Port Kembla Copper Smelter Pollution Fiasco – Could the Same Thing Happen on the Nature Coast?

The following summary was sourced from a number of articles in the Illawarra Mercury 6, 8 and 9 April 2002.
To obtain full articles go to www.smh.com.au/newsstore/ and type in “copper”. Articles are $1 each – you need to buy tokens.
Many promises were made to the community when the Carr Government gave the go-ahead for the re-opening of the copper smelter at Port Kembla. In 1997 the Carr Government passed special planning legislation, short-circuiting a legal challenge to the new smelter.

A vocal supporter, Mr Carr promised “the most advanced, environmentally friendly technology” when he turned the first sod on the site in 1998 – and blew kisses at protesters.

The key promise was that the $350 million state-of-the-art technology installed at the site by Port Kembla Copper would meet the stringent environmental conditions placed on its operations.

Re-opening the smelter was controversial, but it was the promises of what the world benchmark environmental controls would achieve that finally brought about a trade-off between the needs of industry and the expectations of the community.

Port Kembla Copper’s fifth – and most serious – breach of its licence on March 7 has reignited the debate over its future. The company has apologised for the brown spotting incident, but residents living in the shadow of the smelter have had enough.

Premier Bob Carr has ordered an urgent meeting between Port Kembla Copper and the state’s highest-ranking environment bureaucrat.

A spokesman for the Premier said court action would be taken if pollution problems were not resolved.

The comments follow the worst recorded case of brown spotting and 25 sulphur dioxide exceedences at the plant this year.

The Premier has called for intervention from the EPA director-general.

Environment Minister Bob Debus labelled the brown spotting incident “particularly disappointing”.

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