Major uranium leak endangers Kakadu – but played down Indymedia Australia, 9 Dec 13;Gerry Georgatos – courtesy of The Stringer -http://thestringer.com.au/ - A million litres of radioactive slurry has contaminated Kakadu National Park from a burst tank at Ranger uranium mine. It is a significant toxic accident but it has surprisingly generated relatively minimal news coverage. It took the local Traditional Owners to break the news to Australia.
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) CEO, Justin O’Brien, said the Ranger mine and its surrounds may be closed for at least two months in order to contain the leak. The GAC represent the native title interests of the Mirarr peoples.
Mirarr Traditional Owners are disturbed by the contamination because it is the worst one yet. They have described it as the biggest “nuclear disaster in Australia ever.”
Rio Tinto owned Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is backing another project at the site, Ranger 3 Deeps but this latest contamination breach is a setback. Energy Resources Australia had agreed to proceed only with the project if it had the consent of the Mirrar peoples. But Mr O’Brien told AAP, “Day by day, litre by litre, incident by incident, they’re losing whatever trust Traditional Owners have in them.” In light of the accident, Mr O’Brien said at this time as far as the Traditional Owners are concerned, the Ranger 3 Deeps project “is now off the table.”
The chairperson of the Aboriginal Elders led Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA) and co-chair of the Australian Anti-Nuclear Alliance, Kado Muir said that Australia is yet to learn from the Fukishima disaster. “The only safe place for uranium is to leave it in the ground. It has never been safe for anyone when we have mined it.”…….
This disaster just reinforces the fear in Aboriginal communities that there really is no second chance with uranium mining, and when the companies and Government fail in their duties to the environment, it is us, the Traditional Owners and the Australian people who are left holding the toxic legacy. We need a full public inquiry into the opening of new uranium mines across Australia and the people need to be assured that existing operators will clean up their act,” said Mr Muir……
According to South Australia’s Arabunna Elder, Kevin Buzzacott, the protest movement is growing and he said “we are standing in the way.” Mr Buzzacott is the president of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and for decades he has campaigned against the uranium mining expansion at Olympic Dam on his Country. “They are drying up our Country, the water is going, it is impacting the environment, and one major disaster would render our Country useless. Kakadu should send shivers up the spines of all Australians but I do not understand why it has not made the television news. What has occurred in Kakadu is scary.”…….
Ranger mine is one of only three mines in the world to produce in excess of 110,000 tonnes of uranium oxide. Following the completion of mining in the operating Pit 3 at Ranger in 2012, ERA began the transition from open cut mining to underground exploration of the Ranger 3 Deeps mineral resource.
In 2010, millions of litres of radioactive water from the Ranger uranium mine flowed into Kakadu’s wetlands. The Traditional Owners opposed then plans for a huge expansion of the 30 year old mine by ERA. At the time, the ERA attempted to downplay a spike in contaminated water flowing from the Ranger to Kakadu’s Magela Creek between April 9 to 11. 40 Aboriginal people lived downstream from the site where a measure probe recorded up to five times the warning level of electrical conductivity – including uranium, sulphate and radium contaminants.
“As more of our people understand the death knell dangers of uranium mining we will then come together in greater numbers and we will close down Ranger and Olympic Dam,” said Mr Buzzacott.http://indymedia.org.au/2013/12/09/major-uranium-leak-endangers-kakadu-but-played-down