Stalled Olympic Dam uranium project will not provide jobs for sacked auto workers

December 29, 2013

27 Dec 13 “The stalled Olympic Dam mine expansion is not the answer to job creation in South Australia, despite the Prime Minister’s vivid imagination”, according to Greens SA Parliamentary Leader, Mark Parnell MLC

“What the PM should be doing instead is focusing on how best to help South Australian industries create jobs in areas where we have a real competitive and natural advantage.  If he opened his mind to the possibilities, he would see that SA is a leader in renewable energy and there is great potential for jobs growth in wind power, solar PV and in the emerging area of Solar Thermal, such as that proposed for Port Augusta to replace the existing dirty coal fired power stations. [See:http://bze.org.au/repower-port-augusta]

“That’s why the Prime Minister’s decision to axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is bad news for South Australia.  It’s also why we should be very worried about his likely decision to water down the Renewable Energy Target.  This target is the reason why so many energy companies chose to invest in South Australia over the last few years – because our abundant wind and solar resources give us the edge over other States in the grid.

“Liberal leader, Steven Marshall should be horrified at what his party is doing to South Australia’s future economic opportunities and he should be calling on the PM to change direction.

“If both State Labor and Liberal were really thinking of the future, they would be joining the dots and realising that a better way of dealing with our mineral resources is to insist on local processing, powered by SA renewable energy, to deliver more long-term sustainable jobs and maximise the value we get from our natural resources.

The original Olympic Dam Expansion model is dead, but it’s not too late to revisit local processing of copper, gold and silver, whilst leaving the problematic uranium behind in the tailings.

“Mining employs less than 2% of the Australian workforce.  More local processing of ore using renewable energy extracts maximum jobs and economic benefit for all South Australians.  Exporting ore to China exports most of the jobs as well.  Local processing of ore would create substantially more jobs than simply digging it up and shipping it out”, concluded Mark Parnell.

Tony Abbott pretends that Holden workers can get uranium mining jobs

December 29, 2013

Tony Abbott’s push for Olympic Dam revival  SID MAHER AND DENNIS SHANAHAN THE AUSTRALIAN  DECEMBER 24, 2013 THE Abbott government has turned its sights on reigniting BHP Billiton’s giant Olympic Dam expansion as it seeks to find an economic  antidote to Holden’s decision to cease carmarking in Australia from 2017. Federal ministers have held talks with BHP Billiton about ways to assist in the expansion of the South Australian uranium and copper project, including  Research and development aid, approval processes and political stability in decision-making.  …. (subscribers only) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/tony-abbotts-push-for-olympic-dam-revival/story-fn59niix-1226789188416#

Toro gets a fraction of the money it needs to start Wiluna uranium project

December 29, 2013

still a long way off from the $260 million they need to start the project and $260 million they need in upfront bonds for mine closure. 

Toro secures $10m in funding. Yahoo News, 24 Dec 13, Toro Energy says it has secured $10 million in new funding from a South African fund manager via an equity subscription agreement.

RealFin Capital Partners will initially invest $5 million in three tranches with the option of another $5 million equity subscription before July 1 next year.

The first tranche of shares will be priced at 7.3 cents with the balance of tranches priced at a 10 per cent discount to the prevailing trading price of Toro at the time.Toro managing director Dr Vanessa Guthrie said the subscription agreement provided further funding certainty for Toro as it looked towards a busy 2014 work program……http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/a/20468131/toro-secures-10m-in-funding/

Aborigines bribed into uranium agreements with Toro Energy?

December 29, 2013

These people that Toro are talking to are driving around Toyotas that they did not have before. About 11 Toyotas just appeared” 

Allegation of Toyotas for uranium mining http://thestringer.com.au/allegation-of-toyotas-for-uranium-mining/#.Uriap9JDt9X by The Stringer December 17th, 2013 A Toro Energy meeting took place today in Perth with the Wiluna Native Title signatories in light of Toro’s focus to culminate plans to proceed with Western Australia’s first uranium mine. Concerned Wiluna Elder Glen Cooke has long opposed the project and said he was excluded from discussions with Toro. Mr Cooke said he is concerned of potential risk exposures to his people and to his people’s Country.

