Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Forget nuclear power, we should be worried about expanding the Olympic Dam uranium mine

"To use a non-medical term, these proposals are mind-blowing in the potential risks to this and to future generations"

Sir Gustav Nossal
Fiona Stanley
Peter Doherty
and others

Their actual submission is below. First, here's The Advertiser's report:


August 18, 2009

SCIENTISTS and doctors including a Nobel Prize-winner and two Australians of the year have warned of the "mind-blowing risk" of the Olympic Dam expansion.

The State Government is taking public submissions on the BHP mine's environmental impact statement and the experts warn of arsenic, mercury and uranium which will enter undergroundwater and the atmosphere.

The 15 have written to the State Government warning that up to 5.5 million tonnes of toxic waste in dams with an area of 4000ha will reach ground water within 150 years and dust storms could blow thousands of tonnes from the 242 million tonnes of waste into the atmosphere and all over the state for hundreds of years.

"To use a non-medical term, these proposals are mind-blowing in the potential risks to this and future generations," the letter states.

"There will be direct adverse health impacts and also impacts on future generations."

A spokesman for BHP said the company was studying all the submissions to the EIS and would respond to all of the documents in a supplementary EIS.

The medical experts recommend the project be delayed until after health impact studies can be undertaken and that BHP be made to put aside funds to pay for the health effects for "centuries".

The letter is signed by, among others, Nobel Prize-winner and Australian of the Year Professor Peter Doherty, Australians of the Year Professor Gustav Nossal and Professor Fiona Stanley, former Dean of the University of Adelaide Medical School Professor Bob Douglas and Executive Dean of Health Sciences at Flinders University Professor Michael Kidd.

The experts also point out that South Australia may have to rely on the Great Artesian Basin water below the mine if the Murray becomes unusable.

The toxic waste created by the mine represents 5.5 million standard-size trailers of toxic acids stored in dams 15 times the area of Adelaide's CBD as well as another 242 million trailers of solid material.

Roxby Submission

BHP's Environmental Impact Statement
promotional video


Rationalist said...

Olympic dam is good for economy, we all live within the economy so hence it is good for everyone.

Peter Martin said...

Like asbestos.

I mean, like asbestos was.

Rationalist said...

Yeah, that was a bit tongue in cheek (my OP).

Buuut, I would think Australia uses worlds best practice for mining, secondly it is in a very remote areas, and it provides a job and livelihood for many people, including strong flow on effects upon the economy.

Real jobs, not green jobs.

Salient Green said...

I thought it was a beautifully written submission, melding all the issues into a very powerful argument against the expansion.

Of course smarter, wiser and more caring people have been saying these things to politicians and business leaders for many years and they have been too stupid to take heed.

The plan for greater Adelaide, SA population growth and this mine expansion all make a lie of Mike Rann's green credentials.

Anonymous said...

Doctors for the Environment: another voice of reason in the wilderness of blind economic pursuit.

Well written submission, unfortunately it will probably be more pearls before swine.

Govt policy makers seem to not make out (or are feigning ignorance) the nexus between environment, sustainability and population. 150 years in the future seems an impossibly long way off but is a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. That is only about 4 generations away, someone in your lineage is going to wear the consequence of our actions.

Intelligence is evolutionary and evolution to higher vibrationary level can be only temporarily held back by a small group who are narrowly focussed on short term economic gains. If man will not help man evolve intelligently with due care and respect for the environment, nature will.

carbonsink said...

Meanwhile Gorgon is loudly cheered by everyone.

I read this at another forum:

The Gorgon field has a high carbon dioxide (CO2) composition - around 8% I think. In gas processing, this CO2 must be removed from the natural gas. Historically, the CO2 would have been released to the atmosphere.

In this project, cognisant of the need to minimise CO2 emissions, the project will concentrate this CO2 stream and reinject it back into the ground into suitable gas reservoirs. The idea is that the CO2 stays in the ground where it came from.

But Gorgon is "clean and green" (apparently) and Olympic Dam is dirty and evil. Sure, burning natural gas is a lot better than burning coal or oil, but it still emits CO2, and doubtless plenty of CH4 is released in the extraction and distribution process.

Rationalist said...

I don't think anyone is really worried by Australia's < 1.5% of global emissions.

derrida derider said...

I'd have been much more impressed if the signatories were geologists, ecologists (the scientists, not the activists), hydrologists, toxicologists or other people who might be in a position to evaluate the actual risks.

Maybe the doctors are right, maybe they're wrong - I don't know enough about the issue to say. But just because they're eminent doctors doesn't give them any special expertise in this issue, and I doubt they know enough about it to say too.

toronto julie said...

Nicely written. And yeah, it's like asbestos was. Also, I agree with derrida derider - it would look much more reasonable and impressive if the signatories were people who actually can evaluate the risks.

Best regards, Julie.

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