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Orica (company) v. Botany (community), Australia


Australia’s biggest chemical manufacturer, Orica (formerly ICI Australia), started chlorine production at Botany Industrial Park in 1942. Soil and groundwater contamination ensued due to poor practices especially into the 1980s, e.g. elemental mercury was used in chlor-alkali processing 1944–2002. Stricter government regulations since have not addressed issues of persistent organic pollutants, specifically storage of manufacturing waste by-products, including possibly the world's largest storage of hazardous hexachlorobenzene (HCB) — 15,000 tonnes, (9,000 tonnes of concentrate) (1) (4). For decades the stored HCB has accumulated as it is re-stored. HCB is a carcinogen, can impact on immune and central nervous systems, and accumulates in blood and breast milk (4).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Orica (company) v. Botany (community), Australia
State or province:New South Wales
Location of conflict:Botany — directly east of Sydney Airport, and 11km south of Sydney CBD
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Chemical industries
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 15,000 tonnes of hazardous HCB material includes 9,000 tonnes of concentrated HCB with the rest of 'lower level' toxicity. The differentiation relates partly to the need to secure all eroded containers and equipment and any other materials contaminated by the HCBs with the hard core: storage management is crucial and continuously tested because HCB corrodes readily.

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Project area:>1ha
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectDuring 2010 to 2013 Orica's annual capital expenditure ranged between around $700,000mn and $800,000mn Statutory net profit after tax 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014 = $602.5M
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Of immediate serious interest to around 40,000 Botany Bay residents
Company names or state enterprises:Orica Australia (Orica) from Australia - Mining, explosive, chemical manufacture
Relevant government actors:New South Wales (NSW) Environment Protection Authority (EPA)
NSW Parliament
Australian Government Department of the Environment (e.g. Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989)
NSW Health and Ministry of Health
WorkCover Authority
Department of Planning and Infrastructure
NSW State Emergency Services (and Fire & Rescue)
City of Botany Bay Council
Randwick City Council
NSW Ministry for Police and Emergency Services
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local campaigners are represented on the Orica Community Participation and Review Committee, Community Liaison Committee and the Botany Industrial Park Community Consultative Committee
Broaders EJOs active in this campaign include: Doctors for the Environment Australia, Friends of the Earth (Australia), the Nature Conservation Council, National Toxics Network, Greenpeace Australia, International POPs Elimination Network, Basel Action Network (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsMercury leaks, chlorination of aquifers and bay
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsHighly urban disadvantaged population adjacent to industrial 'park' and affected by all kinds of activities, including accidents and leaks, hazardous material storage posing perpetual threat to physical and well being.
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
New legislation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:Most Australian and international ENGOs argue that Orica needs to develop its own high temperature incinerator in a safe location to deal with the waste it's accumulating. Orica has been sued for accidents, excesses and damage in various locations in Australia so campaigners focus on the company improving its practices, direct action and demands as well as through enhanced regulation and monitoring.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The residents around the Orica Botany plant are still not safe, the company is remediating soil and water but still has a way to go, the company is failing to take total responsibility for its storage of HCFs. Campaigners and ENGOs will continue to pressure Orica and governments to make the urban environment safer, cleaner and less ecologically damaged. Aside from semi-victories of successfully opposing poor proposals by Orica, improved practices and plans are still pending.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Basel Convention

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Davies, Anne (2014) 'Contamination concerns grow as Botany Bay booms' Sydney Morning Herald (20 June). [2]
[click to view]

Peacock, Matt (2014) 'Tour de France sees protest over toxic waste nobody wants. ABC 7.30 Report (28 July) [4]
[click to view]

Independent Review Panel (2006) Further Independent Review: Orica HCB Waste Stockpile Safe Interim Storage. NSW Department of Planning and Environment
[click to view]

Marianne LLoyd-Smith and Lee Bell (2003) 'Toxic disputes and the rise of environmental justice in Australia', International Journal of Environmental Health 9 (1) (Jan–March): pp. 14–23. [3]

O'Brien, Natalie (2014) Tour De France protest planned over Orica's export of toxic waste Sydney Morning Herald (13 July) [5]
[click to view]

Orica (2014) At A Glance (6pp brochure) Orica Group, East Melbourne (HQ)

Orica (2014) Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) Waste – Export Application (May)
[click to view]

One the NSW EPA pages on Orica's activities [1]
[click to view]

Orica Australia — the company whose practices are the focus of this case of environmental injustice
[click to view]

Other comments:See media pages for photos
Meta information
Contributor:Anitra Nelson, RMIT University Centre for Urban Research: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1705
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