Roxby, Water, and the Great Australian Delusion

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Despite the significant risk to workers of exposure to polonium, the Radiation Protection branch of the Environment Protection Authority agreed to reduce BHP Billiton’s reporting requirements in 2006. Since then, the number of reports of workers exposed to unsafe levels of radiation has plummeted, despite no change occurring to production processes at the plant, raising serious questions about the level and type of testing currently undertaken by the company.

The Government is failing in their duty to adequately monitor and protect the health of workers at Olympic Dam. Documents I have obtained through FoI, after much struggle, raise serious concerns about how often testing occurs. For example: sampling of airborne radiation levels is not done when workers are at greatest risk, and personal radiation monitoring devices, that often record readings above the allowable level, are only worn part of the time by some, not all, exposed workers. Govt failing Roxby workers over radiation risk: Greens Media Release June 19, 2008

South Australian Greens MP Mark Parnell, is proving himself to be the hardest working Green on the turf, working effectively to protect the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary after the dumping of radioactive waste materials by Marathon Resources, a company still listed on the ASX and therefore potentially able to export uranium from this country, highly unlikely however, having consistently proven themselves to be an ‘irresponsible person‘ under the Act, negating the possibility of obtaining an export license under current guidelines of the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts (dont ask?). This is again confusing as Marathon continue to mislead shareholders and still have not been fined or repaired damage, including theft of rare fluorite deposits from the site.

And now the caped crusader takes up cause again with Australia’s largest Uranium mine, Roxby Downs, currently soaking up in excess of 33 million litres of water per day from the Great Artesian Basin, extending under the current expansion plan to in excess of 42 million litres per day . BHP say publicly they propose to increase copper production from the current 200 000 tonnes per year to 730 000 tonnes and have applied to the South Australian and Federal governments to extend this up to 1,000,000 tonnes per day, requiring an extra 120 million litres per day above the figures just quoted. The current flow of water into the Great Artesian Basin into South Australia (its final resting place) is estimated to be 425 million litres per day. Or put in more simple terms the ACF describe the situation thus:

That’s 60 Olympic swimming pools of water a day, for the lifetime of the mine, for free.

Already the biggest industrial user of underground water in the southern hemisphere, the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine at Roxby Downs takes 33 million litres a day from the Great Artesian Basin.

The additional take would see the company extracting more than 150 million litres a day – around a third of the artesian water that flows into South Australia.

ACF is deeply concerned that drawing this much water would damage the Great Artesian Basin, cause a significant reduction in groundwater pressure and cut off the natural flows to the unique and fragile mound springs.

These figures, and I welcome clarification, suggest that a single mine is proposing to use the equivalent of one quarter of Australia’s greatest inland water resource on the expanded project. If anyone should doubt the impact on vegetation and wildlife habitat I urge them to distract themselves momentarily from the amazing tourist attractions and drive down the bore field road, the long stretch of bores tapping the ancient resource, part of a delicate ecosystem, serving the natural springs and pastoral leases in stations which have either been bought or otherwise taken over by the mining consortium seeking this expansion. Look at the contraction of the famous Coward Springs wetlands sanctuary since the capping (preservation) and ask what this type of water management means truly in terms of ‘conservation’?

The balance of the final equation after the work of conservation groups (ACF) to preserve the basin will now shift to the impact of the proposed desalination plant at Whyalla and its impact on marine life and also the unknown embodied energy costs of delivering and processing such water from these under studied alternative sources. While people talk about the global climate change benefits of the nuclear power industry they should also be looking at the damage to ecological systems and the net energy input involved in extracting the resource in the first place…in short when it comes down to it, there really is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’.

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Where is our water Minister Penny Wong (from South Australia) and why is she not crying out ‘blue murder’ as this resource is flushed down a radioactive drain, threatening the health of Roxby workers and countless generations of future Australians that may not have been presented with the truth. If she had replied to my emails and offered any sort of explanation I would be less alarmed but to date no response and I am still waiting.
As Australia faces the challenge of de-carbonising industry and quelling a period of absurd industrial and consumer consumption the question and reality of energy sources needs to be faced. If the consequences to our environment, health and global geo-politics is ignored who are we really kidding and in what delusion are we living in the mindless pursuit of the great Australian Dream?

