Aborigines “shivering with fear” over Australian uranium plan
Tuesday May 29, 2012 07:52 by Gerry Georgatos
Aboriginal elders from Wiluna in central Western Australia have slammed the approval of a nearby future uranium mine by the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). It now appears only a matter of time for the state government to endorse the EPA decision.
The go-ahead is for the Toro Energy company's proposal to develop the first uranium mine in Western Australia 30 kilometres from Wiluna. Wiluna local and senior law man, Glen Cooke, criticised the consultation process that led to the EPA approval. Mr Cooke wants a meeting with state and federal ministers to fight for the safety and rights of his people.
"Toro Energy they only talk to a few people, always the same people. It’s not right, the people from Bondini’s (the community closest to the proposed mine) sometimes they don’t know about meetings, or they are not invited to meetings or they can’t get to meetings. This is not right," said Mr Cooke.
“(State minister) Marmion and (federal minister) Burke they will be making a big decision that will affect our community, our dreaming and our health. Before they make a decision on what happens in our community, before signing away our country from many thousands of kilometres away they should come and look us in the eyes," he said.
Chairman of the West Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, Ngalia man Kado Muir, said the approval by the EPA "has sent a shiver" through Aboriginal communities.
"Wherever they transport uranium through Western Australia all peoples will shiver with fear. The decision has shocked the Goldfield's Aboriginal communities. Our families in Wiluna face the prospect of having their country and environment poisoned by the Toro mine while those of us living in Leonora and Kalgoorlie can only live in fear and hope that the road trains driving through our towns do not have accidents."
Kalgoorlie mayor, Ron Yuryevich, said he is not opposed to the mine as long as the uranium is not transported through Kalgoorlie.
Mr Muir fears for the well-being of country all along the proposed road transport route from the Toro mine, along the Goldfields highway, the Eyre highway and into South Australia where the uranium will be processed and stored.
"Lead transported from Esperance to Fremantle has proven that dangerous leaks happen. There was lead contamination with readings dangerously above base levels. If the industry and government-owned ports could not assure safe transport of lead how are they going to cope with uranium?" said Mr Muir.
"This is Russian Roulette. It is an irresponsible politically motivated decision by the EPA to pander to (Premier) Barnett's mantra of development at all costs.
"The EPA needs to redeem its legitimacy and hold a full public inquiry as provided for by the Act. We need to engage with the wider environmental and public health consequences of uranium mining," he said.
"This is about our peoples' lives, about the future of our children. We want them to grow safe and healthy, not poisoned and ill," said Mr Cooke.
After the state government approves the application then it is the turn of the (pro-mining) federal government to provide their approval. Its policy is to allow more uranium mining.
In another industrial development in Western Australia, Premier Colin Barnett welcomed the building of a technical ammonium nitrate plant on the Burrup Peninsula, world famous for Aboriginal rock art. Six years ago he called for an end to development in the area.
In a speech to parliament he then called the art “The most significant heritage and anthropological site in Australia”. Barnett has admitted that 20 to 25 per cent of the rock art has already been destroyed by industrialisation.
Meanwhile tensions with traditional Aboriginal owners over a huge natural gas development plan near Broome in the north are set to escalate to new heights after the government-backed Woodside Petroleum company applied for clearances to drill on Aboriginal sacred sites.
Encamped Goolarabooloo tribal people say they will stand in the way to stop the work.
Film-maker, anti-gas hub campaigner and spokeswoman for Broome's old Aboriginal families, Mitch Torres, said the application to drill on - and damage - Aboriginal sites is a disgrace and the tokenism of one week only for other parties to file responses is "unbelievable".
"This is Aboriginal heritage and history, tens of thousands of years old, that's being dismissed. This is the prospective destruction of the natural environment of one of the world's most pristine icons that we're getting a first taste of what's to come.”
Goolarabooloo man, Richard Hunter, a traditional owner of James Price Point, the area earmarked for the gas industry, has launched a civil suit in the Supreme Court against Woodside Petroleum.
If the court rules in favour of the action, Woodside would then have been proven to have committed an offence under the Planning Act WA and could be prosecuted.
Mining on a vast scale makes Western Australia, ruled by a conservative government, the most booming state of Australia.