End is nigh for NT environmental advocacy groups as funding runs out, ABC News 26 Feb 15 By Elliana Lawford Two environmental advocacy groups in the Northern Territory are set to close as government funding cuts announced last year start to bite.
The Environment Centre NT (ECNT) has told the ABC a number of staff were laid off last week and the centre has limited their operating hours from five to three days a week.
The organisation has led campaigns against uranium mining, pollution, gas exploration and water extraction licences. ECNT chair Tony Young said he was worried there would be no-one to fight for environmental issues in the Northern Territory if the centre closed.
“If there is no independent voice to point these things out then the problems continue and they are exacerbated,” he said. “The range and complexity of the environmental problems the Northern Territory faces really deserves a properly funded, independent, science-based voice … that’s what is in danger.”
The ECNT lost $185,000 in last year’s Territory budget.
The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is also struggling and has announced it will close on June 30, after it lost $450,000 in Federal Government funding. EDO chair Kirsty Howey said the office could not operate without financial help.
“With the cutting of federal funding at the EDO, we are looking at shutting the doors on June 30 this year,” she said.
“We just don’t have the money to survive any longer.”
NT Environment Minister Gary Higgins said he was unperturbed by the looming closures of the ECNT and the EDO……..
Labor spokeswoman Nicole Manison said both organisations were needed in the community.
“We need to have a full and independent voice for the government out there in the community,” she said.
“They bring up some pretty tough issues for governments and a good government would actually listen to them.”
Both organisations are still trying to secure independent funding that could delay their closures. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/environment-agencies-nt-for-the-chop/6262720
Aboriginal people driven from their land Green Left, Friday, February 20, 2015 By Emma Murphy “…………..It is now eight years since the Howard Coalition government launched its appalling intervention into NT Aboriginal Communities — the NT Emergency Response package. While the intervention may seem like old news, it continues to be raised as an example of the increasing neoliberal offensive against Aboriginal people’s right to their own land, identity, and self-determination.
History certainly did not stop in 2007 when the intervention started. Aspects of the intervention, such as income management and increased police presence, have continued and there have been many more attacks as well, not just in the NT, but across the country.
The intervention and policies banning bilingual education and undermining NT homelands, were really about launching an attack on Aboriginal identity and culture. They were about undermining a way of life that really isn’t compatible with capitalism; a way of life that involved collective property rights and aspirations other than home ownership and careers. It is a way of life that embraces multilingualism, sustainability and quite often strong opposition to the extractive resource industry.
Many of the policies in the NT were seen, in one way or another, as forcing Aboriginal people off their land, whether to free up resource-rich land for the extractive industries or to push remote Aboriginal people into larger, more “viable” service hubs.
Right now in Western Australia, Aboriginal people living in remote communities are facing a similar disastrous social experiment. The Barnett government has foreshadowed the closure of more than 100 remote communities. Continue reading
Australia Needs New Approaches to Fracking http://firstpeoples.org/wp/australia-needs-new-approaches-to-fracking/ Fracking in Australia continues to meet widespread resistance from Aboriginals. In Western Australia, Buru Energy’s negotiations with traditional landowners in the Canning Basin have been largely unsuccessful, and communities are organizing camp outs to stop the company. In Queensland, the weakening of environmental protections has prompted the Mithaka Peoples to go the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, claiming that “Australia has taken no action to ensure that we are consulted and involved in these decisions, or to protect our rights to our culture.” In the Northern Territory, communities have formed the Northern Territory Frack Free Alliance to oppose the drilling of boreholes and wells near aquifers.
The Australian government is attempting to circumvent these groups with legislative and regulatory changes. While this may accelerate the issuance of permits in the short term, Australia cannot expect to develop a sustainable oil economy without Aboriginal support, and will need to drastically shift its approaches to fracking on Aboriginal territories.
This post is excerpted from First Peoples Worldwide’s Corporate Monitor, a monthly report on key trends affecting companies interacting with Indigenous Peoples. To sign up for monthly e-mail updates, click here.
