MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Scrap uranium plans: Environmentalists

Published by MAC on 2005-04-26

Scrap uranium plans: Environmentalists

AAP

26th April 2005

Environmentalists have called on the French government to abandon attempts to develop a second uranium mine in Kakadu National Park.

French nuclear power company Cogema has said it will revive efforts to mine the multi-million-dollar Koongarra deposit once a five-year moratorium ends on Tuesday.

Traditional owners, through the Northern Land Council, imposed the ban on mining the deposit, 250km east of Darwin.

Cogema, owned by French energy giant Areva, has attempted to gain access to the deposit numerous times but has been blocked by traditional owners.

Energy Resources of Australia has mined the Ranger uranium deposit in Kakadu for more than 20 years.

The Koongarra deposit, discovered in 1971, contains about 14,000 tonnes of uranium oxide worth millions of dollars.

Five environmental groups said they had written to the French ambassador to Australia about the site in the world heritage-listed national park.

"The French government-owned company Areva is the proponent of this mine," the letter said.

"It has stated that it intends to seek development approval following the expiry on April 26, 2005, of the current development moratorium put in place as a result of the opposition of the area's traditional Aboriginal owners.

"We are appealing to the French government to reconsider its involvement in this most controversial project.

"An attempt by the French government to mine uranium in such a sensitive and internationally renowned natural and cultural heritage location would damage the reputation of France."

The environmentalists consist of the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society.

They believe the development would have a severe impact on wetlands of international significance, affect one of Kakadu's most popular areas Nourlangie Rock, and cause long-term problems of containment and rehabilitation of toxic and radioactive materials.

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