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Category Archives: uranium and nuclear power

Huh, a misleading heading. Annoying.

Anyway, looks like this will be a rerun of the GST debate, with two issues being sorted out simultaneously.

(1) Do we have the scheme at all? The Coalition currently says no, along with ACCI, predictably. It will be interesting to see how long the Coalition will be able to continue its Policy-free, Say-No-to-All-Change Policy. The Greens and Labor are now on the same page, arguing for a hybrid scheme: carbon tax now, emissions trading scheme later. The scheme is set for a right/left debate, with the middle ground of Australian politics deciding the issue. The ALP, once it has neutralised the short-run dissapproval of Rudd’s backdown and Gillard’s promise not to do it, will at least be able to count on a greater share of the youth vote, and the dissaffected middle-class urban vote that drifted to the Greens after Rudd’s withdrawl from the debate.

(2) What gets covered? Apparently agriculture may not be included. Dunno how much Co2 argriculure emits, but the sector will be a major player when the debate hots up about tax-funded abatement programs (schemes set up up to capture and absorb carbon dioxide, a task where agriculture will be the major player…). The next two sectors to spit the dummy will be the coal industry and the petrol industry. This is the biggest threat to the carbon tax scheme. These two industries account for at least 50% of CO2 emissions. But they directly impact on household costs and living standards. Will Australians accept the medium term pain of a new household cost structure, if it means that the global community can start reducing the amount of CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere? Or will the major polluters plead, supported by penny-conscious people out there in community, that they cannot afford precidely the competitive pressure that a carbon tax will bring?

Time will tell…gjmt
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Jobs real reason behind carbon tax – Labor MP Janelle Saffin

February 28, 2011 9:08AM

JOBS rather than the environment are the reason the Government wants to tax carbon, one Labor backbencher says.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has proposed a carbon price regime to begin in July 2012 as a means of tackling climate change.

But when asked whether the plan was about jobs or the environment, Janelle Saffin was firm.

“It’s about jobs,” the backbencher said today.

The development of the regime is in its very early stages and already agriculture, a large carbon producer, has been made exempt.

Now a debate has erupted over whether petrol will be taxed.

“It’s really important that we have the debate,” Ms Saffin said.

SUZIE KEEN
2/06/2009 4:57:00 PM

The mammoth environmental impact statement for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion is on show until 8pm today at the Adelaide Convention Centre, but Greens MP Mark Parnell has attacked the “shopping centre-style walk-through display”.

“The words of an unaccountable BHP Billiton employee in a one-on-one conversation in front of a pin-up board are a poor substitute for a decent public and media debate about the biggest project in the state’s history,” Mr Parnell said of the display.

Olympic Dam will be the world’s largest copper and uranium quarry, and the EIS has been described by Mines Minister Paul Holloway as “the largest document ever prepared in this state”.

It takes 110 pages just to list the guidelines. The SA Government has extended the normal consulation period to 14 weeks so the public has more time to consider the statement.

The Australian Conservation Foundation today claimed BHP plans to expand the mine much further than is outlined in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

It said the company had applied for State Government approval to extract up to 1 million tonnes of copper product a year, even though the EIS examine an expansion of only up to 750,000 tonnes a year.

“BHP has failed to advise the public of the full extent of the proposed mine expansion and is seeking approval for the right to operate a much larger project than the studies in its EIS suggest,” said ACF nuclear campaigner David Noonan.

“Radioactive waste from the mine, damage to the marine environment from desalination and greenhouse pollution from additional energy demand may all be one-third worse than envisaged by the company’s EIS.”

Copies of the EIS can be found at http://www.olympicdameis.sa.gov.au.

http://www.independentweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/olympic-dam-eis-on-display-in-adelaide/1529637.aspx

Tom Arup, Canberra
May 20, 2009

THE operators of the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu have been accused of trying to expand the mine by stealth after Environment Minister Peter Garrett approved a three-kilometre exploration tunnel.

The decision to approve the tunnel with no environmental conditions has angered environmentalists, who say it is the first step towards expanding the 30-year old mine, situated in the world heritage-protected Kakadu National Park.

The decision was quietly released on Sunday.

