Olympic Dam expansion to blow out SA greenhouse emissions

A technical assessment by Monash University engineering lecturer Dr Gavin Mudd reveals that the proposed Olympic Dam mine expansion will make it almost impossible for South Australia to meet its legislated target of a 60% reduction in greenhouse emissions.

MEDIA RELEASE - MAY 1 2009

OLYMPIC DAM MINE EXPANSION TO BLOW OUT SA GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS

A technical assessment by Monash University engineering lecturer Dr Gavin Mudd reveals that the proposed Olympic Dam mine expansion will make it almost impossible for South Australia to meet its legislated target of a 60% reduction in greenhouse emissions. The technical assessment − which finds that emissions from the mine will rise from one million tonnes to 4.5-6.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually − is being released today to coincide with BHP Billiton's release of an EIS for the mine expansion.

Dr Mudd said: "South Australia has a legislated target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 60%, limiting total emissions to 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050. Yet the Olympic Dam mine alone will produce one-third to one-half of that total, making it almost impossible for South Australia to meet its target.

"BHP Billiton wants to take credit for its export of uranium to fuel low-carbon nuclear power reactors, but that argument is flawed on two counts. Firstly, the end uses of energy exports are not counted in Australia's greenhouse emissions, and if they were, BHP Billiton would also need to account for its extensive fossil fuel exports. Secondly, the argument rests on the arbitrary and implausible assumption that the only alternative to Olympic Dam uranium exports is to build coal fired power plants," Dr Mudd said.

Dr Mudd's technical assessment is posted at <www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/u/roxby>

Today's release of the EIS will be marked by protests at the company's offices in Melbourne and Adelaide. Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth's national nuclear campaigner, said: "BHP Billiton plans to increase the export of uranium from 4,000 tonnes per year to 19,000 tonnes. In power reactors, that amount of uranium would produce enough plutonium to build 2,850 nuclear weapons each year. Over the lifespan of the mine, it could be responsible for the production of enough plutonium for over 340,000 nuclear weapons. This is an unacceptable risk given Prime Minister Rudd's acknowledgement that "the nuclear non-proliferation treaty continues to fracture".*

"BHP Billiton sells uranium to nuclear weapons states, states refusing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, states blocking progress on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, states with a history of secret nuclear weapons research, and states stockpiling 'civil' plutonium. A new low was set in 2006 when the federal government, with BHP Billiton's support, negotiated a uranium export agreement with the secretive, repressive, militaristic, undemocratic regime in China. The Olympic Dam expansion plan is heavily predicated on sales to China, including the proposed annual export of 1.6 million tonnes of uranium/copper concentrate to China for processing there.

"The company has not been required to study the viability of mining copper, gold and silver without also extracting and selling uranium − an option which would allow for ongoing, profitable mining while addressing at least some of the major problems," Dr Green said.

Melbourne and Adelaide protests

Melbourne: Protest at BHP Billiton office, 180 Lonsdale St, May 1, 11am to 1pm.

Adelaide: Protest & mock launch of the EIS, BHP Billiton office, Grenfell St, May 1, 2pm onwards,

Contact: Gavin Mudd 0419 117494. Jim Green 0417 318 368.

More information on the mine expansion plan: <www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/oz/u>.

* Lowy Institute, 5 July 2007.