WMC moves to divest Radioactive legacy

November 29, 2002

Environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) will today stage a visual protest outside the shareholders meeting that will decide on the controversial planned de-merger of uranium miner WMC. The environment group is concerned over the current and future impacts of the massive Olympic Dam mine in northern South Australia.

WMC CEO Hugh Morgan's de-merger proposal would divide the company into two new companies, Alumina Ltd and WMC Resources. WMC Resources would include Olympic Dam. Given the depressed international uranium market and WMC's current intention to focus on its alumina interests, it is likely that WMC Resources and Olympic Dam will be bought by a foreign multinational.

"A foreign company would have even less accountability to the Australian public than WMC," said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Ila Marks. "Profits would move offshore while the pollution would stay in Australia. Also any new owner of Olympic Dam will inherit a burden as the mine is plagued by problems of waste management and water management."

The FoE protest today aims to alert possible buyers and shareholders to the controversial nature of Olympic Dam operations and highlight opposition to the company's planned expansion of the mine.

"We are asking WMC shareholders to disinvest from this toxic trader in the interests of a sustainable future for Australia," said Ms Marks. "Uranium mining is simply not in Australia's long term national interest."

"Whilst companies such as WMC may sell out and divest themselves of responsibility for the long term radioactive waste they have generated, the Australian public and our natural environment bear the ultimate impacts of this environmental profiteering," said Ms Marks.

Friends of the Earth are deeply concerned over the possible threefold expansion of the mine, currently being investigated by a $50 million dollar feasibility study.

"Any expansion will increase the strain on the precious water resources of the Great Artesian Basin, a vital resource for the driest state in Australia," said Dr Gavan Mudd of Friends of the Earth. "It would produce 100 million tonnes of tailings that will be kept above ground, creating a long-term radioactive burden - a permanent, toxic legacy to WMC."

Where: Main Entrance Carlton Crest Hotel, 65 Queens Rd, Melbourne.

For further information and comment please contact:

Ila Marks
Mob: 0427 501 944

Dr Gavan Mudd
Mob: 0419 117 494