The tunnel will reach a depth of up to 350 metres underground and travel outside the existing environmental impact zone of the mine and under the important Magela Creek, which brings water to Kakadu’s wetlands.

Nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation Dave Sweeney says details found in mine operator Energy Resources of Australia’s proposal for the tunnel showed it was expansive enough to be later used or modified for commercial mining. The proposal has provision for the tunnel to follow any seams of uranium surveyors come across.

The federal Environment Department assessed the tunnel as an “exploration project” under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – and did not consider it as an expansion of mining.

But Mr Sweeney said the decision not to further scrutinise the tunnel means that once it is built it will be harder to reject expansion plans when a proposal comes before Mr Garrett.

The mine was due to close last year, but the company now hopes to continue extracting uranium until 2021.

A spokeswoman for ERA said it was “too hypothetical” to comment on whether the tunnel could be later used for commercial mining operations.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said exploration did not mean mining automatically followed.

“If commercial mining were to be contemplated by ERA then we would expect that proposal to be referred and examined under the EPBC Act,” the spokesman said.

It was “likely that a high level of assessment would be required for any proposal to expand mining at the Ranger uranium mine”, he said.

Construction of the tunnel is due to begin in mid-2010.

Another proposal by ERA for a “heaped leech facility” – in which low grade uranium in rocks is melted down then processed – has been referred to the Environment Department for further scrutiny.

The Ranger mine has a long history of controversy, including revelations last month that 100,000 litres of contaminated water leaked from the site every day.

In 2005 ERA was fined for accidentally exposing its employees to low-level radiation when water that workers used to drink and wash with was contaminated. It was one of 150 estimated environmental incidents since the mine began operating in 1980.

Mr Sweeney, a veteran campaigner against the mine, said the long history of condemnations and leaks meant that rather than expanding the mine it should be shut down as soon as possible.

“The Ranger is like a middle-aged man,” he said. “It’s ageing, leaking and expanding.”

http://www.theage.com.au/national/uranium-mine-expanding-by-stealth-greens-20090519-be9e.html?page=-1

Kate Hannon
May 10, 2009 – 6:59PM
Labor’s Left faction will push the Rudd government to develop renewable energy sources as a way of creating “green” jobs.

It will also press for further changes to industrial relations laws at the next Australian Labor Party (ALP) national conference, to be held in Sydney at the end of July.

It will be the first national party conference in more than two years, and the first since Labor returned to government federally in 2007.

The party’s National Left faction met in Canberra on Saturday and Sunday to discuss a range of policy areas, including the fallout of the global financial crisis.

A National Left convenor, NSW Senator Doug Cameron, said the meeting endorsed the government’s revamped climate change policy announced on Monday by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The government decided to delay by 12 months the start of its carbon pollution reduction scheme to July 1, 2011, and extended its reduction targets from five per cent to 25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, depending on the outcome of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

But Senator Cameron said the Left believed more should be done to develop renewable energy and carbon capture and storage as a way to create green jobs.

“There’s employment available in a whole range of areas: tidal power, wind power, geothermal, solar and we believe there must be an even more focused approach,” Senator Cameron told AAP.

“We’re not arguing for closing the coal industry by any stretch of the imagination.”

The meeting also discussed a number of issues to do with the new Fair Work industrial relations system, most of which will begin operating on January 1, 2010.

As expected, the Left expressed its unhappiness with the continued existence until 2010 of the industry watchdog the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and the plan to transfer much of its powers to the new industrial body Fair Work Australia.

Senator Cameron said there was also concern about the new good faith bargaining rules, due to begin on July 1 along with new unfair dismissal rules.

“The range of changes introduced by the government are a good start but there may be other areas we will want to look at in terms of bargaining,” he said.

These included concerns that if an employer breaches an agreement the only means to deal with it is conciliation.

“There was quite a range of views that workers should be entitled, if there’s a clear breach of a contract, they should be able to take industrial action to force the employer to ensure the contract is fulfilled,” Senator Cameron said.

While Labor abolished Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) and will bring enterprise level bargaining back as the mainstay of industrial relations, many unions felt the legislation did not go far enough.

© 2009 AAP

HENDRIK GOUT
1/05/2009 4:33:00 PM

BHP has today revealed the environmental effects of its giant Olympic Dam project. Hendrik Gout wrote this article ahead of the media lock-up at which the 4000-page document was released.

