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

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

News Corp, Morrison Government & mining lobby groups in concerted attack on environmental lawyers



The Attack.....

The Australian, 22 June 2019:

A taxpayer-funded network of environmental lawyers has been handed more than $2.5 million by state governments, helping the group to clog up courts and launch dozens of cases against gas and mining projects, including Adani’s Carmichael mine.
Environmental Defenders ­Offices in NSW and Queensland were awarded more than $1m from the Berejiklian government and almost $400,000 from the Palaszczuk government in 2017-18….

Resources Minister Matt Canavan yesterday called on the states to deprive the green lawyers’ groups of any more taxpayer funds.

“These EDOs are not defending the public interest but pursuing a political agenda,” he said.

“As such, they should not be receiving taxpayer support to ­destroy people’s jobs.”….

Leading business groups ­accused the EDOs of engaging in “vexatious litigation” which is ­delaying projects for years, damaging job-creation efforts and hindering the flow of ­royalties to states and territories.

“Frivolous and vexatious legal challenges to environmental ­approvals delay projects and threaten jobs in regional Australia,” Minerals Council chief executive Tania Constable said.

An Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association spokesman said the EDOs’ advocacy on climate change was out of step with their apparent role as a community legal centre for environmental cases.

“We have for some time questioned the role of the EDO and its public funding,” he said.

The Response.....

NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO NSW), 22 June 2019:

EDOs stand firm against attacks

We are a community legal centre of expert lawyers, proudly and unapologetically helping the NSW community to use the law to protect wildlife, people and our planet.


Environmental laws should not be for the few. They affect us all. Yet once again we are forced to defend the community's access to justice against attacks by a fossil fuel lobby aggrieved by the power our work provides to communities who seek to challenge the lawfulness and merit of their major projects.

EDO NSW's litigation work on behalf of our clients plays an important role, ensuring that people have access to justice and are able to exercise their rights under Australian law. People have a right to use the law to protect their family, homes and environment. To be clear, as public interest community legal centres, EDOs do not litigate on our own behalf, but represent clients (community groups, Aboriginal groups and individuals) who may otherwise be unable to have access to the justice system.

It’s disappointing to see, yet again, the Minerals Council and Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association demonstrating their lack of understanding of, and respect for, the rule of law. At their heart, these claims are an attack on our democracy and  we should all be very concerned.

The fossil fuel lobby has a track record of making the unsubstantiated claim that EDOs engage in vexatious litigation, and frankly it’s getting tired. Despite being over-utilised, this claim remains a troubling proposition. EDO NSW lawyers, who include some of the best in our field, take our professional responsibilities extremely seriously. Our 30 year track record is evidence of that. Not once in our history have our clients’ cases been found to be ‘frivolous or vexatious’.

Underpinning most of our litigation work is a question about whether the law has been complied with. That decision-makers apply the law is a fundamental feature of our democracy. Ensuring the law is complied with should be uncontroversial.


In other instances, our work interrogates whether approving a project is – considering all the circumstances – the correct or preferable decision. These are not simple questions. The answer lies in the weighting of a range of different factors. Our important work ensures that evidence proffered in support of a project is thoroughly tested. 

In a number of instances, including in the recent case concerning the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine, the economic benefits of the mine put forward by the mining company were found to be overstated, based on the evidence put forward by both the Government’s expert and our client’s.  Equally the economic negatives of that project - including social impacts and impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage - were found to have been understated by the mining company.

Litigation is a small component of the work this office does on behalf of clients. When we do so, it is only after application of our casework guidelines and detailed analysis from senior legal experts to ensure there are merits in bringing a case.
EDO NSW also provides the community with free legal advice and education - work that does see us receive some State government grants. Our office operates a daily advice line providing free advice on matters of environmental and planning law.

The NSW Government has provided EDO NSW with funding for decades, irrespective of which party is in Government. This demonstrates a bipartisan understanding of our role and corresponding support for the provision of access to justice in this space - that is, allowing members of the community to understand and seek advice about NSW environmental and planning laws. 

Our work relates to ensuring that laws are applied correctly, and ensuring that evidence put forward by project proponents is tested in an appropriate and independent forum. Any changes to the law that erode community opportunities to participate in environmental decision-making would be very concerning. This could easily be seen as a blatant attempt to further prioritise the rights of coal mining companies over the rights of communities, including farmers, eco-tourism operators and others.


