Expert condemns Beverley uranium decision
Hydrogeologist Dr Gavin Mudd has today condemned environment minister Peter Garrett's decision to approve a six-fold expansion of the Beverley in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine in SA and to allow the dumping of liquid mine waste directly into groundwater.
Insitu-leach mining plant
Dr Mudd, a lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering at Monash University, said: "My review of the available literature across the world dispels the myths promulgated by ISL uranium mining companies. It is not an environmentally benign method of uranium mining - it is inherently risky and is unlikely to meet 'strict environmental controls'. The ISL technique treats ground water as a sacrifice zone and the problem remains 'out of sight, out of mind'.
"Liquid radioactive waste - containing radioactive particles, heavy metals and acid - is simply dumped in groundwater. From being inert and immobile in the ore body, the radionuclides and heavy metals are now bioavailable and mobile in the aquifer," Dr Mudd said.
Peter Burdon from Friends of the Earth Adelaide, said: "Heathgate Resources, a subsidiary of US-based General Atomics, has a poor record in Australia. The SA government's Department of Primary Industry and Resources lists 59 spills at Beverley from 1998-2007.
"Heathgate has a track record of secrecy, such as its failure to publicly acknowledge a series of leaks before the 2002 SA state election and its refusal to release key environmental reports until the South Australian Ombudsman found that its commercial-in-confidence claims were spurious."
Mr Burdon also warned of the nuclear weapons proliferation risks of Beverley's operations: "During a visit to the Beverley mine in April 2008, Heathgate representatives had no idea which organisations are responsible for nuclear safeguards or what safeguards actually involve. In fact, so-called safeguards are totally inadequate. For example, the government is currently considering permitting uranium exports to Russia despite the fact that there have been no safeguards inspections of Russia's nuclear facilities since 1994."
Dr Gavin Mudd 0419 117 494
Peter Burdon 0439 294 386