If we as a nation fail to examine the effects of industry upon future sustainability, how do we propose to sustain ourselves into the future, prioritising the ignorance of factual reality in favour of short term commercial favour? All facts considered but publicly unknown, all our hopes and aspirations may well evaporate and that is the actual stark reality of the ‘bottom line’. We are fortunate in having a responsible Energy minister and Treasurer that are now halting the wholesale and de-regulated mass exodus of valuable (and undercosted) raw materials from Australia, a policy engrained and promoted since the early days by our recently lost hero of mindless consumerism and ‘sell outs’ John Howard. Thank-you Ministers Swan and Ferguson for finally pushing the pause button to give Australia the opportunity to finally catch its breath and consider this past legacy and the ramifications of these worn out policies borne out of media promoted self interest driving waste, greed, and thoughtless desire.

Prior to any further discussion on the merits or otherwise of the nuclear industry and Australia’s role there is a need to consider the impacts on the physical environment of the Great Artesian Basin which has been conveniently tapped to the detriment of ancient natural springs servicing the natural environment and wildlife habitat of South Australia for many an aeon. The current situation that requires investigation is the collective spring area between lakes Eyre and Torrens which is now capped and funneling vast amounts of precious water to an industry that has escaped proper government and public scrutiny in favour of the not so well explained and nebulous concept of energy and export revenue..a process so wasteful of water and energy, its final destination serving perhaps a mission of over-valued credibility and in need of more scientific , economic and political scrutiny.

Whether one looks at this issue from the perspective of land and environment conservation or from one of pure economics the figures do not seem to stack up…being both destructive of unique and precious habitat and wasteful of energy in a complete and accounted for life-cycle cost – uranium is fast destroying the Great Artesian Basin and and appearing more and more to be part of the misguided apparatus of the Great Australian Dream.

And some wise words from the traditional custodians of the land:

The vast underground water reserve serves vast arid regions. It is the water supply of many of my people.

The Federal government last year approved uranium mining at Roxby Downs in South Australia despite the ALP policy to “phase out the uranium industry”.

A shaft has been sunk through an Aboriginal sacred site and several other sites have been bulldozed to put in roads and a pipeline corridor.

The pipeline corridor will supply 33 million litres of water to the mine every day. It is unknown how this will affect the underground water supply and plants dependent on the current water patterns.

Having said this other people share different views so they all go into the mix. Beverley Uranium and other expansions in the region have impacts of various a nature, so people need to look at the facts and form their own opinion. Vince Coulthard -Iga Warta Pty Ltd – says while all the traditional Land is sacred, he must note the benefits from mining:

“Let there be some benefit from it for the people. Where a mine don’t happen today it will happen there tomorrow,” he said. (Will it?, Should it??)

“The people have talked about where you can’t stop it you gan get something from it. I think Heathgate and Quasar’s developed, certainly Heathgate’s developed, a relationship with the Adnyamathana people over the years. (Cant be stopped?..must we always get something from it?what do the stories say??)

In stark contrast another Adnyamathana, Kelvin Johnson said of the Beverley Mine operation in 1999 that the Native Title claimants are acting on behalf of all Adnyamathanha people but are failing to consult with them:

“The Native Title claimants are not talking to the rest of the Adnyamathanha people. We think they are doing the wrong thing not speaking to us.” he said “They (Heathgate Resources and the Native Title Claimants) just contact one another and they just meet with out the rest of the people.” He said his group is not concerned with royalties, but wants to protect their sacred Adnyamthanha Dreaming and traditional bush tucker foods found on the Beverley mine lease.

Further Information:

Ancient Mound Springs

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Further Information:

The Stolen Water :

This site really captures the theft and real consequences of the unchecked corporation quite effectively.

