WMC Fire Reckless

October 22, 2001

Friends of the Earth have stated the fire at WMC's Olympic Dam is inconceivable following a similar fire two years ago. Yesterday¹s fire, involving 1million litres of kerosene, started at the same place as the previous, 100 metres from the uranium extraction plant. It is unclear from initial reports whether there has been radiological exposure. Friends of the Earth have called for a full independent assessment into both fires.

"The first may have been an accident, the second clearly negligent," said Loretta O'Brien

Kerosene was previously stored in open ponds in close proximity to the uranium processing plant. Investigation into the original fire called for a change in management practices. WMC had redesigned the storage involving tanks within the same area.

"Kerosene is a flammable material, Roxby is a hot place; it should never have been stored in the open next to uranium" said Bruce Thompson.

Friends of the Earth representatives have inspected the site twice since the first fire. Management had given assurance that new arrangements were fail safe, dismissing concerns over the continued proximity to uranium processing.

"Management claim they employ best practice to mine uranium - worker safety should come before PR and profit" continued Mr Thompson.

The fire comes amid WMC take over rumours, with BHP Billiton a likely purchaser of the Olympic Dam project. Friends of the Earth argue that an inquiry be undertaken into the fires before any change of ownership.

"There needs to be accountability before a fire sale of damaged goods" concluded Ms O¹Brien.

For further information contact:

Bruce Thompson
Mob: 0417 318 368

Loretta O¹Brien
Mob: 0418 178 053