“Our Country, our rivers, our creeks will be poisoned. It is guaranteed there will be incidents, accidents, leaks, spills. Look at what has occurred at Ranger (uranium mine in the Northern Territory), with more than 200 incidents, and at Olympic Dam (in South Australia) drying up Country (with its demand on water). When we hurt nature, we are actually hurting ourselves, if we fight with nature we are fighting with ourselves,” said Mr Cooke.

Mr Cooke previously entered the Toro AGM shareholders meeting by proxy on the 28th of November to express his concerns that the company had failed to communicate a number of vital issues with Wiluna residents.

“They make it sound good, they don’t say the dangers and say uranium is good stuff and will cause no harm to anything”, said Mr Cooke

According to Mr Cooke “the  signatories have been persuaded to believe the uranium operation will have low environmental impacts.” He is concerned that,  “these Indigenous groups are targeted and influenced by deals to sign over the rights of the land”.

“These people that Toro are talking to are driving around Toyotas that they did not have before. About 11 Toyotas just appeared” said Mr Cooke.

Mr Cooke is supported in his allegations by other local Elders such as Lena Long. Ms Long said she attended these meetings often and knew what was going on, and noticed the vehicles gifted.

“I support Glen.”

“Toro told everyone in meetings that they will clean it all up and nothing will be left behind. I know better. Uranium from the ground is dangerous to all families. Our babies will suffer the most” said Mrs Long.

Mr Cooke said the environment and people, those in the now and those to come must come first, that is before material benefits. “We must care for our land and children and not put our future at risk. These corporations only want to make money, they are full of broken promises,” said Mr Cooke.

“Some men in these meetings are not Traditional Owners but are from the Warburton Ranges like myself and have children with traditional Martu women like me. So why can they attend and I have been excluded?”

Kylie Fitzwater who attended the shareholders meeting with Mr Cooke said that “Toro’s spokeperson boldly stated to the shareholders that the proposed mine area has no significance to the Indigenous people of Wiluna.”

“When Elder Glen Cooke asked a question he was treated abruptly by Toro and with complete disrespect.  He was not permitted to reiterate any questions. It is clear the company tolerates no opposition and has been unfair and biased during their submission period no matter what their convictions,” said Ms Fitzwater.

Mr Fitzwater said that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) have approved the uranium project but with 36 conditions however she argues that the submitted Environmental Management Report was incomplete and lacked details on how to manage  radioactive tailings.

“The EPA should seriously reconsider this approval basis and commit to protecting our ecosystem.  (Western Australia) cannot afford this mistake (because) we will pay the consequences for an incomprehensible amount of time. This (should be a) concern to all Australians,” said Ms Fitzwater.

“Mr Cooke has a complete understanding of the effects of radiation and can best explain this to the signatories, as he recalls the Maralinga operation when he was just eight years old.”

Aboriginal representative for Ranger uranium mine inquiry

December 29, 2013

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) has welcomed the formation of a task force to investigate the recent tank collapse at Ranger uranium mine. Federal Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane and Northern Territory Mines Minister Willem Westra Van Holthe announced the investigation today noting that a representative of the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the mine site will be invited to join.

GAC Chief Executive Officer Justin O’Brien said “We welcome the Government’s proactive closure of operations at Ranger and believe that mining should remain suspended until the completion of this investigation and the subsequent implementation of all recommendations.”

The investigation has been established to:
i) identify the immediate cause of the incident;
ii) examine the integrity of broader processing operations;
iii) identify any gaps in operating procedures or maintenance practices;
iv) undertake a comprehensive examination of corporate governance arrangements; and,
v) provide recommendations to the Commonwealth Minister for Industry and the Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy.

Mr O’Brien continued: “This inquiry must be given full access to ensure the condition of infrastructure and the rigour of procedures at this aging mine are fully scrutinised. We look forward to assisting with the appointment of an independent investigator.”

“We are hopeful that this process will set a strong precedent for government listening to and including aboriginal landholders in decisions about the management of their land” Justin O’Brien concluded.

