Tag: Broken Hill

Anti-nuclear campaigners sceptical of plan to reopen mothballed uranium mine

Broken Hill 2880

The company behind a proposal to restart uranium mining in north-east South Australia says it would be ready to begin production within a year if prices improve.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has cast doubt on the likelihood of that occurring, arguing the market is moving away from uranium.

Key points:

  • Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence but has been mothballed since 2013
  • New owner Boss Resources says technology will help it lower operational costs and will reopen the mine once uranium prices improve
  • Anti-nuclear campaigners doubt the mine’s prospects, saying significant uranium producers have been deferring or halting development

The Honeymoon uranium mine was mothballed in 2013 because it had become too expensive to run.

But in 2015, the mine, which is about 80 kilometres north-west of Broken Hill, was purchased by WA exploration company Boss Resources.

Boss chief executive Duncan Craib said the company had developed new technology to lower operational costs and had finalised a feasibility study.

He said the mine would reopen once uranium prices improved, which he was expecting to happen soon.

“We don’t want to destroy the resource at low uranium prices, so we’d like an uptick in the market before proceeding,” Mr Craib said.

“The demand [for uranium] is outstripping supply, so it’s inevitable that prices will rise. When the price does rise, we lock into a contract and start straight away.”


The benchmark market for uranium in 2019 measured in US dollars per pound. (Supplied: TradingEconomics.com)

Honeymoon is one of only four Australian uranium mines with an export licence.

However, Mr Craib said uranium was under-utilised in Australia and he would like to see a domestic uptake of nuclear power.

“It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s certainly a very positive carbon-free means of producing power and it should be part of any energy mix,” he said.

“Australia has a third of the world’s resource of uranium, yet we turn our backs on nuclear. I think it needs to be readdressed.”

He said the mine would generate between 80 and 100 jobs, and that he wanted to use as many workers from the area as possible.


Officials in Broken Hill are pleased by promises the mine will employ local people. (Supplied: Boss Resources)

Optimism baseless, campaigner says

Anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney from the ACF said he believed the announcement was without substance.

“There is nothing new in their statement,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a holding-pattern statement from a mining company with not a lot of resources, not a lot of projects, that are trying to continue to hold a place in the market, where the market is increasingly in freefall.

“Obviously, Boss is going to say the uranium price is going to soar — they’re a uranium miner.

“We’ve got major producers in this country … We’ve got a third of the world’s uranium and we’re not digging much, and that is because the price is not there.

Mr Sweeney said significant producers were deferring or halting development.

“Rio Tinto, a massive mining company, is exiting at the Ranger mine in Kakadu,” he said.

“Cameco, the world’s largest dedicated uranium producer, has written down an asset that it spent $500 million on a decade ago in WA, and says that the best way to preserve the value of uranium is to keep it in the ground.”


Mining at the Ranger uranium mine in Pit 3 ceased in 2012. (ABC Rural: Carl Curtain)

Council welcomes job prospects

Broken Hill councillor Marion Browne welcomed Boss’s assurance it would hire locally.

“Anything that promises employment has got to be something that we look at positively,” Cr Browne said.

Despite efforts to diversify its economy, Broken Hill is still reliant on mining and its population has been in chronic decline for decades.

“Everyone’s aware that without employment … we won’t increase our population or even keep our population stable at the level that it is,” Cr Browne said.

She said although there had been anti-nuclear sentiment among locals in the past, the general response would be welcoming.

“[Broken Hill] was established as a mining community around the mine, so I think there’s always interest in seeing new mines and employment generated by new mines.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Recycling when there are no yellow-lidded bins in sight

Broken Hill 2880

Recycling requires more motivation in the outback, where there is not a yellow-lidded bin in sight.

Key points:

  • Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not widely available across remote and regional Australia
  • Plans to introduce recycling bins in Broken Hill had been stalled due to “significant” costs
  • Some people travel 500kms across the border to visit a Broken Hill bottle yard to claim 10 cents a can

If you want to recycle in Broken Hill, you have to make a trip to the local bottle yard or drive to the tip at the edge of town and sort glass, cans, plastics and paper into separate skip bins.

For some, a recycling trip to the tip is a weekly routine, but the council’s general manager, James Roncon, said the town still had “a way to go”.

“There’s probably not a strong recycling culture in Broken Hill; certainly not as strong as we would like it to be,” he said.

Cost of kerbside recycling an obstacle

Kerbside waste collection and recycling services are not available in a significant number of communities in remote and regional Australia.


