A motion in State Parliament moved by Mark Parnell MLC, Greens Parliamentary Leader, to block the four year extension to the controversial Olympic Dam Expansion Indenture has been defeated.
Ex-Treasurer Kevin Foley had also called publicly for the extension to be refused and former Premier, Mike Rann, said as recently as August:
‘We don’t believe there is a basis for an extension of the indenture arrangements’
“It’s not often I agree with Kevin Foley, but he is dead right on this one,” said Mark Parnell.
“We shouldn’t be extending the enormously generous concessions granted to the world’s richest resource company when it is abundantly clear BHP Billiton has no intention to start the Olympic Dam expansion for years.
“It’s in South Australia’s best interests to negotiate a better deal if and when the project gets resurrected,” he said.
In Parliament tonight, Labor combined with the Liberal party to defeat the Motion and ratify the 4 year extension.
On one of the most radioactive days in State Parliament for some time, the Greens also moved a motion calling on the Government to prevent the transport of uranium from Western Australia through our State. Adelaide-based Toro Energy Ltd is proposing to mine uranium in WA and ship the material to either Port Adelaide or Darwin through South Australia.
“It’s bad enough that SA uranium is being exported to facilities such as the crippled Fukushima reactor in Japan and hence into the broader environment through contamination. We shouldn’t be the conduit for WA uranium either. In both States, it’s best left in the ground”, concluded Mark Parnell.
Media Release: 13 November 2012
BHP: Jump! SA Govt: How High?… for 4 more years
The Greens will move in Parliament to stop any extension of the Olympic Dam Expansion Indenture Agreement.
The Weatherill Government has agreed to an extension of the starting date for the project in the controversial contract until October 2016.
“The Indenture was a dud deal for South Australia when we debated this in Parliament last year, and will still be a dud deal in 4 years’ time,” said Greens Parliamentary Leader Mark Parnell.
“Instead of again meekly accepting whatever the world’s richest resource company wants, the Government should seize the opportunity to start renegotiating terms to expand local procurement, increase royalty returns and improve environmental outcomes.
“The project appears years away. Yet, the Government has recklessly locked in last century environmental outcomes decades into the future.
“BHP Billiton appears to be moving further and further away from job-rich local processing, and yet has still managed to lock in a feeble ‘production based’ royalty rate for 45 years.
“Surely it would be better to finalise the Olympic Dam Expansion contract with BHP Billiton when the project is actually guaranteed to begin?
“That will ensure royalty rates, local processing and procurement targets and environmental conditions are based on the expectations, rules and operating conditions of the day, not locked in years ahead,” he said.
Media Release: 22 August 2012
Cancellation of BHPB mine expansion saves SA from bad deal
The Greens today welcomed the announcement that BHP Billiton will not be acting on its plans to expand the Olympic Dam mine, according to SA Parliamentary leader, Mark Parnell MLC.
“The deal struck late last year by the SA Labor Government with BHP Billiton during the dying days of the Rann administration was bad for South Australia and this decision now gives the State a get out of jail card.
“The 2011 deal was economically irresponsible, environmentally reckless and would have left South Australia as little more than “China’s quarry”. Despite giving the company nearly everything it wanted, it still didn’t stack up economically.
“The SA Labor Government must resist the temptation to keep this dodgy deal open by providing an extension. It should also refuse to provide any further concessions to BHP Billiton.
“It is clear from the BHP Billiton statement that all bets are off from their side and the State Government should do likewise.
“This is an opportunity for the State Government to confirm South Australia’s leadership in the renewable energy field, rather than becoming China’s quarry. The Greens want to see the creation of additional sustainable jobs that will dominate the clean energy economy.
“Whether or not BHP Billiton come back in the future with another proposal, the State Government must repeal the current legal privileges and insist on:
Compliance with all State legislation (currently the mine is exempt from all key environmental laws)
Local processing of all ore in order to keep the bulk of jobs in South Australia
Royalties that reflect the value of the resource and the profits that will be made
A commitment to 100% renewable energy to ensure SA meets its greenhouse gas reduction targets
No desalination plant in the breeding grounds of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish
Leaving the uranium behind at the mine site – a technically viable option that helps extract SA from the nuclear cycle. Uranium from Olympic Dam was used at Fukushima and is continuing to poison the land, the sea and food supplies.
Earlier posts from 2011 below:
The Indenture Bill in support of the ODX project has passed State Parliament.
Despite many thousands of hours of community campaigning, letter writing, public meetings, rallies and submissions by many passionate scientific and industry experts as well as many ordinary Australians, it is extremely disappointing that the project has changed very little since it was originally proposed 6 years ago.