The woes of Australia’s uranium industry

December 29, 2013

Is time up for Australia’s uranium industry? ABC , DAVE SWEENEY , 18 Dec 13, Times are tough for Australia’s yellow-cake industry. It is best to put the whole thing out of its misery?  ”………The Australian uranium industry has long been a source of trouble. Now it is increasingly in trouble. The commodity price has collapsed, projects across the country have been stalled, deferred or scrapped and the recent Kakadu spill has again raised community attention and concern.

Business as usual in a most unusual business is not an option and there is an urgent need for an independent review. For those who make judgements on the basis of evidence rather than enthusiasm the alarm bells have been ringing loud for a number of years.

In March 2011, the world held its breath and the name Fukushima entered the global vocabulary. Fukushima means ‘fortunate island’ but the region’s luck melted down along with the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the earthquake and tsunami.

The continuing Fukushima nuclear crisis was a game changer — not just for the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected whose lives will never be the same, but for the global nuclear industry. The industry has since witnessed the death of its public-relations-fuelled dream of a nuclear ‘renaissance’.

In October 2011 the director of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office formallyconfirmed to the Senate “that Australian obligated nuclear material was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors”.

Fukushima started inside a big yellow truck in Australia. Rocks dug up in Kakadu and northern South Australia are the source of the radioactive fallout now spread across Japan and well beyond — wandering in the winds, circulating in the currents.

And, appropriately, the market fallout from Fukushima has hit the industry hard. For a year the industry response was a combination of wait and see. Now it is increasing pack and run.

This vote of no-confidence has been echoed and played out across the wider Australian industry.

Last year BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, pulled away from a plan to commit over $20 billion to a massive new development at its Olympic Dam mine in northern South Australia. Despite sweetheart deals and a raft of government favours, the then BHP boss Marius Kloppers cited the “soft” uranium price and the “uncertain” future of the uranium market as a primary reason for the decision to put the plans on ice.

In a true case of voting with your steel capped feet, BHP went further, selling its undeveloped uranium assets in Western Australia and disbanding its dedicated uranium unit.

More recently, one of Australia’s few approved and operating mines closed its doors. In November, theHoneymoon mine in South Australia ceased production and moved to extended care and maintenance status, again citing the poor uranium price.

Hard on the heels of this came the news that Marathon Resources, a uranium junior which had big ambitions to develop a mine in SA’s gorgeous Gammon Ranges had instead decided to give the entire uranium game away, declaring the sector’s “risks are more likely to exceed rewards” (pdf).

And in Queensland, uranium hopefuls and the Australian Uranium Association are in closed door dialogue with the LNP state government seeking ‘royalty relief’, before they have even lodged an application to mine. Hardly the sign of a buoyant economic trade.

For the uranium sector it really does look like the Honeymoon is over and the Marathon is finished. And just as the sector was limping to the line for season 2013 the danger of Ranger became clear to all.

The most recent independent assessment of the Australian uranium industry — a Senate Inquiry in October 2003 — found the sector was characterised by underperformance and non-compliance, an absence of reliable data to measure contamination or its impact on the environment and an operational culture focussed on short term considerations.

Uranium mining is a high-risk, low-return sector that poses unique, unresolved and long-lived threats and does not enjoy secure social license. It is time for our politicians to stop accepting industry promises and start genuinely examining industry performance.

The uranium sector in Australia and internationally is cutting costs and cutting corners, the risks are growing and we have enough warnings. Now we need some action.

Seeking to assuage community concern after the Ranger spill federal Resource Minister Ian Macfarlane stated last week, “what we need to do is just have a process where the facts can be laid on the table.”

We agree. It’s called an independent public inquiry into the costs and consequences of Australia’s troubled uranium industry.http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2013/12/18/3913291.

Kakadu area – safety fears of Mirrar people

December 29, 2013

Traditional owners in Kakadu National Park still fear for their safety and the health of their country after a technical team visited the Ranger Uranium mine today, following a series of pollution spills and safety breaches.

 The Mirarr Traditional Owners – who do not feel safe to enter the mine area following Saturday’s tank collapse – sent a technical officer from the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) to visit the site on their behalf this morning.