BHP Billiton, the world’s richest mining company, plunders Australia’s precious — and FINITE — artesian water resource without cost, oversight or regulation.

Australia is a desert land and the nation is presently suffering from extreme water shortages. The largest river system in the nation, the Murray-Darling, is in a critical condition — outflows to the sea have all but ceased and vital lake systems are now dust bowls; YET the plundering Transnational, BHP continues to steal high quality water for its uranium, pollution producing mine, Olympic Dam.

BHP Billiton have helped themselves to 424 , 302, 435, 856 litres of FREE water from the Great Artesian Basin since 1982

Sydney households pay $ 776, 473, 457 for the same volume of water.

The massive theft of water is causing environmental damage through:

  • land and water salinisation
  • encouragement of the spread of pest plants and animals
  • reduced pressure in some naturally occurring artesian springs

Since 1999 the Australian Government has spent $80, 372, 407

of tax payer money in an attempt to repair the damage

Help us halt the great artesian water grab – ACF online

Roxby Downs Indenture Arrangements for Water Management

Miscellaneous Purposes Licence – YES!…such a thing exists in…South Australia (Sorry, link lost post publishing!)

Uranium Mining and Aboriginal People

Bad Developers website

Recent Media:

Olympic Dam accident threatens output – Matt Chambers | October 09, 2009 – The Australian

BHP Billiton’s giant Olympic Dam underground mine could be running at just 20 per cent capacity for up to six months, analysts say, after a loaded iron skip plummeted to the bottom of the 800m-deep main shaft

(Will it be the kind actions of such randomness which will resolve the problems of global disrepect and pollution?)

//

Uranium policy a hypocrisy David Noonan, The Age, Oct 5 2009

“Unfortunately, Australia can never credibly lead on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament while spreading nuclear risks as one of the world’s largest uranium suppliers. The mismatch between Australia’s rhetoric and the illusion of protection provided by nuclear safeguards is stark in the case of China….The only potentially credible future for BHP’s Roxby Down mine and the proposed expansion is to trade only in copper and to leave the uranium and other radioactive wastes at the mine site.”

PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE DINGAMAN FAMILY TRADITIONAL CUSTODIANS OF OLYMPIC DAM/ROXBY:
September 24, 2009.

RED DUST STORMS OVER SYDNEY, MELBOURNE AND CANBERRA YESTERDAY IS A WARNING FROM GULDA (THE SLEEPING LIZARD OF OUR DREAMTIME STORY…) NOT TO BREAK ITS BACK AND LET THE POISON OUT OF THE GROUND AT ROXBY.

IN OUR ANCIENT DREAMTIME, GULDA LIES SLEEPING BELOW THE EARTH AT ROXBY. PLANS BY THE MINING GIANT BHPBILLITON TO RIP UP THE EARTH FOR FOUR YEARS NIGHT AND DAY AND THEN TO BREAK THE GRANITE CONE, GULDA’S BACK, TO GET AT THE POISON WHICH LIES BELOW WILL BE CATASTROPHIC FOR ALL LIFE ON THIS PLANET IF THEIR PLAN GOES AHEAD.

YESTERDAY’S DUST STORMS OVER EAST COAST CITIES ARE A SIGN THAT GULDA IS NOT HAPPY. IF THE COMPANY GETS PERMISSION FROM MIKE RANN’S GOVERNMENT AND THEN PETER GARRETT TO MINE THE POISON AT OLYMPIC DAM, THEN THE RADIOACTIVE DUST AND GASES LEFT BEHIND IN THE TAILINGS WILL POISON EVERY LIVING THING ONCE ITS LET OUT OF THE GROUND.

AS THE LEGITIMATE BLOODLINE DESCENDANTS OF EDGAR DINGAMAN,   SENIOR LAWMAN OF ROXBY AND HIS FATHERS BEFORE HIM, WE REJECT CURRENT MOVES BY THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN NATIVE TITLE AND BHPBILLITON TO HAVE OTHER ABORIGINAL PEOPLE SIGN OFF FOR THE EXPANSION. ACCORDING TO ANCIENT ABORIGINAL LAW, THEY CANNOT SPEAK FOR COUNTRY BECAUSE THEIR ANCESTORS WERE NOT BORN ON COUNTRY. ITS THAT SIMPLE. THEY MAY BE KOKATHA BUT IF THEIR PATERNAL LINE DOES NOT COME FROM ROXBY/WOOMERA, THEY CANNOT SPEAK FOR COUNTRY.

