Home' InDaily : December 11th 2009 Contents news December 11 - 17, 2009
SA miners are fighting with
the Defence Department
over access to a sprawling
weapons testing range in the
state s north-west.
The SA Chamber of Mines and
Energy (SACOME) yesterday
urged Defence to clarify which
parts of the Woomera Prohibited
Area could be explored and mined
for minerals, and said a lack of
co-operation could cost invest-
ment and jobs.
The area covers about
127,000 sq km and lies within
the Gawler Craton, which is
estimated to hold minerals worth
more than $1.4 trillion.
A large part of the Coober
Pedy opal fields lie in the area, as
do OZ Minerals Prominent Hill
copper-gold mine and Dominion
Mining s Challenger gold mine.
Woomera is the world s
largest defence range, used to test
high-tech, top-secret equipment
worth billions of dollars, often in
partnership with other countries.
After being granted exploration
licences by the SA Government,
resources companies must then
sign a "deed of exploration" with
the Defence Department and
seek its permission to enter their
"We understand and accept that
some parts of the WPA are more
sensitive than others," SACOME
chief executive Jason Kuchel
"We just want to ensure
everyone has a clearly enunciated
and agreed picture of what is and
isn t possible."
More than 120 mineral explora-
tion leases have been issued for
the Woomera area, and Mr Kuchel
said the industry would be look-
ing to ramp up mining activity in
the year ahead.
However, concern over access
is a deterrent for potential
"It s all well and good for the SA
Government to grant tenements,
but you can t necessarily access
them," said Barrick Gold, one
prospective miner recently denied
access to tenements around
Mr Kuchel said it was in
the interests of the resources
industry and Defence to improve
communication and get a clearer
picture of which areas were open
to minerals activity and where
were "sensitive, no-go zones".
Page 13: Miners versus military
Kate Nash and Suzie Keen
A contentious plan by the world s
biggest mining company, BHP
Billiton, to build an enormous
desalination plant in the Upper
Spencer Gulf has been attacked
by the Australian Conservation
Foundation and its unlikely ally,
Port Lincoln tuna farmers.
Already, community groups
are protesting against the plant
being built at Point Lowly, near
"We may stuff up the Upper
Spencer Gulf as we have stuffed
up the River Murray," said local
resident Larraine Lerc. "The real
problem we have is the threat to
the unique giant cuttlefish."
The Save Point Lowly action
group, citing a bevy of marine
scientists, believes hyper-saline
discharge from the plant will kill
the area as a cuttlefish nursery.
Giant cuttlefish occur along the
southern Australian coastline
from Ningaloo Reef in WA to
Moreton Bay in Queensland,
but its only known breeding
aggregation in the world is off
"There is potential for
desalination brine to affect the
cephalopod s early life," said
Adelaide University associate
professor Bronwyn Gillanders.
The ACF today also called on
the Government to prohibit a
desalination plant at the site on
environmental grounds, and on
Wednesday the combined might
of SA s powerful fishing and
aquaculture industries threw
their support behind a new
campaign to oppose the plant.
into Spencer Gulf, one of
the world s most sensitive
marine ecologies, would be
said local fishermen s association
spokesperson Greg Palmer.
The industry has a lot at
stake. Aquaculture, crabbing,
oyster-growing and abalone are
a multi-million-dollar catch long-
term, and high-profile advocates
such as CleanSeas Tuna founder
Hagen Stehr will fight to protect
their commercial interests
against those of the mining giant.
BHP currently extracts 37
megalitres of water a day out of
the Great Artesian Basin and
wants to increase this to 42 when
its Olympic Dam is enlarged.
But the mine will need
more water still, and wants
a desalination plant at Point
Lowly because it s closer, and
therefore cheaper, than less
environmentally sensitive sites
on the West Coast.
BHP plan to scuttlefish
3The Independent Weekly
Hagen Stehr: Fighting to protect fishing interests.
Photo: Paul Jones
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