BHP’s Uranium Fiefdom By Jim Green

(BTW, don’t ever think Mr Premier, that South Australians trust the government. You have been led by nose by the nukers. And you still are. You are no different to Robert Menzies in that regard.)

New Matilda.Com

URANIUM 11 Jul 2012
BHP’s Uranium Fiefdom
By Jim Green

Olympic Dam has been plagued with faults – but is exempt from public scrutiny. The failure of government and business to ensure the mine’s safety is not a fringe issue, writes Jim Green

BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium and copper mine is a state within a state. It operates under a unique set of laws enshrined in the amended Roxby Downs Indenture Act. That would be unobjectionable except that the Indenture Act allows Olympic Dam wide-ranging exemptions from environmental laws, water management laws and Aboriginal Heritage laws — and for good measure it curtails the application of the Freedom of Information Act.

Hundreds of Australians are protesting the mine this weekend. Their overarching concern might be expressed as what sociologists call “political blockage” — official avenues of grievance resolution are closed so people take matters into their own hands.

SA Liberal Party industry spokesperson Martin Hamilton-Smith — no friend of anyone who will be converging on the mine site later this week — said “every word of the [Indenture] agreement favours BHP, not South Australians.” It beggars belief that the SA Labor government would agree to such one-sided terms; and it beggars belief that Mr Hamilton-Smith and his Liberal colleagues waved it through Parliament with no amendments.

The only politician to insist on some scrutiny of the amended Indenture Act was Greens MLA Mark Parnell, who was was accused of holding the state’s economy to ransom. Yet the transcripts of his late-night Parliamentary questioning of the Labor government ought to be required reading (see and Time and time again the government spokesperson said that BHP wanted* such-and-such a provision in the Indenture Act, and the government simply agreed without further consideration or consultation. (Paul’s comment: phuck what BHP Billiton wants).

For example, Parnell asked why the Indenture Act retains exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. The government spokesperson replied, “BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”

In a scathing assessment of the Olympic Dam royalties regime enshrined in the Indenture Act, journalist Paul Cleary wrote in The Australian on 21 October that the regime “has robbed the state’s citizens and all Australians of the opportunity to share in the profits of what will become the world’s biggest mine.” He added that the agreement “will unfortunately stand as a sad and enduring indictment of the weakness of our state governments when it comes to negotiating with powerful mining multinationals.”

Olympic Dam’s state within a state has autocratic tendencies. When a mine worker provided the media with photos of multiple leaks in the tailings dams in 2009, BHP’s response was to threaten “disciplinary action” against any workers caught taking photos. The SA government was conspicuously silent. Have the leaks of toxic tailings liquid been fixed? Who knows. It would be naive to believe anything BHP or the state government has to say on the subject.

In 2010, another worker was sufficiently concerned about occupational health issues at Olympic Dam that he leaked information to the media. The leaked documents show that BHP uses manipulated averages and distorted sampling to ensure its official figures of worker radiation exposure slip under the maximum exposure levels set by government.
(BHP Billiton – The TEPCO of the South)

The risks will escalate with plans for a massive expansion of the mine. The BHP whistleblower said. “Assertions of safety of workers made by BHP are not credible because they rely on assumptions rather than, for example, blood sampling and, crucially, an assumption that all workers wear a respirator when exposed to highly radioactive polonium dust in the smelter.” (SOP for nuclear industry)

Mining consultants Advanced Geomechanics noted in a 2004 report that radioactive slurry was deposited “partially off” a lined area of a storage pond at Olympic Dam, contributing to greater seepage and rising ground water levels; that there is no agreed, accurate formula to determine the rate of evaporation of tailings and how much leaks into the ground; and that cells within a tailings pond covered an area more than three times greater than recommended, requiring “urgent remedial measures”.

Serious concerns such as these, often raised by mine workers, have been afforded inadequate attention by BHP and the SA government, and there is little opportunity for any of us to investigate the matter independently.

But we do know that the management of radioactive tailings has been an ongoing headache for decades and that the rate of production is set to go through the roof — from 10 million tonnes annually to 68 million tonnes. And we do know that BHP has responded to worker concerns about tailings mismanagement with intimidation instead of information.

Leaks in the tailings retention system at Olympic Dam

I’ll be at the Olympic Dam convergence for two main reasons. Firstly, out of solidarity with Traditional Owners who are ignored by BHP, ignored by the state and federal governments, and sometimes ignored even by their own people. BHP generously supports Reconcilitation Australia yet holds on tenaciously to its exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act — that sort of hypocrisy and cant needs to be exposed.

And secondly, I’ll be there because the domestic problems with Australia’s uranium industry are compounded by serious international problems.

Australia has uranium export agreements with nuclear weapons states that have no intention of meeting their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty disarmament obligations; countries with a history of secret nuclear weapons research; countries that refuse to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; countries blocking progress on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty; undemocratic, and secretive states with appalling human rights records.

