Showing posts with label mining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mining. Show all posts

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Morrison Government signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before calling the federal election

ABC News, 26 April 2019:

The Morrison Government signed off on a controversial uranium mine one day before calling the federal election, and did not publicly announce the move until the environment department uploaded the approval document the day before Anzac Day.

The Yeelirrie Uranium mine, located 500 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, requires both federal and state approval.

The state approval of the proposed mine is still being fought in the state's Supreme Court by members of the Tjiwarl traditional owners.

In 2016, the West Australian Environment Protection Agency advised the mine not be approved, concluding it posed too great a risk of extinction to some native animals.

The former Liberal Barnett government controversially approved the mine in 2017, just weeks before it lost the West Australian election.

Canadian company Cameco, the world's largest uranium producer, is seeking to develop the uranium mine, which would cover an area 9km long and 1.5km wide.

It would involve the clearing of up to 2,422 hectares of native vegetation.

It is also approved to cause groundwater levels to drop by 50cm, and they would not completely recover for 200 years, according to Cameco's environmental reports.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Melissa Price said the approval was subject to 32 strict conditions to avoid and mitigate potential environmental impacts.

Traditional owner of the area, Tjiwarl woman Vicky Abdullah, said she was surprised by the announcement, and was hoping for the project to be rejected.

"It's a very precious place for all of us. For me and my two aunties, who have been walking on country," she said.

Mine approval a controversial move ahead of caretaker mode
Simon Williamson, General Manager of Cameco Australia, told the ABC he was pleased Ms Price had approved the mine before calling the election.

"Yeah, that's likely to raise questions about rushed decision and all that stuff, but the state [government] made their decision in January 2017," he said.

"The timing was such that all of [the assessment] was completed to allow her to sign off before the election. I think it's quite appropriate and I think the minster would want to sign off on projects on her plate before she goes to an election……

Dave Sweeney, an anti-nuclear campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation said the timing suggested the decision was political.

"We need decisions that are based on evidence and the national interest, not a company's interest or not a particular senator's or a particular government's interest," he said.

"This reeks of political interference rather than a legal consideration or due process."

The approval is one of several controversial moves the Government made before entering caretaker mode, where such decisions would be impossible, including approving Adani's two groundwater management plans for it's proposed Carmichael coal mine.....

The Guardian, 27 April 2019:

A multinational uranium miner persuaded the federal government to drop a requirement forcing it to show that a mine in outback Western Australia would not make any species extinct before it could go ahead.

Canadian-based Cameco argued in November 2017 the condition proposed by the government for the Yeelirrie uranium mine, in goldfields north of Kalgoorlie, would be too difficult to meet.

The mine was approved on 10 April, the day before the federal election was called, with a different set of conditions relating to protecting species.

Environmental groups say the approval was politically timed and at odds with a 2016 recommendation by the WA Environmental Protection Authoritythat the mine be blocked due to the risk to about 140 subterranean stygofauna and troglofauna species – tiny animals that live in groundwater and air pockets above the water table.

A Cameco presentation to the department, released to the Greens through Senate estimates, shows the government proposed approving the mine with a condition the company must first demonstrate that no species would be made extinct during the works.

Cameco Australia said this did not recognise “inherent difficulties associated with sampling for and describing species”, including the inadequacy of techniques to sample microscopic species that live underground and challenges in determining whether animals were of the same species. It said the condition was “not realistic and unlikely to be achieved – ever”.

The condition did not appear in the final approval signed by the environment minister, Melissa Price, which was made public after being posted on the environment department’s website on 24 April…..

Friday, 26 April 2019

"Stop Adani" convoy gets good reception as it passes through the NSW Northern Rivers region

Supporters at Ferry Park, Maclean, on Pacific Highway heading north
Photo: The Daily Examiner online

The Daily Examiner
, 22 April 2019, p.4:

Protesters came out in support of the anti-Adani convoy as it made its way through the Clarence Valley yesterday.

Up to 180 cars, many of them electric, decorated in “Stop Adani” paraphernalia made their way along the Pacific Highway as part of a two-week campaign, organised by conservationist Bob Brown, to stop the proposed Carmichael coal mine.

Karen von Ahlefeldt said many in the convoy stopped for a chat and were “boosted” by the show of support.

