Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Green group await EIS on Olympic Dam expansio -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Reporter: Nance Haxton

PETER CAVE: BHP Billiton is about to release the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its
proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam in South Australia from an underground mine to an open cut

The planned expansion will also mean a significant increase in copper and uranium production.

Greens groups have raised a number of concerns about the project, with many saying that it will
cost Australian jobs, as the radioactive copper concentrate from the mine will be exported for
processing in China.

BHP Billiton is not commenting until after the official release of the EIS.

Nance Haxton reports.

NANCE HAXTON: At almost 4,000 pages it is reputedly one of the largest documents ever printed in
South Australia.

BHP Billiton's Environmental Impact Statement will detail the extent of the proposed expansion of
its copper, gold and uranium mine at Olympic Dam, more than 500 kilometres north of Adelaide.

The company says the project is significant, encompassing not only the construction of the open
pit, as opposed to its present underground operation, but also the related infrastructure such as
the airport, a desalination plant and an accommodation village for up to 10,000 construction

One of the big questions to be answered this afternoon when the document is released is whether the
company has moved away from the South Australian Government's preferred option of processing on
site the dramatically increased volume of ore it is set to produce.

Olympic Dam is already Australia's largest underground operation, and contains the world's
fourth-biggest copper deposit and the largest known reserve of uranium ore.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has travelled to Adelaide for the presentation of the Environmental
Impact Statement.

He says that if approved, the mine will become the largest open cut mine in the world, bringing
with it a range of environmental problems.

SCOTT LUDLAM: They have just some incredible obstacles.

They'll be moving a million tons of rock a day for four years before they even get to the ore body.

That's going to cost them somewhere in the order of 1.5-million tons of diesel.

It's going to radical increase the greenhouse gas emissions of South Australia and blow the state's
Kyoto targets.

So I think there's going to be some pretty hard questions to ask the company as to how they can
stack it up.

NANCE HAXTON: Isn't this a good project for Australia, with the increased jobs that it will bring
with it?

SCOTT LUDLAM: Well, not necessarily and I think that's where the fine print's going to be. There
are some indications that they plan on doing all of the processing overseas in China.

So as well as exporting uranium to nuclear weapons states we'll also be exporting jobs to other
parts of the world.

NANCE HAXTON: He's also concerned about the increased water that BHP Billiton will need for the

SCOTT LUDLAM: The company plans to consume an extraordinary 162-million litres of water every
single day between hitting the Great Artesian groundwater much harder than they have in the past,
and also setting up a very energy intensive desalination plant.

This mine, in all, will consume upward of 59-million tons of water a year. And in the driest state
in the country I think that's got to be of great concern.

NANCE HAXTON: A spokeswoman for BHP Billiton says the company will not comment on the Environmental
Impact Statement before its release.

David Noonan from the Australian Conservation Foundation says his main fear is that most of the
skilled jobs will be shipped off shore if the radioactive concentrate is sent to China for

DAVID NOONAN: Let them develop and process all of the copper product in South Australia.

There would be far more jobs in that than there is in exporting a bulk radioactive copper
concentrate to China.

And let them put the effort into SA as a copper venture, and not expose the company and South
Australian community - the mine project and Australia overall - to all these nuclear risks that
would follow from fuelling nuclear risks off a uranium quarry development.

NANCE HAXTON: The public will have 14 weeks to respond to the EIS.

The project cannot go ahead without South Australian Government and Federal Government approval.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett is expected to have final say on the expansion later
this year.

PETER CAVE: Nance Haxton reporting.