David Morris
CEO - Solicitor

Friday, 14 June 2019

The Fight for the Great Australian Bight continues


Patagonia Inc. email, 11 June 2019, excerpt:

Photgraph: Patagonia Inc.


Fight For The Bight

Last month, Patagonia Surf Ambassador Heath Joske  joined an Australian delegation to Oslo, Norway, taking the fight for the Bight directly to Equinor. The delegation was led by Peter Owen from The Wilderness Society and included Aboriginal elder and singer Bunna Lawrie and various local and international environmental groups.

The delegation met with Norwegian Indigenous Sami people to discuss their shared experiences in the fight to protect their oceans and lands from development by the oil industry.

The delegation also found support in the 500-strong crowd of local Norwegians who joined them for a paddle out in the harbour in front of the city’s Opera House. This peaceful protest was one of the largest paddle-out demonstrations held in the country's history and members of the delegation were buoyed by the camaraderie shown by the local community who braved near freezing water temperatures in support of the Great Australian Bight.

“Borders were smashed and countries were united,” said Heath. “Thank you to the people of Norway for supporting our pleas to save our southern seas! You turned up in hundreds and screamed “Fight for the Bight!” with me, and when I stopped, you kept screaming. That was incredibly moving and heartening.”


Taking on Goliath

The delegation also attended Equinor’s Annual General Meeting in Stavanger where they presented a shareholder proposal that the company should refrain from oil and gas exploration and production activities in frontier areas (such as the Great Australian Bight), immature areas and particularly sensitive areas. Heath Joske also spoke at the AGM, taking to the stage to explain his connection to the Bight as both a surfer and fisherman. Following the meeting, he personally delivered over 300 letters from concerned Australian citizens to Equinor’s CEO, Eldar Saetre.

“For the campaign, the AGM is not an end-point in any way,” says Norwegian citizen and Great Australian Bight Alliance campaigner Rune Woldsnes. “It is a step on the way to getting Equinor out of the Bight. There is no question the Board got the message.”

Heath Joske at the Equinor AGM from Patagonia Australia on Vimeo.

BACKGROUND

North Coast Voices:






Monday, 10 June 2019

Did ABC Radio bow to pressure from the Adani Group?


One of the worst kept secrets in Australia is that the multinational Adani mining group, for reasons known only to its company board in India, wants to build a mine in the Galilee Basin but has no intention of building a financially viable mine.

And Adani really dislikes the media mentioning this fact......

ABC, Media Watch, transcript excerpt, 3 June 2019:

But now let’s come back closer to home to Adani, whose controversial Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin gets ever closer to construction, despite this scathing piece in The Sydney Morning Herald by Bloomberg columnist David Fickling:

The numbers on Adani simply don't add up
Comparable projects like Glencore's Wandoan have been mothballed for years.
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May, 2019

Fickling’s op-ed 10 days ago argued that the Adani mine may never be built — even if it does get final approval — because it’s currently much cheaper to buy coal than dig it out of a brand-new coal mine.

And over at ABC Radio, Saturday AM thought that was worth a story.

But after being worked on by Isobel Roe, a young award-winning journalist in Brisbane, it never made it to air.

So, why was that? Well, Media Watch can reveal that Adani complained to the ABC in advance. And the story was spiked.

So how did this all unfold?

Bloomberg has confirmed to Media Watch that David Fickling was interviewed by the ABC on the afternoon of Friday, 24th of May.

And just over an hour later, at 4.20pm, Adani say Roe contacted them for comment.

And not long after that, at 5.50pm, the producer of Saturday AM, Thomas Oriti, told ABC staff he was killing the story.

Now, newsrooms at the ABC are open plan and not very private and four witnesses tell Media Watch that Oriti made it clear Adani had complained.

Indeed, one claims he told Roe:

‘Sorry. It’s nothing to do with you, but we’re not going to be able to run this’.
- Phone interview, ABC staffer, 31 May, 2019

While another claims he said:

‘It’s not my decision, it’s come from on high.’
- Phone interview, ABC staffer, 31 May, 2019

The ABC denies this and maintains his decision was taken entirely on editorial merit, because the story didn’t stack up.

So what can we be sure of?