“A lot of people standing there wished they could be on the convoy, this was a good chance for them to be part of it,” Ms von Ahlefeldt said.

Clarence Valley Councillor and Greens party member Greg Clancy stood at South Grafton waving on the cars as they made their way north.

“Politicians are not listening, and some of the public don’t understand,” Cr Clancy said.

“They think it is jobs, we need coal, but we don’t, we are phasing it out. Coal is not the future, it is the past.”

He said it was unthinkable to “dig up more of the Galilee Basin” and the proposed coal mine would be “contributing to climate change”.

Cr Clancy said movements such as the convoy were important steps to making change.

“Bob Brown has said this is going to be another Franklin River issue,” he said.
“People are not going to stand by. There will be protests, there will be arrests, it will be big.”

“You just have to look at how many vehicles have gone past today to know it’s going to be big.”

Mr Clancy called on politicians to commit to oppose the Queensland mine ahead of the federal election next month.

Friday, 19 April 2019

In the face of grave concerns Morrison Government pushes through Adani mining consent ahead of the 18 May general election, CSIRO rolls over & Geoscience lets the cat out of the bag

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) attempts to avoid embarrassing the Morrison Coalition Government on the day it announced a federal election date:

CSIRO Statement, 11 April 2019:

In late 2018 and early 2019 CSIRO and Geoscience Australia wrote two reports for the Federal Government on specific questions on groundwater monitoring, management and modelling planned by Adani Pty Ltd for its Carmichael mine proposal in central Queensland.

This advice was limited to answering discrete inquiries on whether elements of Adani's proposed plans would be adequate to protect nationally significant environmental assets.
CSIRO identified inadequacies in the plans and was subsequently asked to review Adani's response to the recommendations CSIRO made to address the issues raised, as summarised by the Department of the Environment and Energy. Adani had committed to address the modelling limitations identified by the CSIRO and GA review in a groundwater model re-run to be undertaken within two years.
CSIRO considered that this commitment satisfied its recommendations, while also acknowledging there were still some issues that need to be addressed in future approvals, particularly confirming the source of the ecologically-important Doongmabulla Springs.
CSIRO has provided robust, peer-reviewed science on specific groundwater modelling-related questions about the plans. CSIRO's role is to provide scientific advice to inform approval processes, but it does not have any role in making approval decisions.

The public broadcaster reports in greater detail and with less reticence when detailing facts of the matter…….

ABC News, 18 April 2019:

Handwritten documents obtained by the ABC appear to directly contradict the Environment Minister Melissa Price that Adani "accepted in full" changes sought by scientists to limit the impact of its controversial Queensland coal mine.

Announcing her decision to approve Adani's water management plans for its Carmichael mine earlier this month, Ms Price said Adani "accepted in full" advice from the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also maintained the Government would "make all decisions based on the expert advice from ... Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO".
"We have always been following the advice of the scientists and we'll continue to do that," he said.

The advice was provided in a damning review in February of the company's plans.
But documents provided to the ABC showed Adani refused to accept key scientific findings and recommendations about its water management plans.

The ABC has obtained notes taken by three attendees of a phone hook up on April 5 involving senior officials from the Department of Environment and Energy and staff from Geoscience Australia.

The documents show the government science agency was concerned the water plans could allow Adani's mine to breach the conditions of its environment approval.

However, Adani would not accept the need for corrective action if that occurred.

The notes said that Adani refused to:
  • acknowledge the scientists' key finding that the model Adani used to estimate the mine's impacts was not fit for purpose;
  • accept that a new model could show that the mine's impacts would breach environmental approvals; and
  • commit to corrective action if the new model showed greater impacts on the environment than Adani had claimed would occur.
A separate briefing note from the Department of Environment and Energy shows Adani also refused to consider scaling back its mining operation to minimise its impacts, despite being asked to do so.

The ABC requested the meeting notes under freedom of information (FOI) laws, but Geoscience Australia took the unusual step of releasing the documents immediately instead.

The briefing happened after the Department of Environment and Energy had already advised the Minister to approve the plans, which had been finalised the previous month.

One set of notes was taken by Geoscience Australia chief Dr James Johnson, another by head of environmental geoscience Dr Stuart Minchin, and the third by senior executive Dr Richard Blewett.

A handwritten note by Dr Blewett mentions concerns held by Jane Coram, the head of CSIRO's land and water division.