Incomparable and unimaginable are not synonymous, but Olympic Dam is both. It will be the world’s biggest hole-in-the-ground, the largest copper and uranium quarry on the planet, the highest artificial mountain range on Earth and the richest mine since King Solomon.

All this just a few hours drive from Adelaide. South Australia is about to become the Colossus of Copper, the Midas of Gold. There’s just one niggling problem: the environment.

At three o’clock on Friday afternoon, BHP Billiton flicked a switch and the World Wide Web will instantly host the most massive environmental impact statement Australia has ever seen. Three-years in the making, more than 4000 pages long (110 pages to list just the guidelines), and according to Mines Minister Paul Holloway “the largest document ever prepared in this state”.

That EIS will lay out what BHP reckons are the environmental effects of expanding its Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine near Roxby Downs, in the state’s far north.

By some estimates the resource is worth a trillion dollars and able to produce some 25,000 tonnes of uranium, half a million ounces of gold and one million tonnes of copper a year.

The company will ultimately dig a hole 7.5 kilometres long, five kilometres wide and more than a kilometre deep.

Stacked up, the 44 billion tonnes or so of overburden would effectively create a new mountain range. Depending on its shape, it might be 20 kilometres wide in each direction and almost as high as Mt Lofty’s 720 metres.

If so, the new artificial mountain might create its own micro-climate.

The EIS will have to address hundreds of other issues as well. Journalists will have little time to do more than scan the document when it becomes available at noon – they’ll have to read over 1000 pages an hour during the media lock-up – before their television deadlines tonight.

BHP has said it will not comment on the EIS after the weekend even though reporters can’t possibly read all the documents in the time available.

The report was initially going to be available for public comment for just 40 working days, which Mr Holloway said was more than enough time. Public pressure, led by Greens MP Mark Parnell and Liberal MLC Christine Schaefer, forced the Government to extend that to 14 weeks.

“Even with a 14 week public comment period, the community will still struggle to read and respond to the largest document ever printed in this state,” Mr Parnell said.

So what will the long-awaited report say? It looks at expanding the mine to 750,000 tonnes of copper product a year, three-quarters of its possible ultimate size.

WATER POLLUTION AND THE GULF

Firstly, the EIS will have to address the mine’s water requirements. The existing Olympic Dam mine, a comparatively tiny underground operation, already uses 35 million litres of water a day. It drags this from the Great Artesian Basin: prehistoric underground water which fell as rain on the western side of the Great Dividing Range up to a million years ago. It has since percolated underground, flowing a mere one to three metres a year.

The company pays the state nothing to access this public resource under a special 1982 Act of Parliament which over-rides every other piece of legislation (including safeguards in mining Acts, development Acts and environment protection Acts) passed by Parliament before or even since.

The company is actually licensed to take up to 42 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin, but even this will not be enough to quench the new mine’s thirst.

Today’s EIS will canvass building a giant desalination plant on the coast of the fragile Upper Spencer Gulf. That plant will produce about 200 million litres a day, 80 of which might be bought by the State Government to supply towns around the Eyre Peninsula. The State Government has committed $125 million and the Commonwealth $120.

This means nearly a quarter of a million dollars of state and federal funds are going into the desalination plant, so both governments have serious EIS issues and responsibilities to address. It means federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett may have the power of veto over the desal plant.

The Gulf fishing industry and environmentalists will closely examine the document to see what it makes of the tens of thousands of litres of super-saline water the plant will release.

“This is the worst possible place to build an internationally-sized desalination plant,” Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner David Noonan said this week. “The Gulf is shallow, low-flushing. It’s the breeding ground of the giant cuttlefish which is extremely sensitive to changes in salinity. The plant should be built on the ocean, not the gulf.”

Adelaide University marine biologist associate professor Bronwyn Gilanders says the sea around Whyalla is actually the world’s largest cuttlefish breeding zone, and that the plant could wipe them out.

“Squids and Cuttlefish are generally short-lived. So they live a year; they breed only once. So if you damage the eggs or affect their reproductive ability then potentially that will have devastating consequences on the population.”

