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Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 3 Jun 2010

Senator LUDLAM-You might want to take this on notice. I have been sent a paper by a geophysicist who is investigating a link between very large open pit mines and seismic activity-the super pit being one example and the Newcastle earthquake another and so on. Has Geoscience done any recent research into that area and can you provide us with a backgrounder or table any research on induced earthquakes around large open pits?

Dr Pigram-No.

Senator LUDLAM-No to everything?

Dr Pigram-We have not done any research in the research between open pit mining and earthquake activity.

Senator LUDLAM-Do you think that is maybe a worthwhile line of inquiry? Concerns have been raised around the Olympic Dam open pit as well. A fault runs right through where the mine void will be. I wonder whether that is something that you are interested in.

Dr Pigram-It is not part of our work program, but I am happy to take it on notice.

Senator LUDLAM-I am not allowed to put something onto your work program, am I?

Dr Pigram-If you put some dollars in anything is possible!

Senator LUDLAM-Okay.

Dr Pigram-Sorry, I should withdraw that!

Mr Clarke-We have noted your interest in research in that area.

Senator LUDLAM-Thank you. If anything comes of that, I would be interested to hear it. Seismogram graphs around the Tenant Creek area are not posted on your website's recent earthquake link. Has there been a lapse in data or in recording from Warramunga seismic array station?

Dr Pigram-Are these recent earthquakes or historical ones?

Senator LUDLAM-Yes, I believe so. Five or six Tennant Creek quakes since October 2009. Most of the graphs are not on your website and you get a message that says, ‘Insufficient data to generate a wave form.' I find that odd given you have an array station not that far away.

Dr Pigram-I will ask Dr Drummond to address that question.

Dr Drummond-The Warramunga Array is operated by the Australian National University, not by Geoscience Australia. We take wave forms from there for the purposes of nuclear monitoring and earthquake detection throughout Australia. We have an application on our website that allows you to plot seismograms. That is currently being redeveloped and, in that redevelopment, we will bring back any traces that have been lost. It is quite possible, in the case of Tennant Creek, that the seismometer within the array that we are using has dropped out, and it would be up to the ANU to fix that.

Senator LUDLAM-When is that site expected to be redeveloped and have that data back up online?

Dr Drummond-The website redevelopment is underway right now and should be up-that element- within the next 12 months.

Senator LUDLAM-Are there other seismic recording stations in that area? I know it is a bit of a hotspot. I think that one of the maps that you published notes Tennant Creek as one of the areas.

Dr Drummond-We operate a national network, where the distance between stations is typically 300 to 400 kilometres, for the purposes of detecting earthquakes above about magnitude 3½ throughout Australia. So we do not have the capacity throughout Australia to go below that magnitude everywhere.

Senator LUDLAM-But below three is not even really perceptible to a human being at the surface, is it?

Dr Drummond-You would feel it but it would not break anything.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you provide us, within reason-so not every tiny little tremor-with an earthquake or tremor summary for the Tennant Creek area for the past 25 years or so? How difficult would that be to produce?

Dr Drummond-You would be able to do that by simply querying the earthquakes on our website by putting in a latitude-longitude range, and it would return to you all of the earthquakes that we have recorded and noted in our system.

Senator LUDLAM-All right, but the reason I am asking this is that recent data, at least, has not been returned to the website. So there have been a couple of moderately serious quakes in the area for which you do not have the data up online.

Dr Drummond-It is possible that people would feel earthquakes but we would not record them.

Senator LUDLAM-I mean ones that made the news.

Dr Drummond-It is quite possible that people would feel them, and they would be reported in the news, but we would not record them on sufficient stations to be able to get an accurate location and magnitude. You need to record them on at least three to four stations to get an accurate location and magnitude.

Senator LUDLAM-So do we have to wait 12 months for that site to be redeveloped before I would be able to obtain the sorts of records that I am asking for?

Dr Drummond-You can get that information, that table of earthquakes, now. It is the ‘Plot a seismogram' that is being redeveloped.

Senator LUDLAM-Finally, I want to ask you briefly about the ISL best practice guide, which I have here: Australia's National In Situ Leach Uranium Mining Best Practice Guide. Can you just tell us when this was commissioned and how much it cost to produce.

Mr Clarke-I think that is a matter for the department rather than for Geoscience Australia.

Senator LUDLAM-Okay. Your name is on the front cover, so-

Mr Clarke-But it is for the department; we will respond to your question.

Senator LUDLAM-All right; that is fine. It looks like there are actually four agencies listed here; can you just quickly sketch for us what Geoscience's role was in the production of the report.

Dr Pigram-Sure. We would have provided the geoscience component of the report. We have people who are expert in uranium mining, and in situ leach mining in particular, and we provide advice to the department in relation to those practices, both within Australia and through monitoring what happens globally. So we would have provided to the department the geoscience component of that report.

Senator LUDLAM-So you were not actually the lead agency responsible for the publication of that report?

Dr Pigram-I think we were.

Senator LUDLAM-You were?

Mr Hartwell-But Geoscience Australia was the lead agency.

Senator LUDLAM-Then I guess that is probably appropriate. Has it been peer reviewed?

Mr Hartwell-The report was prepared in consultation with a wide range of interested stakeholders, including the industry and a number of people with research capacity in this area. It was coordinated by Geoscience Australia, but it had input from a very wide range of people who could bring expertise to the table.

Senator LUDLAM-I have run the clock down and I know there are other folk wanting to come to the table, so, on notice, could you provide for me the names of those independent experts and academics who you drew on, who you mentioned there?

Mr Hartwell-Sure.

Senator LUDLAM-That would be much appreciated.



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