Jeffrey Lee’s Koongarra – where love for land trumps love for money, Crikey,
BOB GOSFORD | FEB 16, 2015 “I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money come THE words projected on a big screen at the final plenary session of the World Parks Congress in Sydney late last year said it all: “I could be a rich man today. Billions of dollars … You know, you can offer me anything, but my land is a cultural land,” read the script accompanying an image of Jeffrey Lee on his land at Koongarra which is now incorporated into the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
Jeffrey Lee, the senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan, speaks for the 12,000 hectares of land which used to comprise the former Koongarra Project Area. It contains an estimated 12,000 tonnes of high grade uranium which the French nuclear and mining company, Areva, has long been trying to access and develop.
Mr Lee told thousands of delegates to the World Parks Congress of his decision to gift the land at Koongarra to the World Heritage estate, rather than reap a fortune in royalties if it had been mined for uranium. And he told them of his modest request to the Australian Government for help to build a house on his country.
Alas, it seems that the Government is not prepared to reciprocate his generosity……..
“I don’t want the Government to forget me. They came to visit me; they congratulated me on my hard work and said they will support me in this. The Government knows how hard I worked, they gave me an Order of Australia and I’m happy for that. Now I just want a commitment from them for a house so I can live on that country that I fought for.”
Jeffrey Lee was granted an Order of Australia award in January 2012.
The citation said: “For service to conservation and the environment in the Northern Territory, particularly through advocacy roles for the inclusion of the Djok Gundjeihmi country as a World Heritage area within Kakadu National Park.”
Land Rights News asked the Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, whether he was considering assistance for Mr Lee to build an outstation on his country. The reply, from his Parliamentary Secretary, Simon Birmingham, was far from positive…… “Unfortunately, there is no Australian Government funding available to construct an outstation at Koongarra, but we are helping where we can……..http://blogs.crikey.com.au/northern/2015/02/16/jeffrey-lees-koongarra-where-love-for-land-trumps-love-for-money/
The ERA full year report for 2014 shows sales revenue up from $356.1 million in 2013 to $379.2 million, however nets profits have dropped from -$135.8 million to -$187.8 million.
Production has copped a beating as the Ranger begins to reach the end of its mine life, down to 1165 drummed tonnes in 2014, compared to 2960 in 2013 and 3710 in 2012.
The Ranger mine will continue mining until 2021, with full rehabilitation required by 2026, and has spent $378 million on rehab and water management over the past 2 years……http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/uranium-miner-era-posts-new-profit-losses
Uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia tight-lipped about its Ranger mine’s gloomy financial situation
ERA keeps its Ranger delay very hush-hush BY CRAIG DUNLOP NT NEWS FEBRUARY 11, 2015 ENERGY Resources Australia has quietly delayed the expansion of the Ranger uranium mine, with work now set to commence at an unspecified date in 2016, rather than its original target date of late 2015.
The company, 68 per cent owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, made the announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange late on Friday.
“Dependent on the outcome of further work, and subject to board and regulatory approvals, first development ore for Ranger 3 Deeps is now expected to be in 2016,” the report said.
It also said that ERA was likely to require further investment for the expansion to go ahead.
The knock-on effects from the failure of a leach tank in 2013 continued to be felt until mid-2014, as the company was forced to purchase, and then onsell, uranium in order to meet its prearranged sales contracts.
The delay has pleased environmental groups, who have long objected to Ranger 3, with the Environment Centre NT and the Australian Conservation Foundation labelling the expansion plans “unviable”.
The Environment Centre NT’s Lauren Mellor said: “The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high-risk venture.”………
- In light of the losses and the investment required in Ranger 3, the company’s directors have not issued a dividend.
13 Feb 15 National and Territory Environment Groups have today welcomed the announcement that investment in Ranger 3 Deeps, a controversial new underground uranium mine proposal has been significantly delayed by Rio Tinto, majority owner of the embattled Ranger uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.
The decision came off the back of further record losses for Rio subsidiary and Ranger mine operator Energy Resources of Australia of $188 million in 2014 and $136 million in 2013. ERA have now suffered five consecutive yearly losses totalling $500 million.
“Ranger’s underground mine has become a money pit for Rio Tinto, with the company investing hundreds of millions in feasibility studies and an underground decline tunnel in recent years, and has faced unprecedented community opposition receiving over 4500 public submissions opposing the mine during the Environment Impact Assessment public comment phase in December last year,” Lauren Mellor, Nuclear-free Campaigner with the Environment Centre NT said.