It’s a remarkably poor deal that over-rides every law of our State. The environmental conditions are simply dreadful and the economic return woefully inadequate. The Greens are deeply disappointed that the State and Federal Governments are foisting this deal on current and future generations.
The Greens tried hard in Parliament to change this project for the better. To that end we moved a large package of amendments that would have transformed the ODX into a sustainable project.
During the Parliamentary debate over the Indenture Bill, we also managed to get many answers to questions the community has been asking. Unfortunately, the answers reinforced many of our concerns. To read a list of some of things we discovered, click here.
For those of you who are very keen, click here and here to read the detailed debate.
Sadly, at the end of the day, only the 2 Greens out of a Parliament of 69 voted against the Bill.
Now, the final decision over this project rests outside our State. Whether this project proceeds or not will depend on the BHP Billiton Board. A decision is expected mid 2012.
New Indenture Bill introduced into State Parliament
The Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) (Amendment of Indenture) Amendment Bill 2011 has been introduced into State Parliament and will be debated from now until the end of November 2011.
A special Parliamentary Committee has been set up by the Lower House to look into the Bill. However the Committee only contains members of the Labor and Liberal parties and will seriously self-limit its ability to examine the ODX project in depth.
And of course we will continue in Parliament the campaign work we have been doing over the last decade, pursuing issues relating to the desalination plant, the Great Artesian Basin, dust, energy, greenhouse pollution, tailings management, Indigenous rights, worker safety, royalties and many others.
For example, check out a recent interview on ABC Radio involving Mark Parnell, scientific experts and an attacking Kevin Foley on the Great Artesian Basin.
Government Approval and release of the Assessment Report
A copy of the supplementary Environment Impact Statement from BHP Billiton is available on their website.
Olympic Dam Expansion - WITHOUT URANIUM!
The Greens have released a report showing the Olympic Dam expansion is not only viable without uranium, but would have lower environmental impacts and more jobs and economic benefits for South Australia.
Launch of the No Uranium ODX Report featuring Dr Gavin Mudd, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and SA Greens MLC Mark Parnell
Click here to read the peer reviewed report prepared by Dr Gavin Mudd of Monash University
BHP Billiton (BHPB) intends to send over two thirds of the radioactive copper concentrate to China for processing. This has enormous implications for jobs and revenue for our state. How will the Rann Government react? This:
"Premier Mike Rann has told BHP Billiton that the South Australian Government will strongly oppose any moves by the company to do most of the processing of minerals from the expanded Olympic Dam Mine overseas." (Media Release, Premier Mike Rann, Jul 12 2007, BHP Billiton's 'China option' is not South Australia's option).
"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," he (Kevin Foley) said. (Sunday Mail, June 1 2008, `We are realists' - hint of a compromise with BHP).
The Rann Labor Government should stick to its 2007 commitment and ensure all job-rich processing of radioactive copper concentrate occurs in SA. If it doesn't, we will not only be exporting skilled jobs and income, but also any control over safety standards and safeguards, including what happens to our uranium.
BHP Billiton will push the line that 'most' of the value adding will still be done in SA even with the 'China Option'. But why should we accept a business model that leaves us stuck as the world's quarry, sends our jobs overseas and slashes safety standards in order to maximise the profits of the world's largest mining company?
2. Electricity & Greenhouse
Olympic Dam (OD) is already the single biggest user of electricity in the state (120 MW). BHPB say they will need to find an extra 650 MW - and their current plan is to source it from the (mostly fossil fuel) SA electricity grid or a (fossil fuel) gas plant on-site. This will be more electricity than every single household in Adelaide combined.
In addition, the company will use about half a litre of diesel fuel for every tonne of rock they shift. That's over 1 million litres of diesel fuel a day.
The State and Federal Governments should make BHP Billiton do much more to minimise greenhouse pollution. There is an enormous opportunity for this project to invest in new renewable energy, in particular off-grid solar thermal. This will help make SA a world leader in next generation energy and limit the increase in our state's emissions.
3. Water & Marine Impact
Mines are incredibly thirsty. Olympic Dam will require an additional 216 million litres of water per day. BHPB already extracts for free about 35ML/day of ancient water from the Great Artesian Basin, and they intend to increase this to 42ML/day. Much of this will be used to dampen down dust.
In addition, BHPB propose a 280ML/day (80ML planned for Upper Spencer Gulf (USG) towns) reverse osmosis desalination plant at Point Lowly, near Whyalla. This 280 ML/day plant is much bigger than the 180 ML/day plant BHP Billiton has spoken about so far. Point Lowly is also the home of an extraordinary, unique and internationally renowned annual gathering of the majestic Giant Australian Cuttlefish to breed. Cuttlefish are very susceptible to changes in salinity. Arguably, Point Lowly is the last place on the SA coast you would put a desal plant.
