BHP’s $45b giant: the bigger, deeper Olympic Dam

Northern Daily Leader - 11.10.2011

THE massive planned expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine would plague South Australia with radioactive waste and water overuse, say green groups, dismissing government assurances of strict environmental standards.

”It’s a deeply disappointing decision that will see significant adverse environmental damage at that site, particularly the large volumes of unsustainable water use and the generation of long-lived radioactive waste with minimal management that poses effectively perpetual pollution.”

The mine’s need for water will rise from 42 million litres a day to an average of 240 million litres.
But BHP Billiton will build a huge desalination plant that will mean it need not take any extra water from the Great Artesian Basin. (But it will continue to take 42 million litres a day, from the GAB, as well as the desalination plant).

Willem Vervoort, professor of Hydrology at the University of Sydney, who has followed the plans, said he understood environmental concerns had to be balanced against economic opportunities but said BHP Billiton was missing an opportunity by not ending its use of Great Artesian Basin water altogether.

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