants * Lauren Wilson * The Australian * April 14, 2011 PROLONGED water restrictions and expensive desalination plants are the least efficient way of providing water security, the government’s key economic advisory body has found. Continue reading

April 14, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, water | | Leave a comment

Radioactive water risk keeps Ranger uranium mine closed

a threat of contaminated water leaking from Ranger into nearby waterways could keep the mine closed for the rest of this year….there’s no way the company will be able to safely treat the contaminated water stored at Ranger by the time the mining lease expires in 10 years….

AUDIO   AM – Traditional Aboriginal land owners pressure uranium miner to shut up shop 08/04/2011 ABC Radio National.  08/04/2011 TONY EASTLEY: The Australian company that produces 10 per cent of the world’s uranium is under increasing pressure by Aboriginal traditional owners to shut up shop.The Mirarr people own the section of the world heritage listed Kakadu National Park that includes the Ranger uranium mine operated by Energy Resources of Australia. Continue reading

April 8, 2011 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, water | | Leave a comment

BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine the reason for desalination plant

Olympic Dam, South Australia BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company The most ambitious mining-water supply project, which includes the expansion of the associated mine—it will become the world’s largest uranium producer…But the expansion depends on a coastal desalination plant— —at Point Lowly on southern Australia’s Spencer Gulf. Four pumping stations will move water through the 320-kilometer (200-mile) pipeline, providing nearly 90 percent of the 83 million cubic meters (22 billion gallons) of water the mine will use each year for ore processing and dust suppression,

Australia Builds Desalination Plants and Pipelines to Bring Water to Mines, Circle of Blue WaterNews,  05 April 2011 To feed water-hungry mining industries, similar plans are in the works to supply drought-ridden regions of Australia and China. Continue reading

April 7, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | 1 Comment

South Australian govt under pressure over Arkaroola’s environment

Some of the worst effects would be on the region’s scant groundwater resources….five million litres of water a day for mining and processing. “That’s a heck of a lot of water in a very dry environment,”

SA Labor buckling on Arkaroola uranium?,  Green Left Weekly, February 27, 2011, By Renfrey Clarke, Adelaide Under heavy public pressure, the South Australian government of Labor Premier Mike Rann appears to be wavering in its support for mining uranium in the Arkaroola wilderness in the state’s north. Continue reading

February 28, 2011 Posted by | South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

Precious groundwater at risk from uranium mining

The conservation council’s Mia Pepper says mining for uranium in Wiluna’s dry climate could be disastrous for local water supplies.
With uranium mining, water uptake is always a really big issue, in a dry and arid area recharge of groundwater is also a problem but the biggest issue is radioactive tailings from uranium mining which will inevitably contaminate groundwater with other uranium mines around Australia,” she said.

Miner urged to rethink uranium plans – ABC North West WA – Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 16 Feb 2011, The Conservation Council of WA says a mining company which has begun testing for uranium, near Wiluna in the mid-west Western Australia, should consider the environmental impacts of its proposed exploration. Continue reading

February 16, 2011 Posted by | water, Western Australia | | Leave a comment

Aboriginals want a GENUINE study into Ranger uranium mine and water

Aboriginal people living in the area were worried about the health of their communities, wildlife and nearby world heritage listed wetlands. “The mining company – they wouldn’t listen to us,” she said…..The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation which represents the Mirrar is now calling for a study into surface water that comes out of the mine…

ERA rejects ‘poison’ mine water worry – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), By Anna Henderson  Feb 9, 2011 A senior traditional owner in Kakadu National Park is calling on the Australian government to reject plans to expand the Ranger uranium mine. Continue reading

February 9, 2011 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium, water | | Leave a comment