The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has significant concerns about the Federal Governments’ environmental approval of the Tellus Chandler Salt Mine and Hazardous Waste Storage Facility, announced by the company today.
This approval brings the Tellus proposal to store toxic waste permanently at the proposed salt mine 120km south of Alice Springs one step closer, whilst questions about the capacity of the proponent Tellus to effectively manage the toxic waste in perpetuity is yet to be proven.
ALEC has concerns about the types of waste that would be stored at the Chandler site, monitoring of the waste, company compliance and also the enforcement of the conditions of this project.
ALEC also understands there are concerns from Titjikala residents and Native Title Holders about how this project may impact on cultural responsibilities of looking after country and the long-term risks of contamination.
"Leave our place alone. That's a clean place. We are trying to teach our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren our Aboriginal language there. It will affect our kids going out on their Pertame homelands. So leave it alone. We don't want them things there. If you want to do them kind of things, put it in your land. Leave our land alone" said Christobel Swan, Henbury Native Title Holder and Pertame woman
"No, they'll bring poison from different places." Margaret Campbell (Titjikala resident and Maryvale Native Title holder)
“We don’t want this to happen. We live in this community and our children go to school here, and their children will.” Janie Dianne Campbell, Titjikala resident
“This is a safe place to stay. We don’t want to move. We want to watch our children grow.” Josie Mulda, Titjikala resident.
“No mine!" Marie Shilling, Titjikala resident.
Concerns with the Commonwealth EPBC 2012/6684 approval include:
- There are only 13 conditions, which are light on detail and enforcement options. There are no provisions requiring that the proponent commit to offsetting the loss of critical habitat for threatened species. There are a total of 520 hectares of habitat for nationally listed species permitted to be cleared with no clearly mandated offsetting plan, recovery plans or animal relocation.
- The approval requires at most that the proponentminimise the impact on listed species but not to prevent adverse impacts.
- The approval gives a great deal of discretion to the proponent to determine their own contingency plans if management plans are ineffective. There is no guarantee of Federal oversight. The company will decide whether their plans are effective and will decide what contingency plans they develop.
“What needs to be made clear is that this Federal approval assesses the Tellus project based only on potential impacts on nationally recognized threatened species, and on no other environmental factors. Hazardous waste is a serious national issue, yet the risks have not been addressed in this approval,” said Alex Read, Policy Officer at the Arid Lands Environment Centre.
“This approval highlights the fact that we have weak national environmental laws, there is no national hazardous waste policy and that we still don’t know whether the environmental regulatory reform process currently underway in the NT will produce laws that will be stringent enough to manage this type of project.”
“What we do know is that one of the major waste streams that could be accepted at the Chandler Facility are naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) produced by the oil and gas industry in the NT.
“Currently there are proposed amendments to the Radioactive Waste Transport Storage and Disposal Act NT, which would make NORMS from the oil and gas industry exempt from this act. As a result of this proposed amendment ALEC has significant concerns the Tellus Toxic Waste Facility will also enable a fracked gas industry in the NT.”
ALEC is calling on the NT Government to not approve any further mining authorisations for this project.
“There needs to be clarity on which regulatory and licensing framework will apply to this project. This proposal being a mining and waste storage project must be assessed under a new regime that will capture the whole of life risks associated with this project.”