MAC: Mines and Communities

World Heritage sites threatened by mining, says IUCN

Published by MAC on 2011-07-04
Source: Statements, Reuters, BBC News

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) acts as an independent advisory body to UNESCO on its listing of World Heritage sites.

However IUCN's 2002 decision to initiate a "Dialogue"with the mining industry's leading promotional body, ICMM, exposed it to a lot of criticism.

So too has IUCN's involvement in the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) process. This could see areas of important, if moderate, biodiversity, being handed over to mining companies in return for their helping protect sites of higher eco-value. See: London Calling resumes its attack on the "capitalising" of Nature

On 23 June 2011, IUCN  expressed concern about "the rapidly increasing number of cases where World Heritage Sites are threatened by planned mining and oil and gas projects" - especially in Africa.

IUCN said that 24% of the 37 African natural and mixed World Heritage sites, or one in four of them is currently under threat by mining, oil and gas  operations - marking an increase of 8% on 2009.

Just a week later an Australian company, backed by the Tanzania government, said it wanted to mine uranium in just such a World Heritage site, which encompasses one of the world's major game reserves.

Fortunately, another potential uranium mine - this time in Australia - has been scotched.

The Mirrar, traditional  owners of Koongarra, have won their battle for the modification of borders to their uranium-rich territory and this will now be included within the boundaries of the existing Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area.

See: Australian aboriginal landowner secures land from uranium mining

Nonetheless plans by Rio Tinto to expand its huge Ranger uranium mine - lying just outside Kakadu  - is now threatening other Mirrar traditional owners in the region. Rio Tinto rejects Aboriginal poison water concerns


Mining threats on the rise in World Heritage sites

IUCN statement

23 June 2011

Paris, France – Extractive industries and governments that licence their activities should commit to stopping all mining and oil/gas exploration and exploitation activities that could damage World Heritage Sites, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

IUCN, the advisory body to UNESCO on natural sites, raises concern over the rapidly increasing number of cases where World Heritage Sites are threatened by planned mining and oil and gas projects. One out of four iconic natural areas in Africa is negatively affected.

“The mining, oil and gas industries, as well as governments who licence mineral extraction, should follow the example of business leaders who have already committed not to undertake mining and oil/gas projects within World Heritage sites,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme.

“These exceptional places, which cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, have been included on the World Heritage List because they are of outstanding value to all of humanity. It’s the duty of every one of us to cooperate in their protection and conservation. That duty includes the extractive industry,” Badman adds.

Companies such as Shell and the financial services firm JP Morgan, as well as the International Council on Mining and Metals, which brings together many of the world’s major mining companies, have recognized the importance of conserving World Heritage Sites and have committed not to undertake activities that would damage them.

IUCN’s position, outlined in a new World Heritage Advice Note, is that mineral and oil/gas exploration and exploitation should not be permitted within natural World Heritage Sites.

Mining and oil/gas projects that are located outside World Heritage Sites should not, under any circumstances, have negative impacts on these exceptional places. Moreover, boundary changes to these sites should not be used as an easy way to facilitate mining activities.

As a result of the impacts of mining and oil/gas projects, sites can be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which identifies serious and imminent threats to existing sites and mobilises much needed support from the international community to address these. In extreme cases, mineral exploration and mining can lead to the removal of a site from the World Heritage List.

African natural World Heritage sites that are increasingly threatened by commercial mining and oil/gas projects include: Virunga National Park (DRC), Comoé National Park (Cote d’Ivoire), Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea), Dja Wildlife Reserve (Cameroon), Kahuzi-Biega National Park (DRC), Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania), Aïr and Ténére Nature Reserve (Niger), Manovo-Gounda Nature Reserves (Central African Republic), Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas (Zimbabwe). This represents 24% of the 37 African natural and mixed World Heritage sites, or one in four sites is threatened. This is an increase from 16% in 2009.

“We are seriously concerned that African natural World Heritage sites, many of which are already inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, are increasingly threatened by mining and oil/gas projects,” says Mariam Kenza Ali, IUCN’s World Heritage Conservation Officer.

“Fortunately, these projects are still at the planning stage, which means that governments, mining and oil/gas companies, financial backers and other stakeholders have a window of opportunity to make the right decisions for future generations by committing to preserving these outstanding sites and thereby also safeguarding the livelihoods of local people and Africa’s long-term sustainable development.”

