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SA's gravy train? « Previous | |Next »
May 2, 2009

BHP Billiton is going to press ahead with plans to turn its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia into the largest open cut mine on earth. Thus five stage expansion will help kick the SA's regional economy back into prosperity, even though the company is sticking to its plan to send uranium-infused copper concentrate to China for processing, if it moves ahead with the multi-billion-dollar expansion of the Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine.

It's all a long way off though. Only the 400 page draft environmental impact statement has been released, and that says the project can go ahead on environmental grounds. That claims need to be assessed by the SA and Rudd Government's. An investment decision is sometime next year, whilst the project requires that BHP build a new desalinisation plant, a railway, additional port facilities, a gas-fired power station and remove the over-burden to convert the underground mine into an open pit.

It's spun as the gravy train for SA. But it is still Quarry Australia--just digging up rocks and shipping them overseas without any value adding. BHP will not go a step further and build a smelter that produces mineral in its almost-pure form, as it will sell its product as concentrate with the processing done offshore.

SA needs a rabbit pulled out of the hat because car manufacturing (GMH) is going into decline (two shifts have been reduced to one at the Elizabeth plant) and as bankruptcy hovers over General Motors in the US.

The other gravy train in SA is defence --building 12 new generation submarines--as part of the Defence White Paper's policy of defence self-reliance and increase in military hardware( frigates and destroyers). The White Paper makes clear that it is the ability to deter or defeat armed attack on Australia will continue to be the primary force structure determinant of the Australian Defence Force and that this means focusing predominantly on forces that can exert air superiority and sea control over our approaches.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Comments

Comments

Henrik Gout at the Independent Weekly says that:

The existing Olympic Dam mine, a comparatively tiny underground operation, already uses 35 million litres of water a day. It drags this from the Great Artesian Basin: prehistoric underground water which fell as rain on the western side of the Great Dividing Range up to a million years ago. It has since percolated underground, flowing a mere one to three metres a year.

The company pays the state nothing to access this public resource under a special 1982 Act of Parliament which over-rides every other piece of legislation (including safeguards in mining Acts, development Acts and environment protection Acts) passed by Parliament before or even since.
The company is actually licensed to take up to 42 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin, but even this will not be enough to quench the new mine’s thirst.

Hence the need for a desalinisation plant, which is to built at Port Bonython near Whyalla and not on the ocean. Grout adds:
the plant will produce about 200 million litres a day, 80 of which might be bought by the State Government to supply towns around the Eyre Peninsula. The State Government has committed $125 million and the Commonwealth $120.
This means nearly a quarter of a million dollars of state and federal funds are going into the desalination plant, so both governments have serious EIS issues and responsibilities to address.

The super-saline water the plant will release will enter The Gulf, which is shallow, low-flushing. It’s the breeding ground of the giant cuttlefish which is extremely sensitive to changes in salinity.

"That claims need to be assessed by the SA and Rudd Government's."
"Assessed"!!! Hah! Imagine derisive contemptuous snort of disbelief.
What BHP wants, BHP gets, that has always been the way in SA.
Secret bills so they don't have to tell us what they don't want us to know, exemption from several major areas of law.

I am entirely cynical of the whole process.

fred,
not just South Australia. The Rudd Government (Peter Garrett) will do the same. Rann did want a processing plant built.

Am I the only one scratching his head over the revelation that what will be the largest mine in the known universe, chock-a-block full of highly valuable copper, gold and uranium will earn the citizens of SA a mere $200 million a year in royalties?

I'm guessing this won't even cover the State's outlay in mine related infrastructure!

Ian,
I hear that the desalination plant in Port Bonython will not be providing water to Whyalla etc. They will remain dependent on River Murray water.