Discover South Australia's Nuclear Secrets

January 15, 2002

Friends of the Earth is demanding Federal Government intervention to regulate uranium mining in light of the South Australian Government cover up and failure to act on a series of accidents involving radioactive material in the state. The call follows further revelations of another 24 spills involving radioactive material at the Beverley uranium mine in less than 2 years. The national environment organisation has put forward steps that should be taken by State and Federal Governments to address approval and regulatory failures.

Known Radioactive Accidents

Beverley

  • Jan 2002: 60,000L of radioactive mining solution spilt at plant
  • 2000 – 01: 24 spills of mining solution not made public, 3 greater than 2000L
  • Mar 1998: 500L of mining solution spilt on soils at trial well fields revealed Aug

Honeymoon

  • Nov 2001 Major underground leak of radioactive mining solution to adjacent groundwater revealed from 1999 trial mine operations

Olympic Dam

  • Oct 2001 Major kerosene fire 20m from uranium plant
  • Dec 1999 Major kerosene fire as above
  • Mar 1999 Copper Smelter explodes
  • Feb 1994 5,000,000,000 (billion) L tailings leak revealed

"There have been a series of accidents at mines in South Australia which should never have happened," said Dr Gavin Mudd.

"However without open independent monitoring and assessment it's hard to establish the number, scale and impact of accidents occurring," continued Dr Mudd.

"This leaves legitimate questions about basic operational practice and future prevention."

Action Plan

  1. Suspension of operation at Beverley pending a full independent investigation
  2. Federal Government intervention
    - Review of ARPANS Act to include commercial mining operations
    - Export licencing review
  3. State Government Role
    - Removal of Dept. Of Mines and Energy as key regulator
    - Site Access granted to EPA for routine monitoring, review and enforcement
  4. Penalties for failure to meet operational requirements
  5. Review of the recent Honeymoon and Beverley Uranium mine approval conditions

Recent federal nuclear legislation, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act (ARPANS) 1999 clearly omits regulation of commercial uranium mining operations. Environment Australia has failed to implement a public consultative committee for ISL mines. Within South Australia, uranium mining remains exempt from the state's Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

"Both state and federal Liberal governments have been quick to approve uranium mining yet have failed to set clear and accountable regulation."

"In the Year of the Outback we must develop greater protection for our natural environment - Responsibility must be taken to insure these accidents never happen again" said nuclear campaigner Bruce Thompson.

The failures set an ominous tone for a year that will see the continued Federal push to dump radioactive waste in South Australia. Along with the recent approval of the Honeymoon ISL mine, South Australia is fast becoming the Radioactive State.

For further information contact:

Bruce Thompson
Nuclear Campaigner
Mob: 0417 318 368

Dr Gavin Mudd
Hydrogeologist
Mob: 0419 117 494