Well, there’s no doubt Adani did complain, both to the reporter when she rang and, shortly after, to her bosses. A company spokesperson told us:

… we raised concerns with ABC management when approached to comment on a story that contained inaccuracies and was potentially biased ...
- Email, Adani spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

Adani says it told the reporter she should talk to an analyst more friendly to the mining sector.

And when she asked them to suggest someone, Adani’s PR team cracked it and went over her head to ABC management:

Adani complained that it was not reasonable that the onus for ensuring that ABC news coverage was fair and balanced should fall back onto the company and not onto the ABC’s well-resourced newsrooms.
- Email, Adani spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

A key feature of Adani’s complaint was that the ABC had not given it enough time to respond.

But in fact by Friday afternoon Fickling’s work had been up for more than 36 hours. 

And Adani was able to send a statement to the ABC almost immediately.

So, who at the ABC dealt with the company’s complaint?

We’re told Adani went straight to the top — ABC News boss Gaven Morris — who we understand is the person they normally contact.

So to clarify what happened, we asked Morris a series of questions, which included:

Did Adani contact you last Friday afternoon to complain about the story?
What was the nature of the complaint, and how did you respond?
Why was the story pulled, given that it had been commissioned for Saturday AM only hours beforehand?
Was the decision to pull the story taken after Adani’s complaint?
Why was this complaint handled personally by you?
- Email, Media Watch to Gaven Morris, 31 May, 2019

We did not get a response from Gaven Morris or answers to most of those questions.

Instead, an ABC spokesperson told us:

There was no complaint.
- Email, ABC spokesperson, 31 May, 2019

Which is remarkable, because Adani says there was…..

Full transcript here.

BACKGROUND

“The numbers on Adani simply don't add up”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 2019 at https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/the-numbers-on-adani-simply-don-t-add-up-20190524-p51qoy.html.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Climate change litigation and Australia


Pointing out the potential risks to business and government of ignoring or denying the reality of climate  change.....

The Canberra Times, 29 May 2019:

Since the late 1990s, Australian politics on climate change has been divisive.

Although Australia signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, it did not ratify it until 2007. 

Then, in 2011, the Clean Energy Act purporting to reduce greenhouse emissions was passed, only to be repealed in 2014.

In 2016, Australia ratified the Paris Agreement and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol; however, any serious action on climate change remains to be seen.

At the same time, some states and territories also have emissions reduction targets. 

The uncoordinated approach is a problem for at least two important reasons.

First, climate change is an ever-increasing phenomenon, with tremendous impact on corporate, social and political discourse. Any meaningful legal framework to govern climate change requires the development of a legal consensus at the federal level, in line with international commitments.

Second, there is a rising wave of climate change-related litigation globally which is headed for Australia. Climate change litigation 2.0 (targeting companies) and climate change litigation 3.0 (targeting governments) will sink Australia, unless drastic measures are implemented.

Under the current legal regime, company directors may only be liable if found to be in breach of their duty of care or for failing to address a foreseeable risk. However, guidance from case law suggests that it is difficult to establish that the actions or omissions of a particular entity or director caused or contributed harm to be suffered by another. With the arrival of climate change litigation 2.0, this will all change.

For one, litigation 2.0 will force companies to assess and report on the risks of climate change and potentially set out plans for mitigating those risks. The recent tide of comments from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Reserve Bank of Australia are a testament to this.

Companies and their directors could soon face liability (including personal liability) if they fail to assess and address risks relating to climate change. Investors, shareholders and even communities will be able to recover losses and seek damages from companies and their directors, auditors and advisors, for failing to assess and mitigate risks.

As major climate change attribution studies emerge to assist in tracing particular weather events with greenhouse gasses, causation will be easier to establish. It is likely that in the future, courts will rely on such studies to conclude that a particular entity has contributed, at least in some proportion, to a particular harm……

Although unprecedented and unheard of in Australia, climate change litigation 3.0 will be the next phase. It will allow Australians to bring action against the government for failing to mitigate risks.

Claims of this nature around the world are already proving to be quite successful. 

The Urgenda litigation in the Netherlands is the leading example. In that case, a Dutch NGO argued that the Netherlands Government had breached its duty of care to the Dutch people by failing to mitigate the risks of climate change and reducing greenhouse gases. The remedy ordered by the court was that the Netherlands Government reduce emissions by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020….. [my yellow highlighting]

It should be noted that on 8 February 2019 the NSW Land and Environment Court in its judgment Gloucester Resources Limited v Minister for Planning [2019] NSWLEC 7 accepted that climate change formed part of critical reasons to reject a mine development.

