Councillor Steve Brown states the proposed Titjikala “salt mine presents …

Comment on Salt mine: Alice needs to grasp a major opportunity by Alex Nelson.

Councillor Steve Brown states the proposed Titjikala “salt mine presents a fantastic opportunity for our community” but to my mind his comment piece suggests the Tellus Holdings presentation to the town council has overtones of an ultimatum to Alice Springs.
There are legitimate questions to be raised about the demand for a sealed 120km road from Alice Springs to the mine site to be paid for by taxpayers.
What immediately springs to my mind is why the same conditions haven’t applied to the massive gold mining operations to the northwest of Alice Springs that have been operating since the mid 1980s.
Surely by now there has been sufficient revenue generated from those mines to offset the cost of sealing the Tanami Road?
This was first called for by the new Member for Stuart, Tony Greatorex, as long ago as 1966, yet to this day the often shocking state of this potentially significant highway route to northwest WA is a perennial topic of debate in the media.
By contrast we have the Tableland and Carpentaria Highways (from the Barkly and Stuart Highways respectively) that converge towards Borroloola which were sealed by the Commonwealth in 1967.
This was done in part to assist the development of the massive McArthur River mine site which at the time was intended to include a new port town based on Centre Island with a population of 10,000 (to put that in perspective, the population of Alice Springs at the time was about 7,000).
However, the development of the McArthur River mine was postponed and didn’t proceed until 1995, becoming a FIFO operation and (as things currently stand) will leave little in improvements for the Gulf Region once the mining operation there eventually ends.
But it will almost certainly be leaving a significant environmental legacy to manage inevitably at great expense to the taxpayer.
For any mining operation, either current or prospective, we all need to start seeing a great deal more in return otherwise we’re just allowing ourselves and the country to be ripped off.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Salt mine: Alice needs to grasp a major opportunity
My thanks to Tellus Managing Director, Duncan van der Merwe, for his comprehensive reply to comments and concerns expressed on this article; and also to Councillor Steve Brown whose letter to Alice Springs News Online seems to have done more to bring this project to public attention than has occurred before.
There’s a lot of information to take note of here and only limited time left for public comment on the draft EIS.
It is a pleasant change to see the public’s right to know acknowledged rather than the hitherto usual modus operandi of business and government operating on the basis of what they consider to be the public’s need to know.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Inquiry into fracking: Giving it the green light?
@ Hal Duell (Posted December 15, 2017 at 10:56 am): There have been several proposals and experimental projects for tapping into tidal power around Australia, including the northern coastline.
In the mid 1990s experimental work for harnessing tidal power in the Apsley Strait (which divides Melville and Bathurst Islands of the Tiwi islands) was conducted in a joint project by the Northern Territory University (now CDU) and the Power and Water Authority. Nothing seems to have come of it.
If I recall correctly, the Member for Nelson, Gerry Wood, suggested more recently that Apsley Strait (which is directly north of Darwin) be investigated for harnessing tidal power.
It does seem to be an obvious location for such a facility.


Inquiry into fracking: Giving it the green light?
The release of the draft final report of the inquiry into unconventional onshore fracking in the NT comes just two days after the 50th anniversary of Project Gasbuggy in New Mexico, USA.
On December 10, 1967, the US Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 29 kiloton underground nuclear explosion to test this method for fracking for natural gas.
It was the first of three such tests conducted in the US which was a part of a wider program (called Operation Plowshare) to find civil engineering uses for atom bombs.
Project Gasbuggy was of direct relevance to Central Australia because great expectations were held of this method for potential use in the new Mereenie gas field.
In fact, Magellan Petroleum had already applied to the US and Australian Atomic Energy Commissions for a licence to conduct nuclear fracking in The Centre.
Hopes were dashed when the gas extracted from the test sites consistently proved too contaminated with radioactive particles to be safely used; and the new method of hydraulic fracturing helped bring to an end the research program of Operation Plowshare in the mid 1970s.
Of course, it is unconventional onshore hydraulic fracking that now lies at the heart of the current controversy.