For more information contact:

Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 857 4072, e
Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, e

About IUCN’s work on World Heritage

Each year IUCN, the independent advisory body on nature to UNESCO, reports to the World Heritage Centre on the conservation status of certain natural and mixed World Heritage sites under threat. IUCN’s assessments on what is happening in World Heritage sites are derived from a variety of sources: IUCN members, indigenous peoples groups, the scientific community, experts from IUCN commissions and concerned individuals and organizations.

UNESCO includes Koongarra into Kakadu’s World Heritage listing

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation Press statement

27 June 2011

Kakadu Traditional Owners today witnessed and welcomed the decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to include Koongarra within the Kakadu World Heritage Area.

Representatives of the Mirarr attended the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee to support moves by the Senior Traditional Owner of the neighbouring Djok clan, Jeffrey Lee, to permanently protect the Koongarra region from the threat of uranium mining.

Mr Lee has consistently opposed uranium mining on his country and has travelled to Paris to personally support and witness the boundary change as a step towards the inclusion of his land into Kakadu.

This 1200 hectare region is entirely within the Djok Traditional estate and includes the Koongarra uranium deposit which has never been mined. High level Australian and international assessment teams have opposed any mining plans and recommended increased protection for the unique region.

In 2010 both major Australian political parties committed to making Koongarra part of the surrounding national park.

Today the World Heritage Committee voted to modify the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area to include the previously excluded Koongarra area.

Mirarr people have a company clan relationship with the Djok and Mr Lee requested their support on his mission. Mirarr Traditional Owner Mr Stewart Gangali and the executive officer of the Gundjeihmi Corporation, Justin O’Brien, are in Paris with Mr Lee.

“Jeffrey speaks for his country and we support him. He has always said no to mining at Koongarra. He wants to see that country protected as a part of Kakadu and we absolutely support him in that,” Mr O’Brien said today.

“Kakadu is Aboriginal land, Australia’s largest National Park and one of the world’s valued places. This decision is a key step towards seeing the bipartisan election promise of Koongarra's protection realised. The Mirarr are actively committed to supporting Mr Lee in speaking for his country,” Mr O’Brien concluded.

For further information contact Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation in Paris: +33 6 46 06 1865 or Melbourne 0412 853 641


Statement by Mr Jeffrey Lee, senior traditional owner of the Djok (Gundjeihmi) clan, to the World Heritage Committee


Ngaye nga‐djare manjbun ngudberre nawu ngurri‐worhnan World Heritage Committee bu ngurri‐ngeinameng gun‐red ngarduk gure World Heritage List. Manjbun bu ngurri‐wokdi anekke‐gen dja gamak gandi‐bekkang gun‐wok ngarduk. Nga‐djalmadbom gun‐guyeng dja nga‐njilngmak bu nga‐bekkan wanjh gandi‐bidyigarrme ba garri‐djarrkbolknahnan.

Barri‐gukbulerri nawu gun‐mogurrgurrbuiga gure Kakadu yiman ga‐yime barri‐Mirarr ngandi‐bidyigarrme rouk, dja Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation warridj, nawu bolkkime garrim‐djarrkwam gonhda.

Ngaye nga‐djare nawu an‐garre ngadberre, gun‐red, an‐me, gun‐dulk, gukku gure Gun.garra ga‐djaldi munguih‐munguih yiman ga‐yime gerrngehgen bu bolkyibolkyimi gun‐gare bu nagorngumo dja mawahmawa ngarduk ngandi‐yibolkbawong. Bu garri‐bolkngeiname gure World Heritage wanjh ga‐mak garri‐bolknahnan munguiyh‐munguiyh.


I would like to thank the World Heritage Committee for inscribing Koongarra, my country, on the World Heritage List. Thank you for talking about this and for listening to my words. I have waited a very long time for this to happen and it comes as a very happy feeling for me
to see all of us looking after this place.

I am supported by all the Bininj clans of Kakadu and most particularly by neighbouring clans such as the Mirarr People, through their representative body the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representatives of which are here with me at this meeting.

I want to ensure that the traditional laws, customs, sites, bush tucker,trees, plants and water at Koongarra stay the same as when they were passed on to me by my father and great-grandfather. Inscribing the land at Koongarra as World Heritage is an important step in making this protection lasting and real.