The Independent Weekly has reason to believe that BHP’s EIS will dismiss the threat, and that its research will claim increased salt levels will not affect local sea life.

“Point Lowly is the last place on the SA coast you would put a desal plant,” says Mr Noonan, “and there are alternatives. We could build a reverse osmosis plant at Elliston on Eyre Peninsula’s west coast. Elliston has the ocean flushing that Pt Lowly lacks and enormous potential for year-round wind energy. Taxpayers are paying 20 per cent of the desalination plant’s capital cost and we should also have a big say on where it goes. It’s not good enough to leave it up to BHP.”

BHP wants to build at Port Bonython near Whyalla purely because it’s cheaper than on the ocean coast. The Independent Weekly expects the EIS to say that it will pipe desalinated water about 350 kilometres to the mine. At a cost of about $1.2 million per kilometre, such a pipeline will cost the company more than $400 million and it may want to take the shortest possible route irrespective of environmental concerns along the way. The EIS will talk about the pipeline as well as the plant, and conclude that environmental problems or risks are negligible or manageable.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Desalination plants require vast amounts of energy. The Independent Weekly expects the still-secret EIS to say it will need about 75 megawatts to run the plant, and a further 25 megawatts to pump the water from Port Bonython to Olympic Dam.

The EIS is likely to recommend a gas-fired generator to power the desal plant, but the actual mine’s energy requirements are far larger than that. At full production, the mine will use one-third of South Australia’s current electricity requirements. This will affect SA’s energy future for the mine’s 100-year life.

Where will it get the power? BHP is almost certain to say it wants a gas-fired power station at Olympic Dam and buy an increased load off the grid.

Government greenhouse targets set out in the State Strategic Plan want carbon dioxide emissions capped to 108 per cent of the 1990 levels by the year 2012. Premier Mike Rann has also given a commitment to limit CO2 emissions to 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. But the mine’s expansion could increase SA’s total CO2 emissions by more than 10 per cent.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has now signed the Kyoto accord which sets similar goals, and that means Peter Garrett may have an influence on energy as well as water.

And then there’s the diesel. The expanded mine will a million litres of diesel a day, or two billion litres, just to reach the ore. The Federal Government is paying BHP a diesel fuel rebate of 18.5 cents a litre, a taxpayer subsidy to the world’s largest mining company.

CONCENTRATE ORE NOT

Open-cut mining is essentially a simple operation: dig it up and offer it for sale. But rather than ship raw earth around the world, mining companies generally process the rock to some degree by concentrating ore on site. Despite early promises, BHP will not go a step further and build a smelter here. Smelting produces mineral in its almost-pure form as well as thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

BHP initially indicated the concentrate would be smelted here and not in China. The Premier believed such assurances. “What we’re negotiating with BHP Billiton for is to make sure that as many jobs are done here in SA, that the work is done here rather than processed offshore,” he said in 2007.

“We’ve been negotiating with BHP Billiton and, despite what I read in one newspaper recently, the negotiations have been proceeding amicably.”

But the newspaper was right. In October 2008 the company finally announced that it had abandoned smelter plans. BHP uranium and Olympic Dam development boss Graeme Hunt said the company had given “very careful consideration” to processing options, and had decided to sell its product as concentrate rather than as refined metal.

“On-site smelting has a high capital cost and increases project execution risk, particularly in the isolated area in which Olympic Dam is established,” he said despite the Premier’s fury over the job losses.

But while the Premier said the Government would strongly oppose the company doing most of the processing overseas in 2007, by 2008 Treasurer Kevin Foley knew he was licked. “We want as much value added as possible to take place at the mine site but that is to be negotiated. One has to be realistic and constructive in negotiations,” Mr Foley acknowledged.

That decision has enormous repercussions. The EIS might say that if it exports 1.6 million tonnes of copper concentrate, that will make 400,000 tonnes of pure copper in China – and a few thousand tonnes of recoverable uranium. A country like China can extract that uranium and use it for nuclear power, and while Mr Rann opposes such a power station here he’s a strong advocate for it elsewhere.

On a visit to China in 2008, the Premier said his confidence had been buoyed by its potential as a uranium market. “Every single meeting I went to was about uranium,” he said. “We have got 50 per cent of the world’s uranium in SA. We are in pole position.”