WE WILL BOYCOTT THE MEETING CALLED BY NATIVE TITLE (SA) THIS WEEKEND. IT IS A SHAM AND A CONTEMPTUOUS ATTEMPT TO LEGITIMISE BHPBILLITON’S MOVES TO STEP AROUND OUR OPPOSITION TO THE OPEN CUT MINE. THIS IS AN ATTEMPT BY RANN’S GOVERNMENT AND ITS HIGHLY PAID LAWYERS TO LEGITIMISE THE COMPANY’S LAND GRAB AGAINST OUR WISHES.

IT MAKES A MOCKERY OF THE PRIME MINISTER’S APOLOGY TO THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE EARLIER THIS YEAR. THERE CAN BE NO RECONCILIATION WITHOUT TRUE JUSTICE AND RESPECT FOR OUR BIRTH RIGHTS OVER COUNTRY.

ISABEL DINGAMAN TELE: 0488340181
SANDRA DINGAMAN O432803922
ANDREW DINGAMAN  0438884348

Red alert as big dust storm blankets Sydney – or how would Sydney-siders like a dose of radioactive dust for breakfast?

Calls for change to native title – The Age, 02-01-09

Giants must be accountable – Canberra Times analysis of the extraordinary Indenture Act 1982

Australia’s Artesian Basin – $14 Billion down the drain each year

BHP Billiton – A Law Unto  Itself

Garrett changes tune on uranium

Aboriginal Communities bullied into Native Title signoffs

Under cover of racist myth, a new land grab in Australia

Miners’ $500m policy bet

Japanese and Canadian miners’ $500m bet on uranium

Radiation can be fun! Holiday fun for kiddies at the OZ Nuclear Reactor

The Plutonic Waters of the Great Artesian Basin

Time to account for our water – Nick Xenophon

4 Comments on "Roxby, Water, and the Great Australian Delusion"

  1. My understanding is that the proposed desal plant at Pt Bonython (near Whyalla) could eliminate or greatly reduce the take from the GAB. Some mystery energy source will remove the salt from the seawater, pump the fresh water 300km to Roxby Downs and the hypersaline waste water back into the gulf where it will be diluted.

    As a bonus the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline from the Murray can be turned off letting more river flow downstream. I suggest if done right the Olympic Dam expansion program could enormously benefit different groups of people. Or perhaps future prime minister Bob Brown will close Roxby Downs and all will be well.

  2. roxby does control the sump of the GAB and therefore the whole basin. current water extraction causes a cone of depression at the well site which in turn cause a drop in the potentiametric head across the whole basin. ie the drawdown effect can be felt 1000’s of kms away. the result of the cone of depression causes water to speed up as it tries to fill the void created by pumping. your figures about GAB recharge need to be viewed in a context of persistent drought and water hydraulics. ie the waters of the Gab are interconnected and in any water system air locks can eventuate. The eastern states should be querying Roxby’s water extraction programme as a reason for the poor state of their own artesian waters

  3. Agreed, not just the eastern states, any earthling who has anything to say about the abuse of the planet for ill-considered short term economic greed, should be more than concerned, should be asking questions and demanding answers, as to why a government, or a people in a region, would standby and watch as such abuse of ancient and precious natural systems is perpetrated by the ignorant, the selfish and the blind which suddenly appeared?

    Any person directly or indirectly connected to such arrangements need to become more knowing of their stake, and if they be prepared to advance in conscious and caring to act immediately and locally as no effect is allowed to continue. Its a long and intricate cycle and if people subscribe to media and mind control, they will neither advance themselves or the interests of their communities. Others will and some result will transpire and there will be benefits and set-backs in the end and that is at the end of the day a part of both active decision making, fate and if you choose to believe it, kharma or the ever re-circulating washing machine of our true existence.

