“…one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns … [ever] seen in Australian politics,”
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott blamed the mothballing of the Olympic Dam uranium mine expansion on the mining and carbon taxes, before throwing in “industrial militancy” for ideological good measure.
In an excruciating interview on ABC 7.30, in which Abbott attempted to stick to his predetermined script, Leigh Sales’ unexpectedly direct questioning drew him unstuck.
In a telling moment, Abbott admitted to not having read the reasons for BHP making their decision, but dismissed that fact as irrelevant, emphasising the impact of the carbon and mining taxes — despite the mining tax only being levied on coal and iron ore mines.
To paraphrase The Opposition Leader’s icon:
“We will decide the reasons businesses make their internal commercial decisions and the manner in which they make them.”
For the record, the reasons offered by the Opposition Leader are in stark contrast to those given by BHP boss Marius Kloppers for the decision.
So, in other words, no, no and no, Mr Abbott.
The elephant in the room was, obviously, the fact that the nuclear industry is in crisis mode in the wake of the radioactive catastrophe at Fukushima last year, causing Japan to have no operating nuclear plants at present and Germany to make the decision to shut down all its nuclear plants by 2020. In light of that, it is perfectly reasonable for BHP to put this project in abeyance until it can be sure there will be a market for uranium — after they spend $30 billion to dig the biggest pit in human history.
One thing BHP, regrettably, is unlikely to have considered is the fact that the Olympic Dam mine expansion was always a rather dicey proposition — facing immense and concerted opposition from Indigenous and environmental groups.
This is because, firstly, there is significant evidence that the native title process entered into with Indigenous groups was flawed, perhaps even fraudulent (something IA is currently investigating).
In addition, as IA reported last year, Olympic Dam is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, due to inadequate safeguards for the immense amount of exposed radioactive tailings that will be left lying around after BHP removes an unprecedented amount of overburden to get to the ore.
The following is the Independent Australia report by environment editor Sandi Keane, originally published on 18 October 2011, in which she discusses the disturbing health and environmental implications of the Olympic Dam expansion.