MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Comments on the Cooke Review

Published by MAC on 2004-09-10

Comments on the Cooke Review

by Techa Beaumont of Mineral Policy Institiute (Sydney)

September 10 2004

Increasing evidence points to the failure of the Australian government to regulate mining operations in the country, and adequately monitor or enforce the conditions it places on those operations. While Rio TInto/ERA's Ranger uranium mine has been under scrutiny for its many failures, the problems are not confined to this mine, or the uranium sector alone.

Earlier this year, a report, entitled ' the Cooke Review' was commissioned by the Western Australian state government to investigate consistent complaints raised by residents around the 'Kalgoorlie superpit', Australia's biggest goldmine, jointly owned by Barrick Gold and Newmont. Highly critical of the company's operations, the Review outlined systemic problems and a "culture of complacency" within the government departments charged with regulating the mining operations which only aggravated the problems; 'a change in culture is urgently required.' The Review found that tailings dams were causing unacceptable impacts on landowners and surrounding land, posing potential public health and safety risks. It recommended that a "stop work" order be placed upon the gold mine if an agreement to limit these impacts could not be dealt with within a reasonable time period.

The report also acknowledged what most communities living around mine sites in Australia, already know: self monitoring of the industry is not working. The government, it said, should investigate alternative methods, with bodies independent of the company playing the primary role of monitoring compliance.

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