  4. ROXBY DOWNS INDENTURE ACT NOT LEGALLY BINDING? CHECK IT OUT!

    With the Roxby Indenture Act. I’m assuming that’s an agreement with the SA govt. Would that be correct everyone?

    Obviously we are aware, aren’t we, that a majority of the water is sucked into SA (Olympic Dam) by the pumping process, from as far away as Qld and northern NSW? Again…aren’t we folks?

    GAB water is clearly going to Olympic Dam from across the border and needs an IMMEDIATE enquiry as to whether the Roxby Downs Indenture Act is signed by NSW and Queenland along with Indigenous (Land and) Water use Agreements from every aboriginal nation that has a tradition tie to land connected to every area above the GAB across Australia.

    If this is the case then BHP Billiton would have a legal agreement and open permission to syphon off NSW and QLD water without conscious during our countries greatest drought.

    This continual extraction of water whether it is dewatering, bore water or the syphoning off of underground streams will inevitably force many primary producing properties to close? These primary producers are our food chain folks. Take a reality check….please!

    From an ex-WMC worker: Quote: ” Roxby does control the sump of the GAB and therefore the whole Basin.

    Current water extraction causes a cone of depression at the well site which in turn causes a drop in the potentiametric head across the whole basin. ie the drawdown effect can be felt 1000’s of kms away. The result of the cone of depression causes water to speed up as it tries to fill the void created by pumping.

    The eastern states should be querying Roxby’s water extraction programme as a reason for the poor state of their own Artesian waters” End of quote.

    Sorry if I’m dreaming here but BHP Billiton ARE using water from across the border. As mentioned the Land Use agreements with the indigenous people are now called Land and Water Use Agreements. Are the South Australian indigenous people informed of this impact on water belonging to other states and signing illegally on behalf of the NSW and QLD indigenous people.

    Again, does BHP have signatures from every indigenous group who has historical ties to land above the entire GAB land mass in this country?

    According to three credible studies the origin of the Great Artesian Basin water is Plutonic, which means any surface recharge would be of little significance to main body of any Artesian Basin in the World. Mining companies have collapsed Artesian Basins in countries, not their own, before today.

    Read a report a few days ago which says that BHP claim the levels in GAB are down due to very little rain.

    From memory it was 100 metres down. Would you stop immediately to spare a country who has been your host. No they won’t, al the while we believe it is only SA water on the line. Are we so stupid in 2008?

    Are the Governments of this country so naïve, lacking information or instruction, not initiated; deficient in relevant experience and totally gullible or just plain, short term greedy middle men?.

    Does the Queensland Government enjoy considering giving Australian taxpayers expensively processed recycled sewage while an offshore company collapses our own water lifeline? Is there some knowlege that the world will end soon and we won’t be needing this water?

    If this company was the “good corporate citizen” it claims to be then it would have the honesty and the moral conscience to get off OUR Basin and find something else less destructive to do.

    This goes for every other mining company with it’s massive water extraction plans that are put conveniently out of the reach of the average person. Don’t you ever wonder how their water needs are satisfied?

    If you don’t, then you deserve what you get.

    If any of our Governments really cared about it’s own country then this would not be happening. We not only have a problem with red tape in this country. There are far too many chiefs and not enough indians in a stuffy, clicky, complicated, pumped up bureaucracy of Ostriches, who have made a mistake and won’t admit or correct it.

    How do they compensate for BHP having control of the main body of Australia’s water? By forcing the people of this country to pay the price.

    Let BHP recycle their own sewage. We don’t wan’t the slurry from their desal plant in our environment either.

    WAKE UP AUSTRALIANS, YOUR CHILDREN WILL NEED THIS WATER. Our very own Primary Producers need this water. Wake up Governments and dispense with BHP Billiton. Get them off our Land…now… and turn off the GAB tap to Olympic Dam.

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