Mine Olympic Dam without uranium: Greens

The Greens have both called for the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia’s far north coast to go ahead without uranium mining.

The Greens have both called for the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia’s far north coast to go ahead without uranium mining.

They say State and Federal governments should make BHP Billiton look at a non-uranium option in the mine, as it will use less water and energy.

They base their suggestions on a report by Monash University, which said  it is technically feasible and would deliver a better project for South Australia, which has prompted the Greens to say it counters the opinion that uranium is central to the expansion of the Olympic Dam.

About 200 000 tonnes of copper, 25 000 kg of silver, 4000 tonnes of uranium and 2800 kg of gold are taken from the Olympic Dam, and the proposed expansion from BHP Billiton would see the amounts of all resources extracted increase from three to 10 times the current amounts, meaning the amount of uranium extracted would be 19 000 tonnes.

Report author and engineering lecturer at the Monash University, Gavin Mudd said expanding the project without uranium was "clearly a realistic and technically feasible development option" but was not considered in BHP’s draft environmental impact statement for the upgrade.

"Why (are) both BHP Billiton and government agencies… not requiring this to be given detailed consideration in the environmental assessment process?" he said.

"Given the fundamental issues still plaguing nuclear power, such as intractable high level nuclear waste, ongoing major nuclear weapons risks by either state or non-state groups and major economic uncertainty, the scenario for no uranium recovery is clearly realistic and more than a mere possibility – especially when compared to growth trajectories, economies of scale and reducing capital and operating costs for various renewable energy technologies."

Previously, the Greens had complained that BHP had taken too long to release its response to environmental concerns concerning the Olympic Dam expansion.

They have said it should not have taken eight weeks before the public could to view their 15 000 page environmental impact statement.

BHP Billiton has not yet seen the latest report.

A final decision on the expansion is expected later next year.
 

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