MAC: Mines and Communities

Owner lashes out over Jabiluka bid

Published by MAC on 2007-05-31

Owner lashes out over Jabiluka bid

The Age, Lindsay Murdoch

31st May 2007

YVONNE Margarula, the Aboriginal elder opposed to development of the $50 billion Jabiluka uranium deposit on her land, has criticised the Northern Land Council over its plans to broker a meeting between her clan and mining giant Rio Tinto.

Ms Margarula said yesterday NLC chief executive Norman Fry had not spoken to any of her Mirarr people before saying last week the issue of mining Jabiluka would soon be fleshed out at a meeting of Rio Tinto, the NLC and traditional owners.

In a statement released by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr, Ms Margarula said Mr Fry had "no idea what is going on out in our country or what is going on between us and the mining company".

Gundjeihmi said the Mirarr were stunned to learn that the NLC, which represents Aboriginal groups, intended to push for the development of more uranium mines in the Northern Territory.

he corporation said in a statement there was no role for Mr Fry over the Jabiluka deposit, and his reported comments had embarrassed and jeopardised the interests of the parties involved. It said: "Under the Land Rights Act, we expect our land council to be working to protect our nterests and representing us."

Ms Margarula has opposed development of Jabiluka for years, saying uranium mining on Mirarr land at Ranger, in the Kakadu National Park, had created problems of alcoholism and other social maladies for her people.

Jabiluka is the world's largest known untapped uranium deposit.

It became the focus of renewed speculation last week when Rio Tinto chief executive Preston Chiaro said there was good reason to believe Ms Margarula would soon say yes to the mine's development.

The comments angered Mirarr elders, including Ms Margarula, who decided to end their involvement in training, cultural and other programs with Rio Tinto subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia, which operates the Ranger mine. The reaction caused ERA's shares to fall 5 per cent in a day.

The company has an agreement with the Mirarr that Jabiluka cannot be developed without approval of the traditional owners.

Gundjeihmi's statement said there was nothing in the Land Rights Act that "authorises the land council to be pushing for more uranium mines or inserting itself as an uninvited broker in matters in which they have so far made no useful contribution".

"In the opinion of the Mirarr, the Northern Land Council has failed as a representative in the past so it is fanciful for them to suggest that they are anyone's broker," it said.

Work stopped at Jabiluka in the late 1990s after an eight-month blockade of the site, 250 kilometres south-east of Darwin.



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