He may have suddenly been bumped to the back of the grid. The Independent Weekly understands that the Federal Government is planning much tougher safeguards relating to uranium sales to China, even if it’s gift-wrapped in copper concentrate. BHP does not yet have export permits for that uranium. In May next year nuclear non-proliferation nations, Australia included, will meet in New York. Australia may want a new international treaty to make sure Olympic Dam uranium does not end up in Chinese bombs.

THE STING IS IN THE TAILINGS

Concentrated ore contains much higher percentages of gold, uranium and copper than what’s dug out of the ground. The stuff left behind after this process, called tailings, still contains vast quantities of radio-active material. The EIS will go to great length to say this isn’t a problem.

But problem it may be. Tailings have about 80 per cent of the radio-activity of the original ore. They contain radium and other decay products. Tailings are dust. They blow in the wind. There is wind in central Australia. An honest EIS might suggest that tailings have the potential, not to put to fine a point on it, to pollute.

A long way north of Olympic Dam is the Ranger uranium mine in NT’s Kakadu National Park. That mine will close in 2021. Federal Government environmental guidelines specify that the Ranger tailings be re-buried and rendered inactive for 10,000 years.

Peter Garret’s office, which will take longer than 14 weeks to assess this EIS, may demand the same level of safety at Olympic Dam.

If you walk around Olympic Dam now, you’ll see a mountain of tailings from the existing mine. It’s piled 30 metres high – the same height as a six-storey building – over four square kilometres. The new expanded mine could produce more dust than the average home vacuum cleaner has to handle – 70 million tonnes of tailings every year.

A RIGHT ROYAL FUTURE

The EIS is a statement of environmental impact, but it will also address royalties – the money the company pays the state to mine the ore. According to calculations done by SA Unions, mining royalties in this state are less than half those in other mining states, with only 3.5 per cent here compared with 7.5 per cent in WA for bauxite and iron ore, and seven to 10 per cent in Queensland.

So what’s the next step? BHP will hold a series of Eyre Peninsula and local town meetings from late this month, explaining its proposal and why it says the environmental risks are miniscule. Meanwhile scientists, economists, environmentalists, fishing groups and pastoralists will speed-read the document and make a response. BHP is then obliged to consider those responses and deliver its own verdict on the submissions. That’s when the fun starts.

When the final EIS, the supplement, is complete and released it will be assessed by state and federal governments. The Independent Weekly believes that this process will not be complete before the next state election due in March 2010. That means SA will go to the polls not knowing the government’s response to “the biggest document ever produced in this state” or the biggest mining project this country has ever seen.

Nor will we know how governments are going to deal with environmental issues which touch on global questions such as Australia’s part in the nuclear cycle, national demands such as energy requirements, and local threats such as a briny Spencer Gulf.

So here’s a prediction. Tomorrow’s EIS will say the project can go ahead on environmental grounds. The company will start moving to begin expansion and hope for a global economic recovery to coincide with increased production. BHP will pass the break-even point on its multi-billion investment within the first two decades, and after that it’s money in the bank all the way down to the year 2100.

But first, there’ll be new legislation presented in State Parliament to legalise the process. It will be a new form of the 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Ratification Act. It will, once again, over-ride every other Act of Parliament passed up to now and into the future. The first that South Australians see of that legislation will be after the state election.

And BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam will have an economic and environmental impact that is synonymous with mining on this scale: incomparable and unimaginable.

http://www.independentweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/olympic-dam-eis-impact-of-the-worlds-biggest-mine/1501992.aspx?storypage=7

BHP Billiton Ltd says it is going ahead with the multi-billion dollar expansion to turn its Olympic Dam mine in the South Australian outback into the largest open cut on earth, but the miner still needs approval from the federal and state governments.

The open cut at Olympic Dam would be biggest man-made hole in the world, lifting ore production at the site six-fold, which would require expanded minerals processing facilities.

Underpinning the proposed expansion is uranium exports to countries like China, BHP said.

BHP has laid out an ambitious timetable for redevelopment in its 4600-page environmental impact statement (EIS) today and estimates excavation work to begin in July 2010 at the earliest.

