MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto under Heavy Fire on Ranger and Jabiluka Uranium Operations

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Rio Tinto under Heavy Fire on Ranger and Jabiluka Uranium Operations

By Barbara Adam
Melbourne, April 18 AAP

Mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd today said its controversial Jabiluka uranium mine would remain on hold until the traditional owners of the land endorsed the project. Rio Tinto chairman Sir Robert Wilson said the company's position was clear.

"We've said unequivocally already there will be no development at Jabiluka without the consent ... of the traditional owners," Sir Robert told Rio Tinto's annual general meeting in Melbourne today.

Sir Robert said the company was discussing environmental issues with the traditional owners of the Jabiluka site, the Mirrar people. "There is to the best of my knowledge a discussion going on
between the company and the local communities, the traditional owners, about how the Jabiluka site can be best be made safe, in ensuring it doesn't cause any environmental problems," he said.

Sir Robert's comments followed demands by shareholder Dave Sweeney, representing the Australian Conservation Foundation, that the company guarantee uranium mining would never be carried out at Jabiluka, in the Northern Territory's Kakadu National Park.

"It remains unpopular and the Aboriginal traditional owners remain opposed to any development at the site," Mr Sweeney told the meeting.

Sir Robert said that a guarantee the site would never be used for uranium mining could not be given by Rio Tinto. "That's a sovereign question," he said.

Earlier, environmental protesters wearing protective jumpsuits joined angry unionists protesting outside the Rio Tinto meeting. Distributing leaflets with messages from the Mirrar people, the
environmentalists called for the mining company to rule out ever developing or selling the proposed mine and to immediately embark on rehabilitation of the site.

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