WMC’s Expanding Radioactive Waste-line

May 26, 2004

Environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) have expressed deep concern at WMC’s ever expanding ‘waste-line’, in response to today’s announcement that the company plans to invest $50 million over two years to determine whether to expand their Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.

Olympic Dam is already producing 22,000 tonnes of radioactive tailings per day, which is equivalent to 1000 tonnes per hour. The massive tailings mounds are over 60 million tonnes in volume. They were spread evenly over a circular area one kilometre wide, they would reach a height of around of 45 metres. The expansion would increase this figure to 100 million tonnes in its lifetime.

“Whenever WMC or industry talks about this expansion, they rave on about how much money they will make and how much uranium they will produce, what they are silent on is the 100 million growing pile of radioactive tailings, which will remain a permanent toxic legacy to Australia, “said Jim Green, Friends of the Earth Nuclear Campaigner.

WMC are licensed to draw 42 million litres of water from the Great Artesian Basin every day to process ore at the mine site, they are currently drawing over 30 million.

‘The expansion would also increase the strain on the precious water resources of the Great Artesian Basin, a vital resource for the driest state in Australia,” said FoE Nuclear Campaigner Loretta O’Brien.

WMC’s Olympic Dam operation has come under much scrutiny following a series of incidents at the mine including a massive spill of 110,000 litres of radioactive waste water in October last year. The spill involved release of an estimated 32 kilograms of uranium.

“Over the past couple of years we have seen serious leaks, fires and explosion at this mine,” said Ms O’Brien. “WMC can’t even manage its current operations properly, yet it is spending $50 million on a study to get bigger.”

Dr Jim Green Ph 0417 318 368
Loretta O’Brien Ph 0418 178 053