Residents of Broken Hill can take their recycling to the tip and separate the items into bins. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

According to a 2018 report by the Department of Environment and Energy, 91 per cent of Australian households had access to a kerbside recycling collection.

But 123 local government areas (LGAs)— almost a quarter of the total number of LGAs across Australia — offered no collection or recycling service at all.

Each household in Broken Hill has a green waste bin that is collected with the contents added to local landfill as a cover to suppress dust.

Mr Roncon said kerbside recycling for containers, paper and cardboard was something Broken Hill locals would “love to see” but it would come at a “significant” cost, so plans to introduce recycling bins and collection services for the town had been stalled.

“The people that are proactive about wanting to see kerbside recycling become less enthusiastic when you ask them if they are prepared to pay for it,” Mr Roncon said.

Recycling for cash


Adrian Channing took over the bottle yard from his father. He says there are 13,000 crushed cans in each bundle. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

After 35 years running the local bottle yard in Broken Hill, Adrian Channing said he knows most of his customers by name.

“It varies — I’ve got people on the old-age pension, I’ve got some P-platers in the yard,” he said.

“It’s not just one particular demographic of person that does it. Everybody does it.”

Some customers travel long distances to earn their 10 cents a can.


The crushed cans and smashed glass are carted away by a local freight company to recycling centres in Adelaide. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

Mr Channing said he sees people who journey almost 500 kilometres south from the Queensland border to deliver their recycling to his bottle yard.

“Our average amount of cans or bottles per customer is about 600 units,” he said.

He said the “only way” to encourage people to recycle was by offering a financial incentive.

Before the NSW Government-run ‘Return and Earn’ scheme was introduced in December 2017, he was processing less than half the number of items he is now.

“Money’s hard to come by nowadays I suppose. Everyone’s doing it a bit hard, so any money they can put in their pockets is a good thing,” he said.

Recycling creates jobs in rural town

The nearest town to the east of Broken Hill is Wilcannia. There is little between them but a seemingly never-ending desert-scape either side of a lonely 200-kilometre stretch of highway.

Before Wilcannia had its own recycling facility, some locals would drive out to Broken Hill with their cans and bottles.


Kevin Cattermole holding a poster he designed about Wilcannia’s Return and Earn scheme. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)

“It was an inconvenience, really,” said Kevin Cattermole, who oversees Wilcannia’s Return and Earn shop.

The Wilcannia recycling shop was opened as part of the Aboriginal Communities Waste Management Program — run with the NSW Local Aboriginal Land Councils and funded for four years through the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health.

Mr Cattermole said the positive impacts of having a recycling station in town were many.

The streets are cleaner, children have a chance to earn pocket money, and new jobs have been created for locals.

“It’s a couple of days’ employment for the boys … and that keeps them out of trouble and [they earn] a couple of extra dollars for themselves,” Mr Cattermole said.

Senior project officer Tash Morton said the next phase of the waste-management program was building a local recycling facility for plastics.

They will build a machine that shreds plastics so they can be made into new products, like mobile phone cases, tiles, pots, and reusable cups.


Tash Morton speaking to school children visiting her recycling stall at the Wilcannia careers fair. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)

But for now, Ms Morton said “everything was ending up in landfill”.

“All these great resources that could be recycled are so far from recycling centres that it’s not economical for these councils to collect them,” she said.

“In towns like this, it’s about what can we do to process the waste here.”

She said her role was to support locals to get their own sustainability initiatives off the ground and to run workshops about waste at the local school.

“The ultimate aim would be a cleaner Wilcannia and the kids growing up in a town knowing that waste is a resource and they can keep it out of landfill and reuse it,” Ms Morton said.

Learning recycling habits early in life

Preschool teacher Katie Bassett-White is encouraging a stronger culture of recycling in Broken Hill by teaching the town’s youngest residents to be mindful of how they dispose of their rubbish.

The children at Alma Bugdlie preschool collect cans that they exchange for money to buy stationery.


Jarrah, Zhandar and Avril are learning how to recycle with their teacher, Katie Bassett-White. (ABC Rural: Saskia Mabin)

There are at least 10 small wheelie bins dotted around the school with different coloured lids to indicate what should go in each of them.

“We like to make it as easy as possible for the recycling to happen,” Ms Bassett-White said.

“The visual reminder of having a bin close by helps to encourage the environmental responsibility.”

Recycling may take more effort in a place like Broken Hill, but she said that did not make it impossible.

“I know it would be a lot easier if there were the bins that they have back on the coast, but we don’t have that so it’s just a different sort of planning, that’s all,” she said.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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