South Australia is anticipating an precedented boom in mining activity in the coming decade, spearheaded by the massive Olympic Dam mine expansion. From an environmental standpoint, massive mining activity equates to massive impacts. The Olympic Dam mine alone will, if approved by operator BHP Billiton’s board in mid-2012, become the world’s largest open pit mine, with an estimated total life of a century. Principally a copper mine, the ore body also holds the largest known deposit of uranium, the fuel required to drive the world’s nuclear power plants. Overshadowed by Olympic Dam’s elephantism are an additional 30 billion dollars worth of smaller mining projects at varying stages of development, peppered all over the state.
Unlike its western neighbours, South Australia currently lacks the infrastructure to adequately support the incoming boom, and in response, development proposals are popping up left, right and centre. Perhaps the greatest noted absence for regional SA, is that of a deep-water bulk commodities port suitable for the mass export of minerals. State Government, rather than taking a leadership position and spearheading the development of a single, optimal deep-water port, are encouraging industry to come forward with the answers.
The result is likely to be a distributed and cumulative impact, with port developments and expansions proposed at numerous sites around our magnificent South Australian coast. Put simply, increased shipping increases the risk of introducing feral marine pests to the area, along with marine pollutants and potential shipping accidents. Port Bonython (near Whyalla on the Point Lowly peninsula) currently services the needs of Santos, and their Gas Fractionation Plant on the Point Lowly peninsula. Irrespective of the peninsula’s proximity to critical fish nurseries (which include the only known mass breeding site for the iconic Giant Australian Cuttlefish) plans are in place to degrade and sacrifice the area’s social and environmental values. An expansion of the port has been proposed, and a variety of petro-chemical, desalination and heavy industrial operations are looking to move in. You can see the state of affairs in the video episode below.
Port Spencer is a different kettle of fish, or more aptly, marine birds. The proposed port site repurposes land previously used for agriculture, immediately north of Lipson Cove. Less than a kilometre to the south of the port site sits Lipson Island, an 8 hectare conservation park established for the protection of bird rookeries, which include Fairy Penguins, Black-faced Cormorants and Crested Terns. After watching in horror late last year as the freighter Rena broke apart in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, imagining a similar event ruining Spencer Gulf has become all easy. We sincerely hope that proponents Centrex Metals have the compassion and wisdom to seek out an alternative site in a less sensitive area.
Located between Port Neill and Tumby Bay on Eyre Peninsula’s south eastern shore, Lipson Cove (immediately south of the Port Spencer site) is also an exceedingly popular campsite, entertaining a steady flow of tourists and locals who visit to fish, surf, explore and relax. The parallels to Port Bonython are glaring. In both cases, environmental and social values of chosen locations are being casually cast aside by decision makers who live elsewhere. Both projects have recently been granted Major Project Status by the South Australian government.
There is only one Lipson Island, and our penguin colonies, just like our breeding population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish, are already in trouble. These sites should be regarded as sacred, and protected for all time- not jeopardised by foolhardy beaurocrats and miners whose interested are overwhelmingly economic.
If you’re interested making a written submission to the South Australian government in response to either of these developments, we urge you to do so. You can find out more about these projects over at Cuttlefish Country, the website for danimations’ forthcoming documentary film, due for release in May 2012. Formal submissions on Port Spencer close on April 27th.
Nowhere in the world can the chameleons of the sea, the Giant Cuttlefish, be seen aggregating en masse… nowhere that is, except for the shallow waters off Point Lowly, near Whyalla in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf. After first learning of their annual breeding migration back in 2002, Emma and I have been fortunate enough to share their waters over the years on several occasions. We’ve followed their history closely- from nearly being fished into oblivion in the late 1990′s to be sold as bait and pet food, through their emergence as an eco-tourism attraction in the mid-naughties and the establishment of a ‘no take’ sactuary zone. Tension around the animal’s turf has never been greater than now though. Numbers of cuttlefish successfully reaching the breeding grounds have plummetted to one quarter of the previous year’s numbers, with no clear explanation. Add to this a formidable series of proposed industrial developments, each threatening to disturb and alter their habitat with the promise of effluent, altered salinity and noise pollution. While industry appears to understate the risks, even short-term damage to their habitat could cripple the already struggling population of Giant Cuttlefish, and bear unknown consequences on the wider ecology. Did you know they are a favoured food of the local dolphin pod among other creatures?
The concern among communities along the Spencer Gulf has been sufficient to raise serious, organised and scientific opposition from prawn and oyster farmers, conservation groups and others, supported by a variety of expert oceanographers, marine biologists and passionate politicians. We have taken it upon ourselves to act, and will be interviewing subjects as of July 28th, and releasing each condensed interview via our NatureScope online video channel. As the story unfolds we will then compile and extend the work, adding animation, extra footage and detail for release in October as the documentary film, working title ‘Cuttlefish Country’.
There are already many ways you can contribute to the cause of protecting this marine wonder. Start by sharing the above video with your friends and colleagues. Share it on Facebook. Tweet about it (and don’t forget the hashtags). Show your teachers… heck, show it at your school assembly. Write to the State Premier and Minister for the Environment. For more immediate detail, visit Cuttlefish Country website, and start asking questions. Who owns the right to pollute or disturb our coast and oceans? How do we band together to defend them?
We’d love to hear what you have to say about the Giant Australian Cuttlefish and this current state of affairs… comment passionately and prodigiously.. with enough public objection and outrage, surely anything is possible!
NatureScope Video: Koala, Western Grey Kangaroo, Common Brown Butterfly, Marbled Xenica & Australian Painted Lady Butterflies
Here it is folks, the first episode of NatureScope’s new online documentary video channel! This video is edited from an afternoon hike spent at Mark Oliphant Conservation Park at Upper Sturt, in the Lower Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia. Shot on a warm Summer’s afternoon in January 2011, the tall forest canopy entertained a variety of birds while my photographic features were a sleeping koala, three species of bush butterflies and a curious Western Grey Kangaroo. The online video channel, which will feature prominently on Youtube.com will have an open format approach to content relating to the observation and conservation of nature. Location-based episodes like this will be the mainstay however, and you can expect future hike videos representing a wide variety of Australian wilderness habitats. Marine locations will also feature, including rocky reefs and a few other surprises. I hope you enjoy the video below, and if you do, please take a moment to share it with your friends and fellow nature-lovers… be they on Facebook, Twitter or across the room.