MAC: Mines and Communities

Nuclear folly threatens Western Australia

Published by MAC on 2015-05-16
Source: Radio Australia

Aboriginal communities targeted for waste dumping

It may seem utter folly - and surely is.

Not only is an iron ore mining company proposing to dump low-level nuclear waste on Aboriginal land. It hasn't even had the decency to inform the indigenous community of its intentions.

Yet another proposal has been made to establsh a similar site in a second local shire in Western Australia.

Once again, no prior warning of this was given to local Aborigines, the shire's president having the gall to defend this failure by saying:

"I daresay some Aboriginal people may be upset because we haven't consulted [them] but we don't really want to go and waste the time of people or community members and others because we just consider this to be a long shot anyway."

Miner, councillor apply to host nuclear waste facility in regional WA

By Emily Piesse and Rebecca Curtin

Radio Australia

13 May 2015

Iron ore miner Gindalbie Metals and a Goldfields councillor have made applications to host a low-level radioactive waste dump in separate regions of Western Australia.

Gindalbie confirmed it nominated Badja Station in the Shire of Yalgoo in WA's Mid West as a potential site, while the other proposed site would be in the northern Goldfields.

Both applications were submitted as part of a national tender process by the Federal Government.

The nuclear waste facility, which would be a national repository for low-level waste, would be the first of its kind in Australia.

Most low-level waste is stored in hospitals, universities and other private facilities but this would act as a central storage centre.

A spokesperson for Gindalbie confirmed the miner submitted Badja Station to be assessed, but said it was too early to comment as the Government was yet to finalise its shortlist of sites.

Badja Station is currently the subject of a native title claim by the Widi people.

Widi spokesperson Clayton Lewis said he had no prior knowledge of Gindalbie's proposal.

"It was a bolt out of the blue ... [we're] just amazed that it's going to happen or potentially going to happen in our country," he said.

"We think if we can get a decent body of support at this early stage, we can certainly contest it."

Yalgoo Shire president Neil Grinham said the council had not decided if it supported the proposal.

"It's preliminary, we don't know the details and I'd dare say we'd have to have a lot more consultation and understanding of what the actual project is, delivered to council," he said.

"I like to think about things and have all the facts on the table before we move forward and we can't move forward, it's very early stages and we don't know what it is."

It is understood if Gindalbie's application is successful, it would cover approximately 40 hectares of land and would be based about 40 kilometres away from the closest neighbouring pastoral station.

Mr Grinham said he was assured any nuclear waste would be stored in specialised containers and not buried in the ground.

"As far as the dump is concerned, I don't know if you'd call it a dump because as they [Gindalbie] explained it, these materials are stored all around through cities in warehouses so it's not like it's something new and it's toxic," he said.

"They are just trying to centralise it."

Shire supports councillor's application

The Shire of Leonora in WA's Goldfields supported an application by one of its own councillors to house the nuclear waste dump in the northern Goldfields.

The shire had planned to apply for the dump to be located on freehold council land, but none was available.

Councillor Glenn Baker, a retired prospector, applied to have the dump on his site 10-kilometres west of Leonora.

To have a site somewhere in the Goldfields would be appropriate and it may have benefits to the local community, create employment and so on.
Leonora shire chief executive Jim Epis
Shire chief executive Jim Epis said it could potentially be a great opportunity to create additional jobs within the small community.

"The council, over the years, always supported uranium mining and I think in Australia, it has accumulated low-level radioactive waste for over 40 years mainly due to research, medical and industrial uses of radioactive material," he said.

"We thought ... to have a site somewhere in the Goldfields would be appropriate and it may have benefits to the local community, create employment and so on."

Mr Epis said it was likely some people would be disturbed by the application , but he described it as a long shot.

"Of course many are going to get upset about it and that's fair enough but if the nomination of Baker is successful then the shire is prepared to assist in informing the local community and arranging locations etc for briefings to talk to the local community and businesses," he said.

"We'd make sure the shire would assist where it can in connecting the local community and businesses to the proponents of the facility from the design stage right through to construction and operation.

"But I mean this is just a long shot anyway. I don't know how many other individuals, companies or local governments have submitted applications .

"I daresay some Aboriginal people may be upset because we haven't consulted but we don't really want to go and waste the time of people or community members and others because we just consider this to be a long shot anyway.

"We just wanted a foot in the door and even if this site is not chosen, then I think we'd like to sit down and do much more work on it so if the matter arises in the future we'll be much more prepared for it."

A third proposal is believed to have been put forward by a member of the Kanpa community, near Warburton.

Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku president Damian McLean said the council was yet to adopt a position on the issue.

However, some Ngaanyatjarra elders have expressed their opposition to storing radioactive waste on their country.

In an email to federal Minister Ian Macfarlane, they said they and many others in the Aboriginal community did not agree with the proposal and "have never been consulted and have never said yes".

Selection process should be more transparent: campaigner

A spokesperson for Mr Macfarlane said initial site assessments had begun.

Under the selection process, states and territories will not have the right to veto the Government's site selection.

A shortlist of nominated sites is expected to be made public in July.

Conservation Council of WA nuclear free campaigner Mia Pepper said the Government's selection process should be more transparent.

"We've got a process where there's been zero public consultation, so people are being completely left in the dark about the fate of their communities possibly becoming the nation's dumping ground for radioactive waste," she said.

"Once the Government's already made a short list and decided whether these sites are going to be suitable, it's a little bit late then to talk to the communities."


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