Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Kimberley coast, part 2 - the James Price Point story

When I was in the Kimberley recently, I finished reading Listening to country by Ros Moriarty, a beautifully honest book about her experiences in the culture of her husband John, a Yanyuwa man from Central Australia. Every chapter starts with a Yanyuwa quote, and I particularly like this one:

Kimberley sunset, Broome
"Purpose - listening to country, seeing how things are when the mind is freed up. When the stillness washes over my spirit, then I can see where to go."

Isn't that the best way to travel? To try to see things as they are and find inspiration in terms of how to live, be useful, and respect the land, the sea, all beings, each other. 

In the interests of being useful, and truth-seeking, this post is dedicated to the pristine Kimberley coast, in all its glory and vulnerability - because it's increasingly being threatened by mining interests, particularly the proposed $40 billion gas hub at James Price Point, 40km north of Broome. 

James Price Point, pic by
Jenita Enevoldsen
We saw the site on the first day of our Kimberley cruise (see my previous post); between our boat and the coastal cliffs, dozens of humpback whales and their calves breached, tail-slapped and generally frolicked. This area has the world's largest population of humpbacks, in fact. For now, at least.

What's being proposed?
The "gas hub", aka Woodside's Browse LNG Development, is a 30-square-kilometre refinery that will be the largest LNG (liquefied natural gas) precinct in Australia, the second largest in the world. It will process up to 50 million tonnes of LNG a year, extracted offshore at the Browse gas fields. Between 1500 and 6000 supertankers and refinery service vessels will ply the waters around the point every year. Up to 8000 workers will live in the area. 

Protestors atop drill rigs, Wilderness
Society pic by Damian Kelly
What’s the problem?
It's more than just the construction of a massive port and industrial site and seabed dredging in the middle of this humpback highway. And it's not because "all mining is bad" (we surely need some). 

Here are 10 reasons the JPP gas project mustn't go ahead, based on an 8000-page environmental impact assessment by the WA government and summarised by The Wilderness Society:

1. More than 3000 hectares of land will be cleared - including 132 hectares of rare Monsoon vine thicket with a further 440 hectares at risk due to draw-down of groundwater aquifers by the project
2. “Permanent removal” of 1.5 kilometres of coastline at James Price Point, with a further one kilometre “disturbed” for pipeline corridors
3. Significant Goolarabooloo cultural sites within the construction zone

4. Up to 30 billion litres a year of industrial waste water and brine dumped into the ocean off James Price Point
5. A concrete and rock breakwater extending up to 7 kilometres out to sea and cutting across the ‘Kimberley humpback whale highway’
6. Creation of a 52 square kilometre ‘dead zone’(in a pristine marine environment) - from dredging, dredge ‘spoil’ dumps and other port works
7. Up to 14 pipelines (from gas field to gas hub and from hub to marine environment) which, along with other port infrastructure, will directly affect the newly heritage-listed dinosaur trackways
8. Up to 2,700 shipping movements per year – in an area of ‘critical habitat’ for calving humpback whales, four species of dolphins, turtles and dugong

9. Up to 39 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, five per cent of Australia's total emissions and a 50 per cent increase on WA’s current annual emissions
10. Up to 66,000 tonnes per annum of other noxious and carcinogenic gas emissions, e.g. volatile organic compounds and B-Tex (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes). 

The solution
Enjoying the glory
But the main reason environmentalists and locals are against the JPP gas hub is that there is an alternative. Rather than building a new industrial port and gas refinery on this precious site, gas sourced offshore can be piped to existing facilities in the Pilbara for processing. 

Federal Environment minister Tony Burke will have the final say, sometime in 2013. Until then, follow the campaign at Environs Kimberley, tweet it, facebook it, donate to it, talk about it. The Kimberley needs us.