World Wetlands Day test for BHP Billiton

ACF chose 2 February, World Wetlands Day, to deliver thousands of postcards to BHP Billiton's head office in Melbourne.

The postcards, from ACF members and supporters, expressed concern that the company's plans to expand the Roxby Downs uranium mine in outback South Australia could have a devastating impact on the Great Artesian Basin's fragile desert wetland springs.

The mine already takes 33 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin. This could increase to more than 150 million litres a day under the company's proposed expansion.

The postcards call on the Big Australian to protect the desert springs and give up the outdated legal privileges that give the mine owner exemptions from a range of environmental laws, standards and due process.

BHP Billiton's claim of an "overriding commitment to environmental responsibility" will be measured on how it responds to this challenge.

"The Big Australian has a chance to deliver on its claim of being an environmentally responsible company," ACF anti-nuclear campaigner David Noonan said.

"BHP Billiton must give up on its plans for a five-fold increase in extraction of water from the Great Artesian Basin and come out from behind unacceptable legal privileges."

A Monash University scientists who has studied the desert wetlands also voiced concerns.

"The proposed water demand for BHP Billiton's Roxby expansion is unprecedented for the Great Artesian Basin and presents a major long-term threat to the viability of flows to the unique GAB springs" said hydrogeologist Dr Gavin Mudd.

"There is no conceivable configuration of extraction from the GAB that could meet the intended water demand for the proposed Roxby expansion without major long-term risks to the fragile ecology of the GAB springs."

David Noonan delivered the boxes of postcards accompanied by three figures decked out in white full-body radiation suits - protection against radioactive uranium - and carrying a super-sized postcard.