GAC acting Chief Executive Officer David Vadiveloo said “ERA is telling the public that the area is safe but our officer reports that they are still conducting radiation testing in the area and there is still toxic slurry lying exposed, outside the containment area.”

“The Mirarr are worried sick about the safety of people, the land and the future of this World Heritage park – meanwhile ERA is worrying about getting roads cleared and getting this aging and incident-riddled mine-site, back to processing without an independent assessment being done” Vadiveloo said.

“There has been no independent testing so we are all left relying on the mining company’s testing to confirm the area is safe. We want a presence on the taskforce and an independent audit of plant and facility” said Vadiveloo.

A taskforce involving government regulators, departments and the miner has been appointed to investigate the recent radiological accidents but GAC was not invited to participate.

GAC has written to the Federal Minister for Industry, Ian MacFarlane welcoming the current halt to processing at Ranger and to request a seat on the taskforce.

Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula will make a statement in coming days.

Radiation spill in Northern Territory’s “sickness country”

December 29, 2013

Kakadu uranium leak: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’ SMH,December 14, 2013   To the Jawoyn people, of southern Kakadu, it’s known as buladjang, or ”sickness country”, pockets of land not fit for regular habitation.

It was here, they believed, that the creation ancestor Bula ended his travels and left his spirit underground. Only recently have scientists found a correlation between mineral deposits such as uranium and the location of major Bula sites.

Ranger uranium mine, north of the Jawoyn, unleashed its own kind of sickness last Saturday when a leach tank burst, spilling 1 million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry that engulfed the mine and breached containment lines. The mine’s operator, Energy Resources Australia, said no one was hurt, and that the spill had no effect on the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, which surrounds the site.

But photos obtained by Fairfax Media for the first time show the extent of the damage. ”I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Melanie Impey, environmental officer for the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the local Mirarr people. ”The tank was just a mangled mass of metal.”…..

Ranger has experienced more than 200 spills, leaks and breaches since opening in 1979. In 2002, ERA detected high uranium levels downstream from Ranger but failed to inform the traditional owners for five weeks. In 2004, 28 Ranger workers were found to have drank and showered in water containing 400 times the legal limit of uranium. Later, an excavator covered in radioactive mud was taken to the town of Jabiru for cleaning, contaminating a mechanic and his children.

Ranger’s chief regulator is the Northern Territory government, which takes advice from the Supervising Scientists Division, a Commonwealth agency that oversees environmental standards within Kakadu. ERA says its record is good, pointing out the SSD has always given the mine a clean bill of health …. http://www.smh.com.au/national/kakadu-uranium-leak-ive-never-seen-anything-like-it-20131213-2zcy5.html#ixzz2nU8DGzF

ACF wants wider inquiry into Ranger mine safety

December 29, 2013

13 Dec 13, ACF has called for a widening of the scope of the planned review into safety at Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu following last weekend’s equipment failure and spill of a million litres of highly acidic uranium slurry.

 Today the federal and NT Mines Ministers have outlined the terms of reference for a joint investigation but many questions remain unclear, including:

·         Details on the ‘independent expert’ who has the key role to ‘review the broader integrity of the processing plant’

  • ·         How stakeholders including environmental NGO’s and trade unions will engage with this process and whether there will be a public hearing and submission process
  • ·         Whether operations at Ranger mine will remain halted pending the outcome plant integrity assessment
  • ·         How the adequacy of the remediation and clean up works and related OHS response will be assessed
  • ·         The extent of dependence of company supplied – as opposed to independently obtained – data and monitoring results

“This review plan still puts the existing regulatory agencies in the driving seat, despite the fact that they have been asleep at the wheel for far too long,” said ACF campaigner  Dave Sweeney.

“The plan is a step towards lifting the curtain of complacency that has characterised operations at Ranger, but it is not enough. It is heavy on company data and light on community input.

Speaking on ABC radio on Tuesday federal Minister Ian Macfarlane stated: ‘what we need to do is just have a process where the facts can be laid on the table’. ACF agrees. It’s called an independent public inquiry”.

