MAC: Mines and Communities

Aborigines get Jabiluka veto

Published by MAC on 2004-04-22

Aborigines get Jabiluka veto

The Age

April 22, 2004

Traditional Aboriginal owners signed off on a historic agreement ending their long struggle against the controversial Jabiluka uranium mine.

The landmark deal gives the owners the right to veto the future development of the site in the heart of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.

The Northern Land Council (NLC), acting on behalf of traditional owners, voted unanimously at its full council meeting to ratify the agreement with the mine owner, resources giant Rio Tinto's Energy Resources of Australia (ERA).

The long-awaited deal was flagged last July but delayed until now to give more time for consultation with traditional owners.

The Jabiluka mine had been the focus of years of bitter and violent protests, which culminated in the late 1990s when ERA finally won approval to extract uranium from the site.

Thousands of protesters rallied across Australia against the mine, with hundreds arrested in demonstrations.

Extracted uranium ore was never processed and sat in a stockpile at the site until late last year when it was put back in the mine as part of the deal.

Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirrar people, said that under the deal ERA had pledged not to carry out any mining activity on the Jabiluka Mineral Lease without the written consent of the Mirrar people.

The Jabiluka mine decline was backfilled and the site cleaned up late last year.

Some of ERA's financial obligations will also be waived under the deal.

ERA has paid out more than $7.5 million to the Northern Land Council since 1998 as part of an agreement signed with the previous mine owners Pan Continental.

"We heartily welcome the NLC's ratification of the agreement," Gundjehmi executive officer Andy Ralph said.

"While it has taken many months for the NLC to finally arrive at this point, we are happy that there is now Aboriginal consensus on giving Mirrar traditional owners true control over their destiny in relation to uranium mining.

"This agreement will see the Mirrar people in the driving seat, for the first time in 30 years, of mining activity on their country."

ERA welcomed the decision and thanked the Mirrar people for their "strong leadership".


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