“The delay on investment in the Ranger 3 Deeps project is a major setback for both Rio and ERA, with costs continuing to blow out and time running out for this short-term, high risk venture. Years of sustained uranium company and sector losses have shown even the industry’s biggest players are getting cold feet for new mines, with no commodity price recovery predicted within ten years – well past the legal operating timeframe for Ranger 3 Deeps.”
“This decision by the Rio board is a long overdue recognition that the project, like the wider uranium industry, is unviable. It has a very limited lease life, with all mining on the Ranger lease mandated to end in 2021, at a time when the commodity price has never been lower, making old mines like Ranger struggle, and new projects like Ranger 3 Deeps buckle.” said Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“Day by day, every delay and every lost dollar makes this project less viable and less likely. “The nuclear industry simply can’t compete, on cost, construction times and on community standards for environmental protection. Like Ranger mine its well past its use by date and the NT and Federal governments should be using this company delay to instead accelerate a rehabilitation plan for Kakadu that will see the region and its inhabitants protected for the long haul.”
The remote communities are mainly located across the northern tip of Australia and the Kimberley in the country’s northwest. The federal government announced late last year that it would stop paying for the utilities, making states responsible for the communities. The Western Australia (WA) state government says it can’t afford to cover the costs.
Rodney Dillon, an indigenous advisor at Amnesty International Australia, told VICE News that some members of the indigenous communities might not survive a move.
“It would be a complete culture shock, a complete mental shock,” Dillon said. “This is their homeland. It’s where they belong it’s where they are proud. They are the keepers of the land. Some might stay and die on the land. The older individuals won’t manage it — it might kill them.”……..
Initial hopes of establishing a $1 billion “Royalties for Regions” fund, which would have used 25 percent of the state’s mining royalties to cover the cost of power and water for the communities, were quashed this week by WA Premier Colin Barnett, who stressed that the government has not yet reached a solution.
Minster for Regional Development Terry Redman originally floated the “Royalties for Regions” idea, but has since said he was “misunderstood” by the media. He stressed to VICE News that it was simply one option……….
Asked if communities had been contacted about the potential closures, the state’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said last week that a consultation that involved “going out to all the communities” would be “just nonsensical,” and that “consultation in a general sense will continue” instead.
Dillon said such a consultation has been non-existent so far.
“The communities haven’t been contacted, no one’s asking anything,” he said. “This is going to be done without consultation, it will be a couple of blokes with a coffee in Perth making these decisions.”
The government will decide which communities stay open and which are “not viable” for investment, Dillon added.
The Partnership of Western Australian Aboriginal Land Councils invited Barnett and other key WA politicians to discuss the issue in early March, but they have yet to receive a response…….
The criteria that determines whether a community is viable has not been released, but both Redman and Barnett have stressed the likelihood that at least some of the 274 communities in the state will have to close, perhaps as many as 200.
Lauren Pike, a spokeswoman for the Kimberley Land Council, described what happened in 2011 when the government shuttered an indigenous community in Oombulgurri, a community in the eastern Kimberley, and relocated the residents to Wyndham, about 45 kilometers away.
“The result was just devastating,” Pike said. “They literally told these people to get out of their homes and that they couldn’t stay or come back, and then dumped them in the mangroves around the town.
“Houses weren’t provided — nothing was provided,” she continued. “People in the town literally had to hand out borrowed sleeping bags and blankets for these people coming in so they could have something to sleep on outside. It caused so much trouble in the community, and it only got worse from there. Suddenly people had access to alcohol, to illicit substances. It was just an absolute state of poverty.”……..
Dillon believes any future living conditions in the remote communities would consist of the bare minimum.
“They would be moved to very poor conditions,” he said. “They’re frightened and scared and they speak a different language. Now they’re all possibly going to be moved into slums and shanty towns in the city.”
