Quantcast

People Win Major Victory against Uranium Mining Corporation in Australia

Energy

Intercontinental Cry

By John Ahniwanika Schertow

There was a major victory this week in the struggle to protect the Koongarra uranium deposit in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The Northern Land Council, which represents native title claimants in the Arnhem Land region of Northern Territory, announced its decision to extend the boundaries of the world-heritage-listed Kakadu National Park to include the 1,200 hectare uranium deposit.

When the National Park was founded in 1979, the Australian government decided to leave Koongarra out, clearly recognizing the potential market value of the deposit. Located in the heart of Kakadu, the deposit is estimated to hold 14,540 tonnes of uranium ore worth approximately $5 billion.

In 1995, the Koongarra deposit was acquired by the French company AREVA, who has tried several times over the years to access the deposit. Fortunately, they have been blocked every time by traditional owners.

AREVA’s last big effort focused on whetting the appetite of the current Custodian of Koongarra and the sole survivor of the Djok clan (Gundjeihmi), Mr. Jeffrey Lee.

In 2007, the company told Mr. Lee–who was born the same year the massive uranium deposit was identified, in 1971–that he could be one of the richest men in the world. All he had to do was say 'yes.'

He said 'no.'

Rather than sacrifice the land, Mr. Lee decided to speak out against uranium mining and began his effort to bring Koongarra into Kakadu Park, where, he said at the time, “it will be protected and safe forever."

More recently, in 2011, the French company tried to stop UNESCO from inscribing Koongarra on the World Heritage List. The effort backfired. On June 27, 2011, the World Heritage Committee announced that it would redraw Kakadu’s borders to include Koongarra.

At this point, it’s still not clear if AREVA will try to reverse the Northern Land Council’s decision.

The Mirarr Peoples, meanwhile, continue to look for the day when the nearby Jabiluka uranium deposit will be similarly protected.

They too, have received offers to become billionaires’ and they too, have said no, that the uranium should remain undisturbed.

Last year, in the weeks leading up to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) decision on Koongarra, Mirarr Elder Yvonne Margarula, in a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, stated:

For many thousands of years we Aboriginal people of Kakadu have respected sacred sites where special and dangerous power resides. We call these places and this power Ojang. There is Ojang associated with both the Ranger mine area and the site of the proposed Jabiluka mine. We believe and have always believed that when this Ojang is disturbed a great and dangerous power is unleashed upon the entire world. My father warned the Australian Government about this in the 1970s, but no one in positions of power listened to him. We hope that people such as yourself will listen, and act, today.

The respected Elder was lamenting the fact that her father’s warning became brutal truth soon after the Thoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Indeed, uranium from the Ranger uranium mine–also excised from Kakadu Park–can be traced directly to Fukushima.

It’s the nature of Ojang. If left undisturbed, protected by surrounding minerals, it keeps to itself. But once it is exhumed, then it waits for an opportunity, whether it’s a tsunami or a careless gesture by an underpaid employee. It doesn’t matter what it is, Ojang will seize it. And the consequences will be dire.

It must be left in the ground.

Visit EcoWatch's NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
Sponsored
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More
Protesters attend a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court held by the group Our Children's Trust Oct. 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. The group and the plaintiffs have vowed to keep fighting and to ask the full Ninth Circuit to review Friday's decision to toss the lawsuit. Win McNamee / Getty Images

An appeals court tossed out the landmark youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States Friday, arguing that the courts are not the place to resolve the climate crisis.

Read More
The land around Red Knoll near Kanab, UT that could have been razed for a frac sand mine. Tara Lohan

By Tara Lohan

A sign at the north end of Kanab, Utah, proclaims the town of 4,300 to be "The Greatest Earth on Show."

Read More