Northern Territory okays Jabiluka clean-upPublished by MAC on 2003-08-01
Northern Territory okays Jabiluka clean-up
1 August 2003
The Melbourne Age
The Northern Territory government has given the go-ahead for a clean- up of the controversial Jabiluka uranium mine, ending a long row which pitted conservation groups and Aboriginal people against mining company ERA.
Under the clean-up program, ERA (Energy Resources Australia) will backfill the 1.8 kilometre decline located next to the world heritage- listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
ERA, majority owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, will retain the lease on the mine but will sign a formal agreement with traditional owners, the Mirrar people, undertaking no future development without their explicit permission.
ERA Chief Executive Bob Cleary welcomed the NT government's approval of the company's plan.
"I am pleased that Resources Minister Paul Henderson has approved our care and maintenance plan. We made the application to the minister after extensive discussions and careful consideration of social, economic and environmental issues," he said in a statement.
"The traditional owners of Jabiluka, the Mirrar people, have told us they want the backfilling of the decline. This step is evidence of a new era of cooperation with the Mirrar."
Environment groups and the local people welcomed the move.
Australian Conservation Foundation president Peter Garrett said ERA had listened to the wishes of the traditional owners and recognised the concerns of the many Australians who opposed the mine.
"As a first step we think it is highly significant and represents a real win for the conservation and traditional owners' campaign," he told AAP.
"There is a very strong case to be put subsequent to this agreement being settled with the traditional owners for Rio to consider the long term prospects of the mine and once they have filled in the hole, agree to relinquish the lease.
"ACF has been arguing for over 25 years that uranium mining in our most important and internationally recognised national park is an anomaly."
Andy Ralph, executive officer of the Gundjehmi Aboriginal corporation, said the Mirrar welcomed the NT government's approval of the plan and applauded ERA for this initiative.
"It is heartening to see that finally the opposition of traditional owners to Jabiluka's development has at long last been acknowledged and acted upon by ERA," he said in a statement.
"This action signals a new and constructive relationship between the traditional owners and ERA which should be confirmed in the near future with the signing of the so-called Jabiluka long term care and maintenance agreement."
ERA acquired the Jabiluka mine, one of the world's richest uranium ore deposits, from mining company Pancontinental in 1991 for $125 million.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/01/1059480536321.html
Filling a Hole - Building a Future: Kakadu Mine Rehabilitation Welcomed
Media Release - August 1, 2003
National environment groups have today welcomed a major step towards the protection of Kakadu National Park with confirmation that major rehabilitation works are about to start at Rio Tinto's controversial Jabiluka uranium mine site.
The groups have applauded the NT Government's new approval of an application by mining company Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to replace over 50,000 tonnes of uranium ore extracted during Jabiluka's construction and to seal the mine opening.
"This outcome is an important win for conservation and indigenous concerns and is a tribute to the tenacity of the Mirrar traditional owners in protecting their country and culture and to the efforts of the many thousands around Australia and the world who support and stand beside them," said ACF President Peter Garrett.
Work at Jabiluka has been stalled since September 1999 and the issue has been a serious embarrassment for ERA's parent company, the global mining giant Rio Tinto.
"Rio Tinto promised to rehabilitate Jabiluka and to sign a contract with the Mirrar that means any future development would require their explicit support," said Peter Garrett. "The clean up is welcome and we now look forward to the signing of this key contract."
Jabiluka has been one of Australia's longest running environment and indigenous rights struggles. A peaceful blockade of the site in 1998 lasted eight months and involved over 5000 people, with more then 500 arrests. The project has been the focus of scrutiny and opposition from the Australian Senate, the European Parliament, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee and many groups and communities in Australia and internationally.
"Rehabilitating the Jabiluka site is a huge step towards the permanent resolution of this struggle," said ECNT coordinator Mark Wakeham. "Cleaning up Jabiluka and protecting the country and culture of Kakadu is a real win for all."
From: The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory Friends of the Earth Australia Australian Conservation Foundation