Both major parties now support the abandonment of previous policies banning uranium exports to countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The federal government is planning to allow uranium sales to a Middle Eastern dictatorship — the United Arab Emirates. The last time Australia went down that path was in late 1978 when the Fraser government was negotiating with the Shah of Iran — a few short months before his overthrow during the Iranian Revolution.

All of these uranium export agreements are accompanied by safeguards inspection regimes that are at best modest, sometimes tokenistic (e.g. China) and sometimes all but non-existent (e.g. Russia).

Those converging on the mine later this week reflect broader public concerns about uranium mining. Opinion polls are roughly divided on the topic; typically, polls find that a majority of Australians want existing uranium mines to be allowed to run their course but a majority want a ban on new uranium mines. A 2006 Newspoll found even a majority of Coalition voters wanted a ban on new uranium mines, as did more than three-quarters of Labor voters.

Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of Australians oppose uranium sales to nuclear weapons states and two-thirds oppose the plan to sell uranium to India — a country which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is engaged in a nuclear arms race with Pakistan and China. These are not fringe concerns.

end quote.

They cannot keep their radioactive sources sealed. This is as slack as shit:


And BHp Billiton knows it. That’s why they wheel out the same argument the US military and the radium industry wheeled out against the radium dial painters in the 1920s – as the women died, the authorities claimed radium painting conveyed a health benefit to the women.

No one in the 1920s and 1930s believed it.

Toros Energy and BHP Billiton, aided by the US Department of Energy, continue to thrust this lie down the throats of South Australians.

Let’s look at SOP for uranium mines.

Qualified Geologist tells South Australia – build a uranium enrichment plant because “radiation is good for you”.

“Addressing the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy in Adelaide, chair of the uranium company Toro Energy Erica Smith said the true cost of coal was not yet being paid for by the community. She also said that there was a strong argument that some radiation “was good for you” …..”

Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, August 13, 2011 page 7.

Smith does not cite her sources, but they probably rely on studies conducted in Iran and Brazil and which reference the “adaptive response” model Sykes of Flinders University promotes (see previous posts.) A look at those 2 places is interesting and contradicts The Geologist.

Higher levels of disease seen in high radiation areas of Iran

Various papers available online claim the the high radiation background levels of radiation in Ramsar, Mazandrain Province, Iran, provide “health benefits” and “radiation-protection to local residents. The radium/radon springs are visited by Iranians from all over the country. (See previous post at

For example:

“Ramsar, a northern coastal city in Iran, has areas with some of the highest levels of natural radiation measured to date. The effective dose equivalents in very high background radiation areas (VHBRAs) of Ramsar in particular in Talesh Mahalleh, are a few times higher than the ICRP-recommended radiation dose limits for radiation workers.”

Biology Division, Kyoto University of Education, Kyoto 612-8522, Japan

The claim is that the high background radiation related to radium and radon gives a “radiation-protective” effect -via “adaptive response” – to residents in the area and to people who visit the radon spas in the area.

It transpires that the affected area is much larger than the area studied by the author.

The following is taken from two medical studies of cancer in Iran:

“The north and north east regions of Iran are some of the known areas that have a high incidence of esophageal cancer.
Golestan Province in northeastern Iran is one of the higher risk areas of the world, followed by Mazandaran and Khorasan Provinces.”

The cancers of concern in Iran at the present time include:
GI cancers, the incidence rates of which are high in Iran.
Breast cancer affects Iranian women about a decade earlier than women in Western countries.
Colorectal cancers, having an increasing rate which is currently near that of the West and which is increasingly striking at younger ages.

Other common cancers in Iran are:
Stomach, esophagus,bladder and leukemia in males.
Esophagus, stomach, and cervix uteri in women.
Source: “Five Common Cancers in Iran”, Shadi Kolahdoozan MD MPH*, Alireza Sadjadi MD MPH**, Amir Reza Radmard MD***,
Hooman Khademi MD MPH (*Digestive Disease Research Center,Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran,
**Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherland, ***Department of Radialogy, Shariati Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.)
Archives of Iranian Medicine, Volume 13, Number 2, 2010: 143 – 146.

Cancer Incidence in Five Provinces of Iran
Ardebil, Gilan, Mazandaran, Golestan and Kerman,
1996 – 2000 MAHDI FALLAH.

“Cancer is the most common non-injury cause of death after cardiovascular diseases in Iran. Estimation of the burden of cancer in terms of incidence, mortality, and prevalence is the first step to plan control measures in every country but for almost 40 years there were no population-based cancer statistics in Iran to reveal cancer burden. This study is designed to ascertain the incidence of cancers in Iran, and develop and test a new method to adjust for ascertainment bias in the evaluation of cancer registry data.” Source: Cancer Incidence in Five Provinces of Iran

MAHDI FALLAH ACADEMIC DISSERTATION, University of Tampere, Tampere School of Public Health Finland, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Digestive Diseases Research Center Iran. Supervised by Professor Anssi Auvinen University of Tampere, Professor Risto Sankila University of Tampere, Reviewed by Professor emerita Aulikki Nissinen University of Kuopio, Professor Elisabete Weiderpass Vainio, Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

“Highest rate of lung cancer found among Mazandaranian men.”
The central national cancer registry was abandoned in 1979 by Iran. It remains intact and available.
In 1984 Iran re-established cancer registries. Each province maintains its own registry. Many of the relevant documents are held in operational departments within local hospitals.