She complained the science agencies had "not seen the revised plan" set to be approved, and that they were expected to take the summary of it at "face value".

After the meeting, Ms Price published a statement announcing, "Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO have provided written assurances that these steps address their recommendations."

A spokesman for Ms Price said she was not present at the meeting.

"Decisions were made between the department officers, Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO on the proper scientific assessment of the issues and no other factor," the spokesman said.

But the notes show the scientific agencies were asked by the Minister's department to give formal assurances that Adani's commitments met their concerns in language acceptable to the Government.

"Gov[ernment] is keen for assurance," the notes taken by CEO of Geoscience Australia, James Johnson said.

"Ideal for gov[ernment]: letter from me to [Mr Finn Pratt] saying based on extensive briefing from [Department of Environment and Energy] on Adani addresses the concerns raised."

Fin Pratt is the head of the Department of Environment and Energy.

In his handwritten notes of the meeting, Mr Johnson said the Government was keen for an assurance "based on discussion briefing" from the department, but he scribbled that out and changed it to "based on extensive briefing".

The Minister subsequently published a letter from Mr Johnson to Mr Pratt saying: "Thank you for the extensive briefing ... Based on this briefing Geoscience Australia is of the view that Adani have addressed the issues and concerns raised in our recommendations."

Ms Price's spokesman told the ABC no pressure was placed on the science agencies.

"Any suggestion of pressure in that process is rejected in the strongest possible terms and is insulting to the integrity of the experts concerned," he said.

Adani said in a statement it could not comment on the content of the documents.

"Adani was not privy to internal briefing documents or discussions that the Federal Department of Environment and Energy may have provided to Geoscience Australia and CSIRO, consequently we are unable to comment as to their contents."

'Advice to Adani that they refused'

The briefing notes listed in point form the "advice to Adani that they refused".

These included a recommendation Adani acknowledge their modelling "is not fit for purpose" and that a "new model could revise impacts [to be] greater than [what] has been approved".

"So told Adani — if new model shows greater impact than current model, they have to sort it out [with] corrective [actions]", the notes said.

"They refused."

Before the verbal briefing to Geoscience Australia, the Department Environment and Energy prepared a summary of Adani's response to concerns raised by Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, which was provided to the two agencies.

The summary was published by the Department of Environment and Energy.

That document shows Adani declined to commit to a reduced mine plan, or to cutting back coal extraction, as suggested by the Department Environment and Energy in response to the damning report on its groundwater management model and plans by Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO.

It also shows Adani negotiated compromise outcomes in response to some of the scientists' concerns and rejected other measures that the two agencies sought.

There were gaps between what was included in that document and what was apparently outlined in the verbal briefing to Geoscience Australia staff.

The notes of the verbal briefing the department gave to the scientists said that Adani committed to a "maximum timetable of three months" for conducting an investigation if water use limits were triggered — a demand of both CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.

In fact, the response Adani formally agreed to is less watertight: "If the groundwater level thresholds exceedance is because of authorised mining activities, the investigation will be prioritised and, depending on the nature of the impact, completed within three months."

Adani told the ABC it was not provided directly with the advice by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia until after the Government approved the plans. Instead it responded to summaries made by the Department of Environment and Energy.

Minister faced intense pressure to approve mine

Ms Price faced intense pressure from her own side of politics to approve Adani's water management plans before the federal election was called.

Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath warned he would publicly call for Ms Price's resignation unless she did the "right thing" by Adani, and Queensland's LNP executive condemned what it called her "delay" in approval.

In the wake of the Federal Government's sign-off on the water management plans, Adani is pressing the Queensland Government to complete a series of other, state-based approvals that are needed before mining can commence.

When Ms Price announced that she had approved the water management plans — just one working day after CSIRO and Geoscience Australia were briefed on Adani's responses to their concerns — the Environment Minister said:
"I have accepted the scientific advice and therefore approved the groundwater management plans for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
"Both CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have confirmed the revised plans meet strict scientific requirements."

The Queensland Government is yet to approve construction as it seeks to protect a colony of black-throated finches around the mine site.

Even if construction is fully signed off, the project still requires more approvals to be granted from the Queensland and Commonwealth governments before coal can be dug out of the ground.

In an official statement to the ABC, a spokesperson for Geoscience Australia said it stood by their earlier statement that Adani's actions addressed the concerns raised in their technical advice.

