People Win Major Victory against Uranium Mining Corporation in Australia
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.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.
- 10 Little-Known Shark Facts - EcoWatch ›
- 4 New Walking Shark Species Discovered - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark - EcoWatch ›
FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.
- Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars? - EcoWatch ›
- Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High Despite Lockdowns, UN ... ›
- 1.8 Billion Tons More Greenhouse Gases Will Be Released, Thanks ... ›