Authorities have got to decide whether they are happy for South Australia to simply be China’s quarry”, says SA Greens MLC Mark Parnell.
A new peer-reviewed report shows that a ‘no uranium’ option for the Olympic Dam mega-expansion is not only technically feasible, but would provide significantly better environmental outcomes.
Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and SA Greens MLC Mark Parnell have used the release of the report by Monash University academic Dr Gavin Mudd to call for the South Australian and Federal governments to require BHP Billiton to formally analyse and report on the ‘no-uranium’ option.
“This report shows that not only is a ‘no uranium’ Olympic Dam expansion technically feasible, it will actually deliver a better project for Australia,” said Senator Ludlam. “This alternative model for the Olympic Dam resource is safer, uses less water and energy, and increases jobs and the economic return for the local economy.”
Olympic Dam is overwhelmingly a copper and gold project, with uranium’s share of total revenue decreasing over time to less than 20%. According to a recent report in the Australian Financial Review, BHP Billiton will focus on copper, rather than uranium, in the first stages of the project.
“The ‘no uranium’ option is a very promising alternative to the plans outlined by BHP Billiton. Not only would it mean significant savings in water and energy, but many more jobs for South Australians,” he said.
“This report explodes the myth that uranium is central to the Olympic Dam project. Leaving the uranium behind maximises the return for the Australian people and minimises the downside risks of exporting poorly monitored radioactive material to China.”
Report author Gavin Mudd from Monash University is upbeat about the benefits of the ‘no-uranium’ option.
“Based on this peer reviewed study, the Olympic Dam expansion can clearly be developed without uranium recovery,” he said.
“This option will potentially lead to 293 GWh of electricity savings annually – the equivalent of nearly 60,000 South Australian households – and potentially 18.9 million litres of water savings daily.”
The Federal, SA and NT Governments are currently assessing whether the Olympic Dam Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by BHP Billiton and handed in last week ‘adequately addresses’ the concerns raised during the initial EIS process. The supplementary EIS will be publicly released early next year, with a final decision on the expansion expected mid-year.
In their 4,600 page EIS, BHP Billiton have only outlined the export of overseas radioactive copper concentrate for processing and refining.
The alternative on-shore processing would also lead to more Australian jobs, higher worker safety standards and fewer security risks.