The international spotlight is on Australia. The Howard government is hell-bent on allowing construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine at the Kakadu National Park. The United Nations World Heritage Committee has threatened to place Kakadu on the “World Heritage in danger list.” It has given the Howard government until April 15 to prove scientifically that Jabiluka is no threat to Kakadu. You don’t need a PhD in physics to realise that putting a uranium mine in an area renowned for its natural and cultural heritage values is not smart! Plans for the disposal of tailings are woefully inadequate, and radioactive waste threatens the fragile ecosystem.
The mine is bitterly opposed by the Mirrar people, who are under attack by the Northern Territory government. Yvonne Margarula, a Mirrar elder leading the fight against the mine, has been found guilty of trespass on her own traditional land! Thousands have taken part in a blockade of the mine site, and tens of thousands have demonstrated against the mine in capital cities. Jabiluka is a national and international embarrassment.
So why is Howard being so bloody-minded? This fight is about the future of uranium mining in Australia. If Jabiluka proceeds, it will open the floodgates for the development of dozens of new mines currently in the planning stage. But it goes deeper. The ruling class is intent on destroying the environment movement and removing Indigenous rights. For them, Jabiluka is about winning a strategic victory in the name of unregulated development.
Jabiluka can be stopped by mobilising the 70% of Australians who already oppose the mine. As the 1980s Franklin Dam campaign showed, a mass movement on the streets and in workplaces – defending Indigenous rights and demanding environmental sanity – would force even the most stubborn opponent to retreat.