ACF has welcomed fact that the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirarr Traditional Owners, will be invited to join the review – this should clearly be standard practise.

In a statement issued yesterday GAC described that the “Mirarr are worried sick about the safety of people, the land and the future of this World Heritage park – meanwhile ERA is worrying about getting roads cleared and getting this aging and incident-riddled mine site back to processing”.

The Mirarr have called for an independent audit of the plant and facility – a call echoed by national and NT environment, Indigenous and public health groups and affected trade unions.

Following Fukushima – a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – the UN Secretary General asked Australia to conduct an in-depth assessment of the impact of uranium mining on local communities and ecosystems.

The most recent independent assessment of the Australian uranium industry – a Senate inquiry in 2003 – found the sector characterised by underperformance and non-compliance, an absence of reliable data to measure contamination or its impact on the environment and an operational culture focussed on short term considerations.

“Minister Macfarlane has the ability and responsibility to do better than one more yellowcake whitewash,” said Dave Sweeney.

 

“A full and open review of the suite of impacts from the Ranger operation and a genuine cost-benefit analysis of Australia’s troubled and troubling uranium trade is long overdue”.

Northern Territory govt body to monitor regulator’s response to Ranger radioactive spill

December 29, 2013

EDONT to watch regulator response with interest in wake of Ranger Uranium Mine incident. ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS OFFICE NT, DECEMBER 11, 2013 “………What can the Commonwealth and Territory Government do to respond to the spill?

Clearly an incident of this nature demands a strong response from regulators of the mine.   Currently the Office of the Supervising Scientist and the Northern Territory Government are investigating the spill.

Commonwealth –

Under the AEA the Commonwealth Minister has the power to impose an indefinite suspension of operations at Ranger if ERA refuses or fails to comply with or observe a condition or restriction provided in its Authority.  It is unclear whether the Commonwealth Minister has given a direction under the AEA or whether he has directed ERA to cease operations pending investigation and ERA have voluntarily complied.

It is interesting to note that while ERA have stated that the spill was contained on site, Ranger Environmental Requirement 1.2 requires that:

the company must ensure that operations at Ranger do not result in environmental impacts within the Ranger Project Area which are not as low as reasonably achievable, during mining excavation, mineral processing, and subsequently during and after rehabilitation.

Additionally, Environmental Requirement 12 requires the use of Best Practicable Technology (BPT) at Ranger.   While it is contemplated that equipment on site may be able to fulfill its serviceable life, in light of this weekends events ERA appears to be failing in its duty to adequately review and update its equipment in line with Environmental Requirement 12.

Given that preliminary reports have suggested that the tank was over 20 years old, EDO NT would suggest that a full scale review of the mines equipment to ensure that there are no further equipment failures at the mine and compliance with the BPT requirement of ERA’s Ranger Authority is achieved.

Under the Atomic Energy Act it is an offence for a person to fail to comply with a condition of their authorisation.  The maximum penalty for this offence, in the case of a body corporate like ERA, is $10,000.

Northern Territory -

The Northern Territory Government’s powers to regulate Ranger arise from the provisions of the MMA, which as stated above provides for the General Authorisation for Ranger, the Schedule to which set out the way mining operations are undertaken and the requirements for environmental protection.

In the event that the NT Government believes ERA has contravened an environmental obligation under the MMA and caused environmental harm, it is able to commence proceedings under the MMA.

The MMA provides three tiers of offences, namely for conduct causing:

  • serious environmental harm (level 1 and 2);
  • material environmental harm (level 1 and 2); or
  • Environmental nuisance.

The penalties for the various tiers (and levels) range from about $55,000 for a body corporate who causes environmental nuisance to over $2.75 million for  a body corporate that causes serious environmental harm.

The way forward

The time for taking a strong legal stance against lack luster performance at Ranger would appear to have come.  The Northern Territory Government must send a message to ERA, and other mine operators within the Territory, that the Territory community will accept nothing less than strict compliance with the laws put in place to protect the environment.

http://edont.org.au/edont-watch-regulator-response-interest-wake-ranger-uranium-incident/


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