Protesters voice BHP uranium concerns

Date of publication: 
16 November 2010

AAP – Protesters outside BHP Billiton’s annual general meeting in Perth have slammed the resource giant’s uranium mining plans in Australia.

Conservation groups, unions and Aboriginal traditional owner groups voiced their environmental concerns at the Perth Convention and Exhibition centre on Tuesday.

They raised particular concerns about BHP proposed uranium mine at Yeelirrie in Western Australia’s Goldfields region.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said BHP had been acting behind the scenes to prevent a public inquiry from going ahead into uranium mining in WA.

He said serious issues related to the Yeelirrie proposal ranged from health impact and local communities through to the issue of whether WA uranium would find its way into weapons programs in other countries like Russia and China.

“These issues have been swept under the table by both BHP and the state government,” Mr Verstegen said.

“This is an extremely damaging and dangerous industry and there’s no such thing as a safe uranium mine anywhere in the world and we know that BHP will not be able to operate a safe uranium mine here.”

Mr Verstegen said BHP’s attempt to prevent a transparent public inquiry showed it did not have confidence in its ability to manage the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner David Noonan said BHP would also face questions at its AGM on Tuesday about its plans for an open pit mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia.

He said the mine would leak three million litres of liquid radio active waste a day until 2050.

“This practice is unacceptable in Australia in this day and age. We need an Australian Erin Brockovich to expose what’s going on here,” Mr Noonan said.

Kado Muir, a traditional owner from the Yeelirrie area, told reporters his people wanted the WA government to hold a public inquiry into the opening of uranium mines in the state, following 40 years of a virtual ban.

“We want to know what this landscape will be like at the end of this mine,” Mr Muir said.

“We want to ensure we can use the land for the next 40,000 years that we will be living here.

“We don’t want to be left with a toxic, radioactive outback.

“As far as traditional owners are concerned they do not want to have uranium mines in there backyards.”

Unions WA spokeswoman Linda Morich said her union opposed uranium mining in the state because of safety concerns for workers and nearby communities.

“There’s no safe dose of radiation, there’s no safe uranium mines,” she said.

To coincide with the AGM in Perth, smaller protest rallies where held outside BHP Billiton officers around Australia on Tuesday.