Groups campaigning against the closure also believe moving the indigenous people into new towns would cost the government more in the long run than if they just maintained the status quo. https://news.vice.com/article/australia-may-stop-providing-water-and-power-to-remote-aboriginal-communities
The Rio Tinto-owned Energy Resources of Australia made a $188 million loss in 2014, after suffering a loss of $136 million in 2013.
The company expects to increase its uranium production in 2015, after output was dented in 2014 because of the suspension of processing operations for more than six months after the failure of a leach tank in December 2013.
The company’s purchase of uranium oxide to fulfil sales dragged on its earnings……..https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/uranium-miners-loss-widens-100814187.html
Top End traditional owners fear land rights will be dismantled in push to develop the north (AUDIO) ABC Radio PM Sara Everingham reported this story on Thursday, December 11, 2014 MARK COLVIN: The Northern Land Council says it’s deeply concerned that the push to develop Northern Australia could dismantle hard-fought Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory.
A COAG taskforce met today in Canberra to nut out the detail of its review of Indigenous land administration as part of the white paper on developing Northern Australia.
Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.
SARA EVERINGHAM: In Kakadu National Park, about 80 traditional owners from across the Top End have spent the week in talks as part of the Northern Land Council’s full council meeting………………
The Northern Land Council doesn’t know what the review will look at but suspects it will explore greater use of 99 year leases on Aboriginal land.
The council also says it’s been informed by the Federal Government it will revisit an amendment to the Northern Territory Land Rights Act which would devolve powers of the land councils to smaller Indigenous corporations.
The deputy Land Council chairman John Daly says traditional owners must be consulted.
JOHN DALY: We’ve got a Prime Minister for Indigenous Australia and they put out press releases prior to them winning the elections that they would have no reviews, no amendments to the Land Rights Act and things like that, Native Title, without the consent of traditional owners and the land councils. ……http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s4147070.htm?site=indigenous&topic=latest
Federal govt watering down Aboriginal land rights, betrayal by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion
Northern Land Council accuses Senator Nigel Scullion of breaking election promise on land rights, ABC News By the National Reporting Team’s Kate Wild 11 Dec 14 Australia’s largest Aboriginal land council has accused Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion of breaking a promise that the Coalition, if it won government, would not review or amend the Land Rights Act.
Holding a copy of Senator Scullion’s press release, titled No changes to NT Land Rights and dated August 14, 2013, Northern Land Council (NLC) deputy chairman John Daly accused the Minister of proposing a review of land rights legislation without the consent of traditional owners.
“Prior to him getting in as the Minister, this here says he wasn’t going to do any reviews or anything like that without the consent of traditional owners and the land council,” he said.
Really there isn’t, and hasn’t been, any conversation with Aboriginal people about the future of the Land Rights Act.Joe Morrison, NLC chief executive
“And this is just another broken promise from this government.”
The comments were made today at a full council meeting that Senator Scullion did not attend………..
NLC’s questions are ‘pressing for the nation’
NLC chief executive Joe Morrison said council members wanted to put questions to the Minister they believed were “pressing for the nation”.
These included Federal Government plans to water down the Land Rights Act, pressure on Aboriginal towns to sign 99 year leases, and the Federal Government’s use of Aboriginal money earned from mining royalties, he said.…………. Continue reading
Traditional owners target Minerals Council HERALD SUN, NEDA VANOVAC AAP DECEMBER 04, 2014 ABORIGINAL traditional owners have heckled government and mining industry representatives at a Minerals Council summit, calling for an end to mining on their lands. ABOUT 30 traditional owners and family members drove to Darwin from Maningrida, with some driving all night to make the 1400km from Borroloola by morning.
Conrad Rory, a Yanyula and Garrawa man from Borroloola, told AAP the MacArthur River Mine near his community was having a detrimental impact on the tidal river. The mine’s independent monitor reported last year that 90 per cent of fish caught downstream of the mine exceeded maximum permitted concentrations of metals and isotopes as outlined by the national food standards guidelines.
“What we’re really hoping to accomplish is shutting down the mine,” Mr Rory said. “Since they diverted the river it’s been flowing really slow, the colour’s changed, we’ve found dead fish and crabs.”