There are alternatives. The 'Elliston Concept' is a proposal to locate a reverse osmosis desal 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. Another alternative is solar-powered desalination, such as the Aquasol project near Port Augusta. As taxpayers are paying for a third of the desalination plant's capital cost, we should also have a big say on where it is located. It's not good enough for the State and Federal Governments to leave it to BHPB. This long-term project can afford a sustainable water solution, not just one that maximises short term private profit.
4. Waste Rock & Tailings
The waste rock stockpile, consisting of approximately 44 billion tonnes removed from the world's largest open pit, will effectively create a new mountain range in the State's North. The waste rockpile (overburden) will be an enormous permanent scar on the landscape, 150 metres high and up to 8 kilometres wide. For comparison the State Bank/Santos building is only 131 metres high.
In addition to the waste rock, SA will become the home of the world's largest toxic radioactive tailings dam. The former Liberal Howard Government required the operators of the Ranger uranium mine in NT to ensure 'no environmental impacts' from their tailings for at least 10,000 years. We should demand nothing less for Olympic Dam, including a return of all tailings into the ground.
5. Royalties & Future Wealth
How much of the wealth of this project will be retained by the owner of the resource, the South Australian people? According to SA Unions, SA mining royalties are less than half other mining states, with only 3.5% here compared with 7.5% in WA (for bauxite and iron ore), and 7-10% in Qld.
Also, will the royalties go into general revenue, or invested for the future? A comparison to how North Sea oil revenue was used is instructive. The UK chose to spend its royalty share on current expenses, and now with the end of the resource has very little to show for it. Norway on the other hand chose to invest its share of the proceeds in a Future Fund that will provide ongoing income to the Norwegian people in perpetuity. A doubling of the SA royalty rate, with half invested in a Future Fund, would leave our State with an ongoing source of revenue when mining at Olympic Dam ends.
It is quite likely taxpayers will be handing back much of the taxpayer's share to BHP Billiton, for example $79 million/year in diesel fuel rebates, and a big share ($240 million) of the cost of the desal plant.
The Greens believe...
The Greens believe the Olympic Dam Expansion should only be approved if the following conditions are met:
BHP Billiton's plan
A better alternative for SA
Negotiations with Traditional Owners
Under the Indenture Agreement BHP Billiton can nominate with whom and how they negotiate.
BHP Billiton must engage in genuine, transparent, independent negotiations with Traditional Owners, under the Native Title and Aboriginal Heritage Acts.
Keep all special privileges, including current exemptions to State laws.
Special exemptions currently allowed for the Olympic Dam mine from key State laws (including the Environmental Protection Act, Freedom of information Act, Natural Resources Management Act and the Aboriginal Heritage Act) must be removed.
Export of radioactive copper concentrate to China. Lower safety standards and safeguards.
All downstream processing must take place in South Australia to maximise wealth and jobs for our state, and ensure that the processing of the radioactive copper concentrate is subject to safeguards.
Increase take from Great Artesian Basin (GAB) and a new desalination plant at Point Lowly.
Use of water from the Great Artesian Basin by BHP Billiton should be phased out immediately. There should be greater focus on water efficiency at Olympic Dam. Water must be sourced from a deep ocean/wind powered desalination plant at Elliston on the state's West Coast, or a solar powered desalination plant. The Great Australian Cuttlefish breeding ground at Pt Lowly must be protected.
Sourced from (mainly fossil fuel) electricity grid or gas. Will claim legal obligations under MRET as 'green'.
All additional electricity for the project (including the desalination plant) must be sourced from new renewable energy, including solar thermal energy.
Increase the State's greenhouse pollution. Seeking special exemptions under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
The Olympic Dam Expansion must be given no special deals under the CPRS. BHP Billiton must be required to buy and retire an equal amount of permits to that required for the project (to 'offset' the increase in greenhouse pollution).
The world's largest radioactive tailings dump requiring ongoing management well after mine closes.
All radioactive tailings must be returned to the ground as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation of the mine site. BHP Biliton must ensure that there is no contamination for at least 10,000 years.
Remain lowest in Australia.
The royalty rate must be doubled to match other mining states. Half of the royaltiesreceived must be invested in a Future Fund to ensure long-term economic benefits for South Australia.
Continue current poor monitoring and lax regulation.
There must be much better regulation, monitoring and standards for the safety of workers at Olympic Dam, particularly for those exposed to airborne polonium.