Tanzania eyes $400 mln uranium mine in 3 yrs

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala


1 July 2011

DAR ES SALAAM - Australian-based miner, Mantra Resources plans to build a $400 million uranium mine in Tanzania within the next three years, a cabinet minister in the east African country said on Friday.

The government will allocate 34,532 hectares of land inside a world heritage game reserve to the Australian uranium miner for the project, Tanzania's Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Ezekiel Maige said.

Tanzania has at least 54 million pounds of uranium oxide deposits and expects to start mining some of the minerals.

"Mantra Tanzania Limited, an affiliate of Mantra Resources of Australia, plans to construct the uranium mine in the Selous Game Reserve," he told Reuters.

The project will have an annual gross turnover averaging $250 million for 15 years, he said.

Tanzania passed a new mining law last year that increases royalties paid on minerals and requires a government shareholding in future mining projects.

Maige said the company was now seeking clearance to build the mine in the game reserve, which is a world heritage site.

The minister said Tanzania has sought approval from U.N. world heritage body UNESCO to re-demarcate the territory of the Selous Game Reserve, one of the world's largest wildlife sanctuaries, to allow the uranium mine to be set up.

"Tanzanian laws allow high value natural resources such as oil, gas and uranium to be mined in game reserves. But since the Selous is a world heritage site, we have officially notified UNESCO about our plans," he said.

"The proposed land to be removed from the Selous to pave the way for the mine is just 0.69 percent of the total land surface of the game reserve. We expect to get final UNESCO clearance on the project by June 2012."

Maige said Selous would benefit from an expected income of $5 million in annual fees from the uranium mine against the game reserve's current annual earnings of around $500,000, which would be used in the conservation of the wildlife population.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

Tanzania 'will mine uranium on Selous Game Reserve'

Giraffes at the Selous Game Reserve The Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is one of the largest fauna reserves in the world.

BBC News

1 July 2011

Tanzania will go ahead with plans to mine uranium in the UN World Heritage site Selous Game Reserve, the natural resources minister has told the BBC.

Ezekiel Maige said he told the recent UN World Heritage Centre meeting it would mean the park's size would need to be reduced by less than 1%.

The UN body said it would approve the plans, as long as environmental assessments were carried out.

Money made from the mining would help in the park's upkeep, Mr Maige said.

According to the UN cultural organisation Unesco, the 5m hectare-Selous Game Reserve in the south of Tanzania has large numbers of elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles - and is relatively undisturbed by humans.


In an interview with the BBC Swahili Service, Mr Maige said the uranium mining project was in its infancy, but it would only affect about 0.69% of the current World Heritage site park and would be an important source of income for the country.

Firms could expect to earn $200m (£125m) each year from mining uranium from the site, of which $5m would be paid to the government, he said.

Some of this would be able to help with the costly business of managing the park, and it would provide employment for about 1,600 Tanzanians.

During the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee, the minister said concern had also been expressed about the Undendeule Forest Reserve, to the south of the Selous Game Reserve.

But Mr Maige, who also serves as Tanzania's tourism minister, insisted there would be no impact on that forest either.

He said it currently costs the government about $490,000 a year to manage it and the income from mining would help pay for guards to stop poaching.

He said Tanzania did not need permission from Unesco to go ahead with its uranium mining plan, but the East African nation wanted to take into account the organisation's recommendations.

"The uranium project will go ahead," he told the BBC.

Unesco spokesman Lazare Eloundou Assomo told the BBC it would be "regrettable" if Tanzania started uranium mining without the UN body's approval.

He did not say how long the assessments would take.

The World Heritage Committee wanted Tanzania's own assessment to be approved by the country's environmental agency, Mr Maige said.

The second requirement was for a UN team of experts to visit the area to give their own recommendations for the protection of the ecosystem.

The minister said a decision would then be taken at next year's WHC meeting about changing the boundaries of the Selous Game Reserve.

Studies so far had shown that there was no need for concern about radiation poisoning from the uranium extraction in the area, Mr Maige said.

"Radiation levels will remain the same - the minerals in the ground are already emitting a degree of radiation, but it is not dangerous for human beings, the animals or the [Mkuju] river," he said, adding that the uranium would be processed abroad.

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