Gloucester Resources decided not to appeal this decision and the proposed 830ha Rocky Hill Coal Mine in the Hunter Valley region will not proceed

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Coal Seam Gas: Queensland supplies a timely lesson for the rest of Australia


ABC News, 26 May 2016:

The risk of spreading toxic groundwater from one of Queensland's worst environmental contaminations has prompted a ban on coal seam gas drilling in an area where companies are already extracting gas.

The State Government quietly created a no-go zone for gas extraction 10 kilometres around the former Linc Energy site in the Southern Inland, at Hopeland, burying the decision in an environmental approval issued to Arrow Energy in December.

Despite the ban, Arrow and QGC still have permission to extract gas within the zone.

On a separate, neighbouring mining lease — approved in August — Arrow gained approval to ramp up six existing "pilot" wells for commercial production.

Farmers said they were alarmed by the revelation and want state officials to come clean about the risks of groundwater contamination spreading under prime grazing and cropping land.

The ban is the first public admission that a burgeoning CSG industry could aggravate the Linc contamination, where toxic gases were released into groundwater by a now-illegal process called underground coal gasification.

Cotton grower Brian Bender's Hopeland property is split by the two Arrow tenements — where CSG extraction is banned on one side but not the other.

"I think it's a bit of a joke, really — there are no lines underground," Mr Bender said….

The ABC understands tests on groundwater contamination were being examined by a trio of experts who would be called as state witnesses in a criminal prosecution of five former Linc executives next month.

The failed company was convicted and fined a record $4.5 million last May for causing serious environmental harm through its underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The District Court heard in that trial that it could take up to 20 years for groundwater to recover from Linc's attempts at the now-illegal UCG process, which allowed toxic gases to escape through fractured rock.

At the time, the state's then-environment minister described the contamination as "the biggest pollution event probably in Queensland's history".

A week before Christmas, Arrow gained approval for 70 wells on a gas tenement to the north-east of the former Linc site.

It is part of its $10 billion Surat Gas Project, which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promoted in a February media release as Queensland's "biggest resources project since 2011".

Ms Palaszczuk's release made no mention of the gas extraction no-go zone.

But the state's Department of Environment and Science approval said Arrow "must not locate any [CSG] production wells within 10 kilometres [of the Linc site]".

"The extraction of groundwater as part of the petroleum activity(ies) from underground aquifers must not directly or indirectly influence the mobilisation of existing groundwater contamination on [the Linc site]," the environmental authority said.

It said the department may force Arrow to model CSG impacts on "groundwater contamination around [the Linc site] at any time" and present its findings within a month.

But there were no such conditions for gas drilling in the neighbouring Arrow tenement that surrounds the former Linc site, where six wells were approved in August…..

But will the Morrison federal government or the remaining seven state and territory governments learn from Queensland's disasterous mistakes?

Apparently not.........

2GB Radio, 24 May 2019:

The Minister for Resources is urging the New South Wales government to approve the state’s biggest gas project.

Santos Narrabri Gas Project is aiming to develop gas reserves in northwest New South Wales that could supply half of the state’s gas needs.

The Resources Minister Matt Canavan tells Ray Hadley almost all of NSW’s gas comes from other states.

“The problem with that is, of course, it costs a lot of money to transport gas long distances, so that has pushed the price up for Sydney based users of gas.

“Things have changed and we need to reflect that.”

The Canberra Times, 18 April 2019:

Federal Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan was in Darwin on April 17 to publicise an April 2 federal budget announcement of $8.4 million in funding to fast-track development of gas reserves in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Basin.

"We want to get on with the job. We want to get the gas up out of the ground and into people's homes and businesses as quickly as we can," Senator Canavan said in a statement….

The Beetaloo Basin is about 500km south-east of Darwin in the Sturt Plateau region between the towns of Katherine and Elliott and includes pastoral land and indigenous communities. Around 70 per cent of the Territory's shale gas resources are estimated to lie in the Beetaloo Basin, reserves that could potentially raise Australia's global ranking of gas resources from seventh to sixth. Farmers, businesses and industry are divided over whether fracking should be permitted because of the risk of pollution to rivers and bores. Pro-fracking advocates argue it will be a boon for jobs and economic growth.

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.