Toxic legacy for Central Australia? NTEPA recommends approval of Chandler Salt Mine and Hazardous Waste Facility

The Northern Territory Environmental Protection Authority (NTEPA) has recommended to the Environment Minister that the Tellus Chandler Salt Mine and Hazardous Waste Facility be approved, yet questions remain over the safety of the project.

The Arid Lands Environment Centre has significant concerns about the proposal to store toxic waste at the proposed salt mine for geological time (forever). Whilst ALEC acknowledges the comprehensive conditions recommended by the NT EPA, the capacity of the proponent Tellus to effectively manage the toxic waste in perpetuity is yet to be proven.

Concerns over the project include:

  • Claims of misleading consultation with Titjikala residents
  • Types of hazardous waste to be stored including fracking waste
  • Long term responsibility of waste management
  • Risk of accidents and spillage at the site
  • Transportation of toxic chemicals on local roads and railway
  • Inadequate regulations to ensure safety and compliance
  • Suitability of the site to host toxic waste forever
  • No legislated guarantee that nuclear waste won’t be stored at the site in the future

 "The Arid Lands Environment Centre has real concerns around the fact that this type of hazardous waste storage facility has never been attempted in Australia before. There are examples in France and Germany where these kinds of waste storage facilities exist, there's accidents that have happened and then there's been a huge environmental and financial cost as a result,” said Nicole Pietsch, Assistant Manager of ALEC.

“We have concerns around the monitoring, compliance and also the enforcement of the conditions of this project. The NT is currently going through an environmental regulatory reform process and we still don’t know whether the regulations will be stringent enough to manage this type of project.”

“What is needed is a National Hazardous Waste Management Policy, that looks at dealing with hazardous waste in the best way possible. This means some waste may de destroyed, some of it might be reprocessed and that there would be greater scrutiny over producing the hazardous waste in the first place. Companies need to be responsible for the waste they produce – an 'out of sight, out of mind' approach is not acceptable, particularly when there are significant risks to our environment.

"We acknowledge the concerns of some Titjikala residents and Traditional Owners who feel they have not been properly consulted and have concerns about how this project may impact on cultural responsibilities of looking after country and the long-term risks of contamination. ALEC will continue to work with Titjikala community and the Traditional Owners to ensure their concerns are heard, and we will continue to work towards the best environmental outcomes for Central Australia," said Nicole Pietsch

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