Monday 2nd April
David and Goliath: Kevin Buzzacott v Federal Environment Minister, SA Government and BHP Billiton
Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, Aboriginal Elder of the Arabunna Nation in Northern South Australia, is challenging the Federal Environment Ministers approval of the Olympic Dam expansion on the grounds that various environmental impacts of the project were not properly considered. He is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, a community legal centre specialising in public interest litigation. The case will be heard on the 3rd and 4th of April in the Federal Court, Adelaide.
In October last year, the Hon Tony Burke MP approved the project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
Mr. Buzzacott is challenging the Minister’s approval on the following grounds:
1. The approval is so uncertain that it does not constitute a proper approval under the EPBC Act. This is because much of the environmental assessment and decision-making is left up to plans and studies that have not yet been prepared or considered by the Minister or the public.
2. The Minister did not properly consider the impact of the Olympic Dam expansion on the environment. In particular, the impacts from the above ground storage of radioactive tailings waste.
3. The Minister failed to consider the environmental impacts associated with the export of uranium.
4. The Minister failed to properly consider the impacts of the expansion on groundwater resources including the Great Artesian Basin.
“Because this is a nuclear action, the Minister is required by the EPBC Act to properly consider all environmental impacts. The size of this project makes this particularly important. Just the tailings dams will end up covering 4,400 hectares, to be left on the surface of the land forever. These dams are designed to leak radioactive waste into the underlying rock and aquifer. Such environmental impacts are not minor details to be worked out later,” said Nectaria Calan of Friends of the Earth Adelaide.
Both BHP Billiton and the South Australian Government have successfully applied to be party to the proceedings.
“Although the challenge relates specifically to the Ministers approval, these parties will now also participate in the proceedings, and therefore influence the final decision of the Judge,” said Ms. Calan. “Uncle Kevin is now up against two tiers of government and a massive multinational mining corporation. It’s a vast imbalance of resources, suggesting concern on the part of BHP and the SA government that the challenge may succeed.”
The community will rally outside the court at 9.30am on both days in support of the legal challenge.
The hearing is currently listed for 10.15 am Court no.7, level 7 on both days however media is advised that these details may change.
Applicant: Kevin Buzzacott 0431 157 747
Legal commentary: Nectaria Calan 0432 388 665
A background briefing with further details is available on request.
Media is further advised that both contacts will be unavailable whilst court is in session..