"Adani did not acknowledge our advice that their groundwater model was not fit for purpose, and indicated they would not revise the model in the short term," the spokesperson said.

They said despite that, additional monitoring and mitigation Adani did agree to do satisfied their concerns.

Geoscience Australia said it was not pressured to provide the Government assurance.

The United Nations has taken a position on Adani Group mining consents after the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council put their case to this international body last year and, it has asked the Australian Government not to proceed with granting consents until after the High Court appeal by this traditional owners group is heard in May 2019

A request the Morrison Government saw fit to ignore.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Norway needs to withdraw its majority-owned petroleum mining company from the Great Australian Bight

 ABC News, 12 March 2019:

A Norwegian MP has called for a state-owned Norwegian oil and gas company not to start drilling in the Great Australian Bight, while a scientist says noise from the project could hurt marine life.

The Norwegian Government has a 67 per cent majority stake in Equinor, which wants to start searching for oil off the coast of South Australia at a depth of almost 2.5 kilometres by the end of 2020.

It needs approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

MP Kristoffer Robin Haug addressed the Norwegian Parliament last week and said going ahead with the project could see Norway become the enemy.

"Will the [Petroleum and Energy] Minister use this power as a majority shareholder in Equinor to instruct their company to stop their oil exploration in the Bight?" he asked.

Fight For The Bight, April 2019:

New research from The Australia Institute shows that 60% of Australians are opposed to drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, while the rate of opposition amongst South Australians is even higher at 68%.

The first ever national poll on the issue found that only one in five Australians, and 16% of South Australians, support drilling in the Bight, while more than two thirds of Australians want to see the area given World Heritage protection.

The poll also found there is greater support, both nationwide and in SA, for ending coal, gas and oil exploration across Australia than there is for allowing it to continue.

“The Great Australian Bight is a national treasure and now we know that people across the country want to see it protected from exploitation,” said Noah Schultz-Byard, The Australia Institute’s SA projects manager.

“Equinor and the other oil giants looking to drill in the Great Australian Bight are attempting to do so in direct opposition to the wishes of the Australian people.

“We’ve known for some time that the Great Australian Bight holds a special place in the hearts of South Australians, but this research has shown that opposition to exploiting the Bight exists across the country.

The Norwegian Greens Party has also adopted the Australian Greens slogan "Fight for the Bight".

South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Haug's speech showed the fight was now receiving international attention.

"This is starting to cause problems and waves overseas," Senator Hanson-Young said.

"People are questioning why Australia would put at risk our beautiful pristine areas.

"This is a whale sanctuary. This is an untouched wonderland. Why would we put this at risk?"….

Protesters took to Encounter Bay this morning to protest against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Knitting Nannas from across NSW took their protest to Sydney on International Women's Day

United to Protect Our Water

101 Knitting Nannas from around NSW converged on Parliament House in Sydney on International Women’s Day (March 8) to protest about water mismanagement and the lack of effective government action to protect river and groundwater health. The theme of the protest was “No Water no Life”.

The Nannas came from Loops (local Nanna groups) in the Northern Rivers, Grafton, Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Midcoast, New England-North West, Central Coast, Gloucester, Hunter Valley, Illawarra, and Sydney.

The Nannas have long been very concerned about unwanted water impacts around NSW – issues which have been raised with elected representatives over a number of years.

· These include impacts on urban water catchments from coal mines - the Wallarah 2 mine on the Central Coast and the Hume mine in the Southern Highlands as well as the long-wall mining in the Illawarra which leads to massive water loss into mines.

· The North West of the state is also impacted by coal mines which use vast amounts of water – Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine and the proposed Vickery mine.

· Then there’s the threat to groundwater from Santos’ gasfield in the Pilliga State Forest. This project is slated to extract 35 billion litres of groundwater – most of it in the first five years.

· But the most dramatic impact is the most recent – the Darling fish kills - the result of years of mismanagement and favouring of irrigators over the health of the river system.

The Nannas assembled in Martin Place where they donned their specially made t-shirts bearing a picture of a Nanna declaring “The Water Needs You” (in the spirit of the Lord Kitchener First World War recruiting poster) and their yellow, red and black suffragette-style sashes emblazoned with “No Water No Life”. 