Jackie Green, an elder from Borroloola, was critical of mine operators he saw as plundering Aboriginal land and then moving on………. Mr Green accused the government of separating families to obtain consent for mining on Aboriginal land.”They grab one Aboriginal person and take him aside and chuck a chocolate across his table and he eats that and other Aboriginal people don’t know what’s going on.”Five police cars were sent to monitor the small protest, and the doors to Darwin’s convention centre were locked.Media were barred from attending sessions with industry leaders such as Andrea Sutton, CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, and Sam Strohmayr, general manager of Glencore……… http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/traditional-owners-target-minerals-council/story-fni0xqi4-1227144612565
For the Mirrar Aboriginal people, a new era may be opening up, if ERA’s Ranger uranium mine finally closes
Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, 29 Nov 14 Peter Ker Resources reporter “……..place facing an uncertain future. Jabiru is a town in limbo. Four decades after arriving, uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) will decide soon whether it will continue digging here. There is a chance it will choose not to, which will bring down the curtain on perhaps nation’s most controversial mine, Ranger.
Built on the faultlines of environmental and indigenous land rights policy, Ranger is at a defining moment. It has provided fuel to nuclear power stations of the world but the end of its working life is in doubt.
The end of mining at Ranger would be cause for celebration for some. Continue reading
Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, Peter Ker, Resources Reporter, 29 Nov 14 “….. As fate would have it, ERA could barely have picked a worse time to evaluate a new uranium development.
Most Australian uranium miners haven’t made a profit since. ERA has received just $US46 ($54) a pound for its product during most of this year. That is 12 per cent below the price it received in 2009.
Commodity prices are not the only threat to the project going ahead. A series of events over the past year have shaken investors’ confidence.
A tank failure in December last year spewed toxic substances around the Ranger site and prompted a six-month shutdown. Despite official surveys suggesting none of the substances escaped into Kakadu, a fierce debate ensued over the mine’s social licence to operate in such a delicate and difficult location.
The exploration results for the project have also fuelled concerns, with some analysts expressing alarm at the quality of some sections of the underground geology and cases of unstable rock formations.
At the same time ERA’s 68 per cent shareholder, Rio Tinto, is aggressively cutting back capital spending on new projects.
With Rio focused on boosting dividends rather than building large numbers of new mines, many doubt it will be willing to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to go ahead with a new underground mine at Ranger.
When the geological concerns were reported to the market in July, Credit Suisse published the most pessimistic research note on the project to date.
“We believe the results of the Deeps resource drilling are poor,” the note said.
“Ranger Deeps either adds value or there is close to none, and risks are increasing towards the latter. If ERA announces at the end of this year that Ranger Deeps is not viable, then the share price should collapse to very low levels.”……..
JP Morgan analysts said the weak uranium prices, combined with the 2021 expiry of the mining lease, put ERA in a difficult position.
“We believe the project likely needs prices of $US50 per pound to $US60 per pound over the life of the project,” they wrote. ……..
ERA chief Andrea Sutton said the geological results had been consistent with expectations, and sufficiently good for the company to conduct less drilling than planned.
The spot uranium price enjoyed a small surge in early November, and while the longevity of that rise is unclear, Sutton said the company was confident the price would rebound in the medium term……….http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/uranium-mining-in-kakadu-at-a-crucial-point-20141128-11vmr3.html
The Dog Catcher of Jabiru, About Place Journal, Margaret Spence 24 Nov 14 “……….Uranium was discovered in Kakadu in 1953 and for the next decade much of the ore was bought by British and American governments for the development of atomic weapons. If the Aborigines knew of the potential fate of their ancestral earth, their objections were overruled.
But the nineteen seventies were a period of change for civil rights, and Aboriginal people campaigned to have their lands returned to them. In stages, the Australian Federal Government acquired title to the tracts of land that had been taken over the years by private, non-Aboriginal settlers. The land was returned to Traditional Owners under the newly established Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) and most of it was leased to the Commonwealth to become the joint managed Kakadu National Park.
Three areas were excised from the National Park due to the presence of significant uranium deposits. While this land was granted to Traditional Owners as Aboriginal Land, the legal right to veto mining projects which the new laws provided was explicitly removed in the case of Ranger uranium mine and mining commenced there in 1981 against the clear opposition of the Mirarr Traditional Owners……… Continue reading