The fight to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine is close to victory. Rio Tinto, the new owner which took over North Limited, has announced that the mine will not be developed without the consent of the Aboriginal owners. The Mirrar people, led by feisty senior custodian Yvonne Margarula and activist Jacquie Katona, are rock solid — there will be no new mine in the heart of environmentally sensitive Kakadu National Park.
While backing the unpopular mine, North Limited — the target of many years of community protests — saw its shares plunge. Opposition to the mine runs deep, with 67% of Australians against it. While some opponents did little more than wear a Stop Jabiluka t-shirt and put a sticker on their bike or car, many attended demonstrations, raised the issue in their unions or travelled to Kakadu to join the blockade. The international campaign — led by strong Aboriginal women — has united environmentalists, socialists, feminists and advocates of Aboriginal rights against both the mining corporations and the Howard Government, which has 23 other mining and dumping projects on its agenda.
The smell of victory is in the air but the Mirrar people must not be left with the threat of the mine — and more coercion — hanging over their heads. In the past, some Indigenous communities have “consented” to uranium mining on their land, forced to “choose” between protection of the environment and the most basic of survival needs like water, housing and healthcare which mining royalties could provide. To reach the finishing line, quality services to Indigenous communities must be provided, the mining license must be revoked, junking the ill-conceived concept of mining uranium in the heart of a Kakadu National Park for good.