Australia: Lizards Revenge - Expansion Olympic Dam under pressure
Hundreds of people from around the country joined the Lizards Revenge music and arts festival and protest camp that took place at the gates of BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia from 14-18 July 2012. The protest at Olympic Dam was staged to stop the planned expansion of the copper and uranium mine, which received a go ahead in October 2011. But economics raised uncertainties about the expansion project.
Sleeping underneath the ground, there is an old lizard known as Kalta the sleepy lizard. The lizard ain’t so sleepy anymore. BHP Billiton is mining right into that Lizard’s body. Kalta is angry and wants revenge. The land is being irreversibly poisoned in and around Roxby Downs. The tailings dam is causing dust and ground water contamination and contamination of its own workers. Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzacott is calling the people of the world to help the lizard shut down the mine. He is calling for people to come and heal the land in the name of peace and justice for the next 10,000 generations to come.
On July 17, about 350 anti-uranium activists have broken through an exterior fence of the mine, but were prevented from reaching the mine, by a main reinforced steel gate. A few days later, after the official lizards revenge festival ended, about 40 people blocked Olympic Way, one of te road s leading to Olympic Dam. They pushed a car onto the road, let down its tyres and locked the steering. Two men then chained themselves to the underside. Both were arrested and charged with illegal interference.
But the July 28, edition of the Weekend Australian newspaper reported that BHP Billiton is reconsidering investments in several mining projects. BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers said that a faster-than-expected slowdown in China and increasing European instability will rule out a "near-term" improvement in operating conditions, forcing the world's biggest miner to rethink spending on its portfolio of major projects. The Aus$30 billion (US$31bn or 15.5bn euro) expansion of its Olympic Dam mine is shaping up as the first major victim of the volatile economic conditions.
A decision by the world's biggest miner on whether to proceed with the proposed expansion of its mine will not be made until 2014 rather than by the end of this year, as previously stated by BHP. The expansion of Olympic Dam is one of three major BHP projects seen by analysts as vulnerable to setbacks as markets soften. The company has until early December to give the final go-ahead for the Olympic Dam project or it faces the need to renegotiate state government approvals.
A day later, on July 29, The Australian reported that the most likely of Australia's next big uranium mine developments - the Kintyre project in Western Australia's Great Sandy desert - has fallen victim to sluggish demand and prices for uranium. Project operator and 70 per cent owner, Canada's Cameco, has revealed that the economics of the project are "challenging" in that a development would not be profitable at current uranium prices. Prices are 34 per cent below where they need to be for a viable project. Cameco chief executive Tim Gitzel told analysts that Cameco was "not going to develop Kintyre at any cost."
It means that Cameco and its 30 per cent partner, Japan's Mitsubishi Development, will not begin development of what would have been WA's first uranium mine in early 2014 as first planned. A 2014 start to production would have meant first production in 2016. Discovered more than 25 years ago, the contemplation of Kintyre's development only became possible with the election of the pro-uranium mining Barnett government in 2008.
Sources: ABC, 17 July 2012 / Reuters, 28 July 2012/ Australian, 28 & 29 Au-gust 2012 / www.lizardsrevenge.net
Contact: Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia, 5 King William St, Bayswater 6053, Australia.
Tel: +61 9271 8786