Keith Lawrie Flats – people have had enough!
The Keith Lawrie Flats came under pressure for demolition in February 2004 from neighbouring residents and then Member for Araluen, Jodeen Carney. This story was part of a feature report about the problem of petrol sniffing in Alice Springs.
The Minister for Housing, John Ah Kit, stated the NT Government had no intention of demolishing existing public housing stock, and in March 2004 announced this block of flats would be a part of the government’s multi-million dollar “urban renewal program.”
I was suspicious of the initial report about the Keith Lawrie Flats as it was only three years after the former CLP government had announced its intention to demolish the Cawood Court complex and replace it with house blocks and a retirement village.
The effect of this approach was obvious – it would reduce the quantity of available housing in town at a time of existing short supply and so contribute to driving up the price of real estate.
The CLP lost office before this could happen, and in late 2001 the new Labor government (specifically Housing Minister Kon Vatskalis) reversed that decision in favour of the CLP’s former practice of selling rundown public housing to developers to refurbish the flats and release them for private ownership. Consequently the Cawood Court complex became the City Edge Apartments and sold rapidly when released for sale.
I had a few letters published in the Centralian Advocate (and got some haughty responses) early in 2004 about this matter. The Keith Lawrie Flats were later shut down for quite some time. I took photos of the abandoned complex about January 2006, by that time over-run with weeds.
Later that year the units were reduced in number from 32 to 22, were extensively renovated and (as I recall) were to be closely monitored and controlled to avoid the problems that afflicted them previously.
The stories I have on file about this don’t reveal the public expense involved but sadly it’s apparently entirely wasted as this complex has reportedly reverted to slum conditions again, effectively within a decade.
At least some of the blame for this must accrue to the previous Country Liberals government because the flats surely can’t have declined so precipitously in just the one year of the current government.
In 2004 I suggested the Keith Lawrie Flats should be sold, renovated and released for private sale. The Housing Minister, John Ah Kit, wrote to me saying the government was reluctant to do this because of the adverse impact on waiting times for public housing.
Given the return of the anti-social behaviour at the Keith Lawrie Flats and other complexes, maybe the NT Government just has to bite the bullet on this one and offload these properties for sale.


Pollution? High fliers get it easy.
While it’s preferable that dumping of fuel in the sky is undesirable for a range of reasons, this incident is small beer compared to the overall impact of aviation emissions in the atmosphere and its substantial well-documented contribution towards climate change.
This is clearly evident from the DIRD’s statistics quoted above – if 0.01 per cent of “of fuel used by the aviation industry each year is released into the atmosphere” through dumping then the obverse suggests up to 99.99 per cent of aviation fuel is eventally combusted and emitted as various greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides (which generate ozone at lower height levels), water vapour and other contaminants, all of which contribute to atmospheric warming.
Some more information is provided by DIRD on its web page “Aviation Emissions – Managing the carbon footprint of Australian aviation”.(https://infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/environmental/emissions/).
Another website (https://www.quora.com/) provided some interesting answers in 2015 on the question “What is the impact of dumping fuel by aircraft in the atmosphere?”
One answer states that vaporised dumped aviation fuel contributes to “emissions of atmospheric pollutants such as benzene  and ground-level ozone” but another contributor vividly points out that “it’s a fart in a hurricane compared to all of the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere” and “focusing efforts on fuel dumping would be akin to checking the pedicure on a gunshot victim.”
Others point out that vapours from fuel spills by motorists at petrol stations in total far outweigh the effect of air pollution from aviation fuel dumping.


Pay up, and you’ll make the news, inquiry is told
Manipulation of public opinion by the mainstream media in the Northern Territory is a time-honoured practice that dates back more than quarter of a century, and possibly further.
I awoke to this in the NT election campaign of August 1997 when a Murdoch-owned newspaper published on the day before the election a front page story warning that the vote was too close to call.
This was patent rubbish but it triggered a vague recollection that I’d seen something similar before; and as I’d been heavily involved in the two previous NT election campaigns I checked the back copies I’d filed away.
Sure enough, the same trick had been played with both front page stories and editorials published one day prior to the election days of June 4, 1994 and October 26, 1990, warning of the closeness of the polls. The technique was employed in Alice Springs and worked in favour of the ruling party.
The method wasn’t used in 2001; instead the election campaign began with a front page story stating the CLP was a red hot favourite to win – no prizes for guessing what happened on August 18 that year!
It was this pattern of reporting during the 1990s that alerted me to the value of the (literally) paper trail that has been laid by print media in the NT over the decades.


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