The struggle of the Mirrar people against the Jabiluka Uranium mine…
Jabiluka is about us, blackfellas, whitefellas together…and our belief in the future of our nation… Currently Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is pushing to open a new uranium mine that is surrounded by the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.
The traditional Aboriginal owners have told the company and the government that they do not want this mine. They are concerned about its effects on their country and culture. Environment groups and many others are also working to stop Jabiluka and other new uranium mines.
Many Australians are asking how can we threaten the cultural and environmental values of our most famous world heritage listed national park… Kakadu? How can we put at risk the culture and the lives of the indigenous people of Kakadu with a new uranium mine at Jabiluka?
The Federal Government of Australia, the government of the Northern Territory, mining company Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and the Northern Land Council all want uranium mining to go ahead at Jabiluka… but the Mirrar people are saying ‘No’.
Since the Ranger mine at Jabiru was given approval in 1978 Mirrar opposition to the proposed Jabiluka mine has strengthened… 19 years on. Living and social conditions amongst Kakadu’s indigenous population have worsened and the people are deeply concerned about the impact of mining on their lives and the unknown consequences of storing crushed and pulverised radioactive wastes on their land.
In the culture of the Mirrar. Jabiluka is so sacred not even traditional owner Yvonne Margarula can speak about it. And yet knowing this the Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has given the green light to the Jabiluka mine… despite the negative findings of a Social Impact Study and warnings from his own departmental bureaucrats that the mining company’s Environmental Impact Statement was deficient in key areas.
Jabiluka is the first of 26 proposed new uranium mines the Howard Government has before it for approval. In this important new film twice Academy Award nominated director David Bradbury captures the controversy over Jabiluka.
The Jabiluka mine will be underground, below the flood plain in an area infamous for it’s big wet season… and beside Kakadu’s famous wetland. ERA plans to clear a mine site and bulldoze a road 22.5 kilometres long to truck the ore to the Ranger mine where it will be processed into yellowcake and then exported.
ERA’s Philip Shirvington (CEO sees management of the mine as a simple matter a job they do well: ‘We don’t add any radioactivity to what’s already there naturally.’ he says. But ‘not so’ say the traditional owners, scientists and environmentalists… who are concerned that the tailings will remain radioactive for the next 250.000 years.
The film Jabiluka clearly shows how the Mirrar were given no choice over the Ranger mine, how they were caught in a misleading process to consent to a lease over Jabiluka… and how today they are resisting those same pressures to allow mining to proceed.
The story of Jabiluka is also significant because it raises questions about the real value of ‘Land Rights’… the Mirrar people now own their land but are wondering whether that actually means anything. On December 16 as part of her steadfast campaign Yvonne Margarula will take her case to the Federal Court of Australia to prevent the Federal Government granting ERA approval to export uranium from Jabiluka.
She must continue the fight first taken up by her father Toby Gangale… for the right of her people to live in harmony with 40,000 years of cultural tradition. “We know we own the country” she says. “We know. We born the country, and we live the country. It is our country… black country… not white country.”
In 1978 Professor Manning Clark visited the ‘Top End’ and was left with an enduring impression of its abundant cultural treasures, of its pristine wetlands and majestic escarpments. Following that visit he stated clearly his opposition to mining Kakadu.
“It would be an evil day in the history of this country if the white man once again showed the black man that nothing else mattered except material grandeur.
Is it too much to hope that the natural paradise of Kakadu National Park might be a setting not so much for a human paradise but at least a place where the white man and the black man can at last live in harmony with each other?”