“The expansion described in this latest EIS would be a progressive development requiring construction activity over a period of 11 years,” the miner said in a statement.

BHP said the expansion could lift uranium oxide output to up to 19,000 tonnes a year from 4,500.

“Exporting uranium to new customers like China will be an integral part of creating value from the Olympic Dam ore body,” said Dean Dalla Valle, chief operating officer for the company’s Uranium Australia unit.

“We can do this with confidence because China is subject to the same strict safeguards arrangements as all of our other customers, he said.

Australia’s uranium industry has been hamstrung since the early 1980s by political hostility to the nuclear fuel, but long-standing bans on new mines by various state governments are gradually being lifted in the face of economic crisis.

The national government is also encouraging more uranium mining and courting new export business in China.

BHP, facing downturns in its major markets as the crisis bites, has cut 200 jobs at Olympic Dam as part of some 6,000 cuts worldwide as it battles falling commodities prices and demand.

The global miner said the additional support infrastructure would include a coastal desalination plant, a new power line and possibly a gas fired power station, a train line, an airport and additional housing for workers.

The environmental grounds of the expansion still need to be approved by the federal and state governments, and then by the BHP board. Only after board approval will the miner provide cost estimations.

The miner has set the timeframe of the project at 40 years, but has left the door open to a longer operation life, suggested by the size of the mineral resources.

A longer life for the mine will require more environmental approvals.

The draft EIS will be on public display for 14 weeks, when submissions can be made to government.

However, Dalla Valle said “we still have a lot of work to do before we can tell you when this project may start and how much it may cost”.

Some analysts have suggested the expansion could cost as much as $20 billion.

With no nuclear power industry of its own but sitting on the world’s single largest source, Australia sells all its uranium overseas, making Australia the world’s second-largest supplier behind Canada.

Russia and India have also expressed strong interest in buying Australian uranium to fuel nuclear power plants.

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/BHP-lays-out-plans-for-Olympic-Dam-expansion-still-pd20090501-RM8ZX?OpenDocument

BHP’s Olympic Dam mine to kickstart recovery

Jamie Walker and Michael Owen | May 02, 2009

Article from: The Australian
BHP Billiton has shrugged off the global economic blues to press ahead with plans to turn its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia into the largest open cut on earth and help kick the economy back into prosperity.

A 4600-page environmental impact statement, released by the company yesterday, set out an ambitious timetable for the conversion of the copper, gold, silver and uranium mine from underground to pit operations.

Work would start as early as April next year on the multi-billion-dollar upgrade.

Under BHP Billiton’s best-case scenario, excavation of the 1km-deep mine pit, and possibly construction of a pipeline to supply a gas power plant, would be under way by July next year.

By that time, a mini-city known as Hiltaba Village would be rising in the desert to house the thousands of workers needed for the project. This would be in addition to the expansion of the existing township of Roxby Downs.

The mine’s workforce would double from 4000 to 8000 when it reached full capacity next decade.

By then, Olympic Dam would be the world’s biggest single producer of uranium and one of the biggest of copper.

While the company stressed it would not release costings until the expansion received necessary environmental approvals from federal and state governments, and was then approved by the BHP Billiton board, its determination to see through planning will be a confidence-booster for the resource sector, hit hard by the global financial turmoil and reduced commodities prices.

The open cut envisaged by BHP Billiton at Olympic Dam would become the biggest man-made hole on the planet and yield $1 trillion worth of ore over its century-long life, more than $100million of which would be paid in royalties to the South Australian Government. Production would lift six-fold from 12million tonnes of ore annually to 72 million tonnes after 2020.

The news was welcomed by residents of the nearby mining town of Roxby Downs, where the boom had turned to gloom amid recent job cuts at Olympic Dam and falling local property values.

BHP Billiton will seek state and federal approvals to export up to 1.6 million tonnes a year of powdery copper-based concentrate with a low-level uranium content of about 2000 parts per million.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann, backed by the Howard government, was initially sharply critical of the company’s plan to send the concentrate to China rather than refine it here.

Mr Rann adopted a more conciliatory note yesterday, welcoming the EIS.

“We will work with BHP Billiton to maximise the number of jobs here … the point is it hasnot yet been approved,” Mr Rann said.

