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.
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.
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."
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.