Managing editor David Donovan reports on Tony Abbott’s “dishonest, self-interested fear campaign” about BHP’s decision to defer the Olympic Dam expansion; before environment editor Sandi Keane provides some disturbing background to this controversial project.

Comments made on ABC 7.30. Click on image to watch the video.


In what has been described as
“…one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns … [ever] seen in Australian politics,”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last night blamed the mothballing of the Olympic Dam uranium mine expansion on the mining and carbon taxes, before throwing in “industrial militancy” for ideological good measure.

In an excruciating interview on ABC 7.30, in which Abbott attempted to stick to his predetermined script, Leigh Sales’ unexpectedly direct questioning drew him unstuck.

In a telling moment, Abbott admitted to not having read the reasons for BHP making their decision, but dismissed that fact as irrelevant, emphasising the impact of the carbon and mining taxes — despite the mining tax only being levied on coal and iron ore mines.

To paraphrase The Opposition Leader’s icon:
“We will decide the reasons businesses make their internal commercial decisions and the manner in which they make them.”



For the record, the reasons offered by the Opposition Leader are in stark contrast to those given by BHP boss Marius Kloppers for the decision.

From a report in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning:
BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers blamed several factors for making the giant copper, gold, silver and uranium project less financially attractive: soaring construction costs, the high Australian dollar, sliding copper prices and the depressed outlook for uranium in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

….

Mr Abbott also blamed ''industrial militancy'' in the mining sector for making Australia a less inviting place to invest.

The attacks were not supported by Mr Kloppers, who stressed that the Federal and South Australian governments had given ''absolutely fantastic'' support to the Olympic Dam proposal in recent years.



So, in other words, no, no and no, Mr Abbott.

The elephant in the room was, obviously, the fact that the nuclear industry is in crisis mode in the wake of the radioactive catastrophe at Fukushima last year, causing Japan to have no operating nuclear plants at present and Germany to make the decision to shut down all its nuclear plants by 2020. In light of that, it is perfectly reasonable for BHP to put this project in abeyance until it can be sure there will be a market for uranium — after they spend $30 billion to dig the biggest pit in human history.

One thing BHP, regrettably, is unlikely to have considered is the fact that the Olympic Dam mine expansion was always a rather dicey proposition — facing immense and concerted opposition from Indigenous and environmental groups.

This is because, firstly, there is significant evidence that the native title process entered into with Indigenous groups was flawed, perhaps even fraudulent (something IA is currently investigating).

In addition, as IA reported last year, Olympic Dam is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, due to inadequate safeguards for the immense amount of exposed radioactive tailings that will be left lying around after BHP removes an unprecedented amount of overburden to get to the ore.

The following is the Independent Australia report by environment editor Sandi Keane, originally published on 18 October 2011, in which she discusses the disturbing health and environmental implications of the Olympic Dam expansion.

Uranium mine expansion: unleashing radioactive dust storms across Australia




These are the two take-home messages that will haunt you after watching David Bradbury’s new shocker, Wake Up. Filmmaker, Bradbury, is lauded by critics for his superbly made documentaries. With five AFI awards, two Academy Award nominations and countless international film festival prizes under his belt, the horrific consequences of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion is told in chilling, graphic detail. Invest 12 minutes of your children’s future and watch it.

It is likely that October 11 will be judged a more significant date on the environment calendar than October 12, the day the Federal Government’s carbon tax (Clean Energy Bill) passed through the lower house. For different reasons. The 12th will be hailed as a red letter day for the planet, the 11th an environmental cock-up of monumental proportions, whose toxic legacy will take decades to unfold — just like Chernobyl did and Fukushima will. A blight on our health for thousands of years to come.

Both delivered by the same government within the space of 2 days.

The Federal Government’s crucial environmental approval of the expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine at Roxby Downs was cynically announced on the eve of the historic Clean Energy Bill’s vote in the lower house — with good reason. To bury it. Last week’s reported sighting of Premier, Mike Rann, in Canberra at the Federal government’s tax summit, signalled a fast-track decision by the Environment Minister was in the wings. A week later, Premier Mike Rann signed the agreement with BHP just days before departing politics on 20thOctober.

Rushed isn’t the word for this disgraceful lack of process. For what? So Premier Rann can have his name on a piece of paper and a plaque at the site? Or be catapaulted into the lucrative world of the “pale, male and stale” brigade of political retirees on multinational mining boards?



Here’s a quick primer to help get your head around the monster that is about to be unleashed:

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