Uranium Mine in Australian National Park Dead

SYDNEY, Australia, September 6, 2002 (ENS) - Aboriginal people and environmentalists are challenging mining giant Rio Tinto to abandon a proposed uranium mine in the heart of an Australian national park, after aborigines have made it clear that they oppose the project.


Kakadu National Park near the Jabiluka mine site (Photo courtesy courtesy Territory Greens)
After years of protests against the Jabiluka uranium mine in Kakadu National Park, it appears that Rio Tinto will not proceed with the proposed mine without permission from the Mirrar aboriginal people, who are firmly opposed to the mine.

Speaking on the BBC's "World Hardtalk" Rio Tinto Chairman Sir Robert Wilson restated the company's position that, "...there would be no development of that project without the consent of the traditional landowners, the Mirrar people...we won't develop it without their consent, full stop."

The Senior Traditional Owner of the Mirrar, Yvonne Margarula, Thursday reaffirmed her longstanding opposition to the mine.


Yvonne Margarula is a recipient of the Nuclear-Free Future Award. (Photo courtesy Nuclear-Free Future Award)
Margarula said, "It doesn't matter how many times they ask, I'm not going to agree to this mine, whatever money they ask for it. Mining ruins the land. Just like the way the other Rio Tinto uranium mine, Ranger, has destroyed my land. My mind is firmly set."

Rio Tinto owns 64 percent of Energy Resources of Australia Ltd., after its purchase of North Ltd. two years ago. North already extracts uranium at the Ranger mine about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away from the Jabiluka site.

The Mirrar are now challenging Rio Tinto to rehabilitate the Jabiluka mine site, where a 1.2 kilometer underground tunnel was drilled before the site was acquired by Rio Tinto.

Sir Robert has now committed his company to rehabilitating the mine site stating on the BBC that Rio Tinto will, "...rehabilitate that area" and "... block off the adit [mine tunnel], but this is not a very large area, nor in any way is it a threat to the environment," he said."


Portal entrance to Jabiluka Mine (Photo by Sam de Silva courtesy Territory Greens)
"It is now time for Rio Tinto to follow through on the wishes of its chairman and begin the rehabilitation of the Jabiluka mine site" said Leanne Minshull, corporate campaigner for The Wilderness Society of Australia.

The Mirrar also challenge Rio Tinto's claim that there has been no damage to sacred sites at Jabiluka.

The Mirrar have issued many statements regarding the desecration of sacred sites at Jabiluka. In July 1998, they sought a Northern Territory Supreme Court injunction against the construction of the mine tunnel, arguing that a sacred site would be desecrated.

Jabiluka has been the subject of persistent questioning and protest at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, where Rio Tinto has been trying to persuade governments and the public that it supports sustainable development.

Hearings for an Australian Senate inquiry into the contamination at Rio Tinto's uranium operations at the Ranger mine begin on September 30.