Today's approval of the Olympic Dam expansion demonstrates how little regard the state and federal governments have for the communities they represent, says the Conservation Council of SA.
Acting Chief Executive Julia Winefield commented, "the Olympic Dam expansion will have huge impacts on South Australia socially, economically and environmentally. But the state government has insulted the people of South Australia by releasing its 500-page assessment of the proposal on the same day as approving it. We are presented with a fait accompli without any insight into government decision-making."
"The government has good reason to dodge scrutiny in this way. Even cursory inspection of the approval conditions reveals hardly any change to the approach first put forward by BHP Billiton in 2009. Over 4000 public submissions have had almost no impact on how the company plans to operate."
- A desalination plant at Point Lowly will go ahead, despite strong evidence that there are insufficient flows to disperse the salt discharge. Stronger conditions placed on BHP-B by the state and federal governments on salt dilutions do not change the fact the area is unsuitable for this type of activity. Marine scientists have expressed grave concerns about the future of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish.
- Despite increasing SA energy demand by around 40%, BHP Billiton will use less than 7% renewable energy for the expanded mine, with no conditions to commit to future GreenPower use.
- BHP-B will continue to draw 40 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin free of charge. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of over $30 million per year to a company that just recorded profits of over $23 billion.
- The mine's radioactive tailings will still be stored above ground and will leak millions of litres of radioactive tailings a day.
The Conservation Council also considers the management of these environmental impacts to be problematic.
Ms Winefield said: "Many of the environmental protection measures in the state approval conditions have to be signed off by the Minister for Mining. This is a clear conflict of interest. Independent oversight should be the responsibility of the Environment Minister.
"Much of the federal government oversight hinges on several environmental management plans that the community has no input into. The secretive processes that have dogged this project to date seem set to continue.
"To make matters worse, the government hopes to push the expansion's Indenture Agreement through the lower house before Premier Rann steps down on October 20. This is the largest development in our state's history and its environmental impacts are literally mind-boggling. Forcing through the approval with such poor outcomes for our state is appallingly undemocratic."
"This expansion will leave South Australia with a legacy of radioactive waste, greenhouse emissions and the potential loss of iconic species.
"Our government had a responsibility to negotiate the best possible outcomes for our state, from a company that is extraordinarily wealthy. Instead it seems to be allowing BHP-B to operate largely on its own terms, and pushing the approval processes through to convenience its corporate executives and shareholders."
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