Although Iran has a low cancer incidence compared to developed countries, Iran’s cancer incidence is comparable to other nations with similar levels of development.

“Esophageal cancer: Golestan Province in northeastern Iran is one of the higher risk areas of the world, followed by Mazandaran and Khorasan Provinces.”

Mazandran Province, in which the famous radium and radon spas are located, has the highest incidence of two types of cancer.

(The theory that high levels of background radiation in areas of northern Iran provide “radiation resistence” and “health benefits” does not appear to be supported by the facts. The claimed “genetic benefits” observed may turn out to be pre cancerous changes rather than the claimed preliminary evidence of increased “radiaton resistence” imbued upon the people.)

The following sketch map roughly shows the areas defined as having high levels of radionuclide present in soil. It is based on copyright information given in:

“Relationship of soil terrestrial radionuclide concentrations and the excess of lifetime cancer risk in western Mazandaran Province, Iran Radiat Prot Dosimetry”, 1. M. Abbaspour1, F. Moattar2, A. Okhovatian3 and M. Kharrat Sadeghi2,Radiat Prot Dosimetry (2010) 142(2-4): 265-272 doi:10.1093/rpd/ncq187

iran high


1. M. Abbaspour1,
2. F. Moattar2,
3. A. Okhovatian3 and
4. M. Kharrat Sadeghi2,*


The main goal of this study is to lay out the map of the soil radionuclide activity concentrations and the terrestrial outdoor gamma dose rates in the western Mazandaran Province of Iran, and to present an evaluation scheme. Mazandaran Province was selected due to its special geographical characteristics, high population density and the long terrestrial and aquatic borders with the neighbouring countries possessing nuclear facilities. A total of 54 topsoil samples were collected, ranging from the Nour to Ramsar regions, and were based on geological conditions, vegetation coverage and the sampling standards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The excess lifetime cancer risks (ELCRs) were evaluated and the coordinates of sampling locations were determined by the global positioning system. The average terrestrial outdoor gamma dose rate was 612.38±3707.93 nGy h−1, at 1 m above the ground. The annual effective gamma dose at the western part of Mazandaran Province was 750 μSv, and the ELCR was 0.26×10−2. Soil samples were analysed by gamma spectrometry with a high-purity germanium detector. The average 226Ra, 232Th, 40K and 137Cs activities were 1188.50±7838.40, 64.92±162.26, 545.10±139.42 and 10.41±7.86 Bq kg−1, respectively. The average soil radionuclide concentrations at the western part of Mazandaran Province were higher than the worldwide range. The excess lifetime risks of cancer and the annual effective gamma doses were also higher than the global average.”

end quotes. It is impossible for me to see a beneficial dose, any sign of a protective effect.

The surveys which have been conducted across the five northern provinces of Iran which have measured and documented high background areas stand in contradiction to the following statements:

“The preliminary results of cytogenetical, immunological and hematological studies on the residents of high background radiation areas of Ramsar have been previously reported (Mortazavi et al. 2001, Ghiassi-Nejad et al. 2002 and Mortazavi et al. in press), suggesting that exposure to high levels of natural background radiation can induce radioadaptive response in human cells. Lymphocytes of Ramsar residents when subjected to 1.5 Gy of gamma rays showed fewer induced chromosome aberrations compared to residents in a nearby control area whose lymphocytes were subjected to the same radiation dose. Despite the fact that in in vitro experiments lymphocytes of some individuals show a synergistic effect after pretreatment with a low dose(Mortazavi et al. 2000), none of the residents of high background radiation areas showed such a response. ” Mortazavi.

“Based on results obtained in studies on high background radiation areas of Ramsar, high levels of natural radiation may have some bio-positive effects such as enhancing radiation-resistance. More research is needed to assess if these bio-positive effects have any implication in radiation protection (Mortazavi et al. 2001). The risk from exposure to low-dose radiation has been highly politicized for a variety of reasons. This has led to a frequently exaggerated perception of the potential health effects, and to lasting public controversies.” Mortazavi.

High levels of disease seen in high radiation areas of Iran. The allegedly beneficial changes seen in by Mortazavi et al seem to be, at best, pre-cancerous changes within an increasingly vulnerable population. A number of different surveys, of different types, conducted by both international and national Iranian researchers have found to the contrary in respect to the claims made by Prof. Mortazavi.

Toros Energy and BHP Billiton know the facts very well. So Erica Smith, the MediCal Geologist from Toros Energy, is perplexing in her statements, which fly in the face of reality.

Errors, delusions and lies.

2 Responses to “BHP’s Uranium Fiefdom By Jim Green”

  1. CaptD Says:

    Salute to Jim Green!

    Great article!
    Liked and Tweeted…

  2. Willostick Says:

    Great article thanks for posting I thought it was particularly interesting when you talked about he annual effective gamma doses.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: