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Olympic Dam Legal Privileges A Disgrace

BHP Billiton AGM: Olympic Dam Legal Privileges A Disgrace

Indigenous and environmental campaigners will highlight the ecological and social impacts of BHP Billiton's operations in Australia and overseas at the company's AGM in Melbourne today.

Friends of the Earth national nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green said: "For all of BHP Billiton's hollow rhetoric about corporate social responsibility, the company operates the Olympic Dam uranium/copper mine in SA under an outdated Indenture Act which exempts the mine from key environmental and Aboriginal heritage laws that apply everywhere else in SA.

"The Aboriginal Heritage Act is the key law aimed at protecting Indigenous heritage in South Australia. However, under the Indenture Act, BHP Billiton decides the level of protection that Aboriginal heritage sites receive and which sites are recognised. Ironically, BHP Billiton has provided over $2 million to Reconciliation Australia, yet will not relinquish its exemptions from the Aboriginal Heritage Act. The company's attitude appears to be 'do as I say not as I do'."

Arabunna Elder Kevin Buzzacott, from whose land BHP Billiton takes 35 million litres of water daily, free of charge, with serious detrimental impacts on the precious Mound Springs which are sustained by the underlying Great Artesian Basin, will attend the protest and speak at BHP's AGM. Mr Buzzacott's statement for the AGM is attached.

Dr Green concluded: "The legal privileges enshrined in the Indenture Act were highly contentious when they were introduced in 1982 and are completely inappropriate as the legislative framework for the proposed expansion of the Roxby Downs mine."

BHP Billiton proposes the following for the Roxby Downs mine expansion:

  • A pit of about 20 cubic kilometres (6 x 3 x 1.1 kms), making it the largest open-cut mine in the world.
  • Water consumption of 1,736 litres PER SECOND (150 million litres per year), sourced from the Great Artesian Basin and a proposed desalination plant.
  • Radioactive tailings waste production to increase to 2.2 tonnes PER SECOND (70 million tonnes per year).
  • Uranium production to increase to 19,000 tonnes per year, sufficient to fuel 95 reactors which will produce 28.5 tonnes of plutonium each year - enough for 2,850 nuclear weapons each year.
  • Electricity demand for the mine will increase from 120 megawatts to 690 megawatts - equivalent to 42% of South Australia's current total electricity consumption with no government requirement or company plans for any electricity to be supplied from renewable energy sources.


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