After a group photo under the big banner (“United to Protect Our Water”), the Nannas walked to Parliament House and ranged themselves along the fenceline.  There they used their sashes to tie on to the iron railing of the fence in the manner of the suffragettes.

The brightly-dressed Nannas with their banners and their singing and chanting attracted a great deal of attention from pedestrians and those driving along busy Macquarie Street. A highlight of the street performance was the powerful rendition by Nanna Purl Stockinstitch of her poem about the death of farmer George Bender who was hounded by a CSG company in Queensland.  The Nannas hoped that the pollies in our parliament heard and took note of the effect the unconventional gas industry has had - and continues to have - on the lives of communities in gasfields.

Various politicians met with the Nannas on the footpath and were presented with their “knagging list” - the Nannas’ demands for action.

While the theme of the protest focused on the major problems with rivers and water, the Nannas demands were much broader. They included a call for immediate climate action, transition to 100% renewables, a state-wide ban on gas extraction (including in the Pilliga), proper protection of Aboriginal sacred sites and revocation of the draconian anti-protest laws brought in by the current NSW Government. 

The Knitting Nannas Against Gas and Greed are hopeful that all of the state political parties will accept their calls for effective action on these important matters. It should be noted that the Nannas, who are very concerned about the protection of the land and water for future generations, are non-party political and have a policy of annoying all politicians equally – something we aim to continue doing!

            - Leonie Blain
               Grafton Loop of the Knitting Nannas Against Gas & Greed

Monday, 4 March 2019

From September 2019 onwards underwater seismic blasts will rock the Great Australian Bight around the clock over a 30,100 sq kilometre area

ABC News, 15 January 2019:

Oil and gas testing is set to take place in the Great Australian Bight this year, after the national petroleum regulator granted permission to exploration company PGS.

Environmental groups have slammed the decision to allow seismic testing near Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln, while the tuna industry has questioned whether it is even likely to go ahead.

Seismic testing involves firing soundwaves into the ocean floor to detect the presence of oil or gas reserves….

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) granted permission for the testing to be done over a 30,100-square-kilometre area, located 80 kilometres from Port Lincoln and 90 kilometres west of Kangaroo Island.

The testing is set to take place between September and November.

The fishing industry has long had reservations about the impact seismic testing would have on the local tuna industry.

PGS has been ordered not to interfere with or displace pygmy blue whales, southern bluefin tuna, and southern right whales…..

The Wilderness Society has slammed the permit, saying the practice can deafen whales and even kill smaller marine animals.

"It's obvious that blasting massive amounts of noise constantly for months on end through a water column in a space where animals communicate and navigate and live by sound and sonar, it is obvious that this is going to have a terrible impact on those animals," the environmental group's Peter Owen said.

"I fail to see how you can actually approve this type of seismic activity in the middle of one of the most significant whale nurseries in the world.

"It's totally unacceptable."

The Greens say the seismic testing is the first step to drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

"Why on Earth would we be wanting to sink oil wells in the Great Australian Bight, put our marine life and beaches at risk and make climate change worse," senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

"We've got to be getting out of fossil fuels and transitioning to a clean, green economy."

There has been little research into the impact of seismic testing in Australia, but Western Australian researchers have found noise from seismic air guns significantly increased mortality in scallops.

Commencing on or about 1 September 2019 for an initial period of 91 days a fofeign-owned PGS survey vessel will be operating sounding equipment 24/7 in the Bight at a seismic source pressure of est. ~2,000 pounds per square inch (psi) with the two or three arrays firing alternately every 16.67 to 25 m, each with a maximum volume of 3260in. (See Duntroon Multi-client 3D and 2D Marine Seismic Survey Environment Plan at pp.24-25).

This is what happened when such testing went ahead in the Atlantic Ocean……..

Earthjustice is suing the federal government to prevent seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean. The process involves the blasting of shockingly powerful seismic airguns every few seconds for hours or even days on end and can cripple or kill marine life in the search of offshore oil or gas deposits.

Earthjustice is challenging the administration’s actions in court, and on Feb. 20, we joined a coalition of other conservation groups asking a federal judge to block the start of seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic Ocean until our case has been heard.

The tests, harmful in their own right, are just the first step in the administration’s broader plans to open up 90 percent of U.S. federal offshore waters to the fossil fuel industry, despite widespread opposition from Americans across the nation.