The existing underground operation at Olympic Dam currently ranks it as the 16th-largest in copper and third in uranium in the world.

Underground mining can extract only about 25 per cent of the ore containing recoverable quantities of copper, uranium, gold and silver; an open pit would allow up to 98 per cent of the known ore body to be exploited.

The proposed cut operation would work in tandem with the existing underground mine. The current smelter would also be expanded, although not to the extent that would be the case if two-thirds of the copper concentrate produced was not sent to China for processing.

Concern for the struggling Australian Giant Cuttlefish, which breeds in the area and was said by some conservationists to have been threatened by discharge from the desalination plant, have been dismissed by BHP Billiton.

After a specially extended 14-week public consultation period on the EIS, which ends on August 7, BHP Billiton will provide federal and state governments with a supplementary report for assessment. If the expansion were approved, the company’s board would make a final decision early next year.

South Australian Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway yesterday said the Government was not blinded by the wealth on offer at Olympic Dam.

“If there are issues we do not believe have been addressed properly, then we will ask BHP to reconsider them and make appropriate amendments,” Mr Holloway said.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25416641-5006787,00.html

SARAH MARTIN
April 25, 2009 12:01am

CONSTRUCTION has begun at the $118 million Honeymoon uranium mine in SA’s north-east, 37 years after yellowcake was first found at the site.

Canadian-based Uranium One and its Japanese joint venture partner Mitsui & Co are building the mine, which will begin production in the second half of 2010.

The mine is SA’s third and Australia’s fourth uranium mine and the first since the Labor Party scrapped its `no new mines’ policy in 2007.

Uranium One and Mitsui have already invested $39 million in the mine and will spend a further $79 million to bring the mine into production. One hundred and twenty will work on the site during the construction phase until early next year, after which between 50 and 70 people will operate the project.

Four hundred tonnes of uranium oxide will be extracted from the deposit each year, generating $80 million.

Uranium One executive vice president Greg Cochran said the construction of Honeymoon marked a new era of mining development in the state.

“It has been a long time between drinks as some might say in the development of uranium mines in Australia,” he said.

“There is no doubt Honeymoon is unique. For so long it represented the hopes and aspirations of an industry that legitimately wanted to pursue its business, but was artificially withheld and prevented from doing that. Now that has all changed.”

Mr Cochran said Uranium One was also undertaking drilling work at Gould’s Dam, 75 km north-west of Honeymoon, which is earmarked to come on stream as Honeymoon winds up in six years.

“That is our existing plan – we anticipate that Gould’s Dam would be a replacement for Honeymoon.”

Mr Cochran said the design of Honeymoon would allow for plant and equipment to be moved to other mines at a later date. Most of the uranium oxide produced will be sent to Europe, the U.S. or Canada, where it will be converted before being sold to Japanese and European buyers for nuclear energy generation.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Premier Mike Rann said the change in ALP policy would ensure future growth in SA’s mining sector.

“It was critically important for South Australia’s future development, that we changed the policy which was essentially an artificial impediment which would have stopped a whole series of mines from going ahead,” Mr Rann said.

April 22, 2009 – 1:09PM

China’s need for uranium could be worth billions to Australia following an announcement it will start building five extra power plants this year.

This comes on top of 24 already under construction and 11 that are in operation.

Australia offers the most obvious solution to a shortage of uranium to fulfil its nuclear power ambitions, according to a Chinese analyst.

“There are not enough uranium resources in China to support the aggressive nuclear power development plan for the next 20 to 30 years,” Professor Liu Deshun, of China’s Institute of Nuclear and Energy Technology told Fairfax Media.

“Australia has the uranium resources that could be exported and in China we have the demand.”

The fast-tracking of China’s nuclear power plans stems from mounting concerns about climate change, energy security and the more immediate task of kick-starting the economy.

Minister for Resources Martin Ferguson told Fairfax he welcomed China’s move to fast-track nuclear power.

“It is this government’s policy to encourage the further development of the Australian uranium industry,” he said.

The move could prove a windfall for WA, following the Liberal government’s ending of a ban on uranium mining in the state shortly after their win in the September state election.

AAP
http://business.watoday.com.au/business/china-looks-to-australia-to-supply-uranium-20090422-af0m.html