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Federal go-ahead for Olympic Dam radioactive waste mountain a disgrace

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 10 Oct 2011

The Federal Government's approval of the Olympic Dam expansion will see the creation of a carcinogenic mountain range of radioactive waste in South Australia, the Greens warned today.

Australian Greens spokesperson for nuclear issues Senator Scott Ludlam said the proposed expansion of the BHP Billiton site will be a disaster for the environment, human health and local jobs.

"BHP Billiton designed a world's-worst-practice uranium mine and today the Federal Government has approved it. Instead of burying the radioactive tailings waste in a properly lined pit, BHP Billiton will dump 70 million tonnes of finely powdered radioactive tailings each year over an area of 44sq km. That isn't a radioactive waste heap - that's a radioactive waste mountain range.

"The so-called environment conditions are hopeless - there's no requirement for this tailing heap to be covered while the mine operates, and it is to operate for at least another thirty years.

"The new open pit will leak up to 8 million litres of liquid radioactive waste a day by 2020 from the tailings storage facility.

"In the final Environmental Impact Statement BHP Billiton has acknowledged that the expanded mine will generate at least 4.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year for decades. BHP will dig a million tonnes a day for four years before they even get to the uranium orebody - burning an estimated six billion dollars worth of diesel in the process.

"There is an alternative model that would see a lower greenhouse footprint and skilled jobs retained in South Australia. A peer-reviewed study by Monash University's Dr Gavin Mudd demolished the myth that uranium is central to the mine's expansion. His model for the expansion is safer, would use much less water and energy, and would mean more jobs and greater economic return for the local economy.

"The Federal Government has decided they want to keep exporting local jobs to China while leaving South Australia with a toxic legacy."

Dr Mudd's report:

Media Contact: Giovanni Torre - 0417 174 302


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