Muckaty landowners say nuclear dump fight is ‘back to square one’ http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/13/muckaty-landowners-say-nuclear-dump-fight-is-back-to-square-one Helen Davidson in Darwin The owners feel the only way to protect the station is for it to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council The proposal of a second site for nuclear dumping at Muckaty Station sends the fight “back to square one,” traditional landowners say. They feel the only way to protect the area is to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council, which decided not to make a nomination last week due to local opposition.
Last week the case for a storage facility on Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory was reopened when one of the clan groups proposed a second parcel of land, just months after a bitter seven-year dispute appeared to have ended.
The Northern Land Council (NLC) had abandoned its nomination to the federal government to store low and intermediate radioactive waste in the area north of Tennant Creek as part of a settlement reached outside the federal court. It is now considering the new proposal.
One of the traditional owners, Dianne Stokes, told Guardian Australia the new proposal takes the fight “back to square one.” Continue reading
Central Land Council rules out nuclear dump in Tanami region of Central Australia, ABC News 6 Nov 14 By Xavier La Canna The Central Land Council has ruled out the possibility of a nuclear waste dump being built over a large part of central Australia due to opposition from some traditional owners.
Traditional owners in the Tanami region were considering nominating land to become a dump, but at a meeting this week delegates heard of opposition to the move from traditional owners and affected communities, the CLC said.
Federal Government Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has said there has to be unanimous support for the move for a site to be successful.
“The delegates heard that the CLC has received formal correspondence and public statements from the traditional owners and residents of affected communities who are opposed to a nuclear waste dump in the area,” the CLC said.
Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal - CLC director David Ross
“Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s requirement of a site ‘free from dispute’ cannot therefore be met,” it said. The CLC, a statutory body tasked with a duty to consult traditional owners and other Aboriginal people about any proposals, covers an area of about 776,000 square kilometres, with the Tanami region a sizeable part of that.
The entire Tanami is 178,000 square kilometres.
The CLC also dealt a blow to Federal Government hopes of finding a new site to build a nuclear waste dump, saying the nomination process was unfair and would have seen Aboriginal groups make a decision without enough information.
“The process enshrined in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 expects traditional owners to volunteer a site without knowing all the information,” a statement from CLC director David Ross read.
“Yet once a site is nominated they cannot change their mind when they find out the full story.
“Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal.”……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/nuclear-dump-ruled-out-over-tanami-region-in-central-australia/5875202
Scientists working together with indigenous land-managers have reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tonnes. IMPROVING FIRE MANAGEMENT in the tropical savannah of northern Australia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes over the past year.
By reintroducing traditional fire knowledge and practices, local land managers have benefited through the sale of carbon credits, as well as helping the environment.
“Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from savannah burning represent about three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the CSIRO’s Dr Garry Cook at the 2014 annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in Alice Springs in September.
“Since European settlement, fires in the north have increased in size and severity. This has threatened biodiversity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Australia’s tropical savannah landscape is enormous — it covers an area of some 1.9 million square kilometres, or about one quarter of the entire continent. The landscape is mainly forests and woodlands consisting of wide fields of grass with scattered eucalypt trees.
The savannah stretches from Rockhampton on the Queensland coast up to the tip of Cape York and across to the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.
Frequent fires are a characteristic of the landscape, and the vast majority are deliberately lit without any authorisation. Tens of thousands of square kilometres burn every year during the northern dry season.
Many local Aboriginal communities have retained their traditional fire knowledge, and these communities hold deep aspirations to fulfil long-held cultural obligations regarding country. Dr Cook said the Commonwealth’s Carbon Farming Initiative provided the impetus to restore traditional fire management practices on aboriginal homelands, combining modern environmental and fire science with traditional mosaic burning practices.
“In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the methodology, land managers need to burn early in the dry season to protect the landscape from the more intense fires that would otherwise occur later in the dry season,” he said.
“Early dry-season fires are generally low in intensity; they trickle through the landscape and burn only some of the fuel, creating a network of burnt firebreaks. These stop the late dry-season fires sweeping through large areas and releasing large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.
“Most savannahs burn on average once in every two to four years, in the late dry season, and it’s these fires that produce between three and four per cent of Australia’s accountable greenhouse emissions. The methodology helps reduce these emissions by using low-intensity, patchy early dry-season fires to reduce the overall fire frequency and proportion of late dry-season fires, which tend to be much larger and more intense,” Dr Cook said.
The savannah burning methodology for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions was developed by a team from CSIRO, the Charles Darwin University’s Centre for Bushfire Research, the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and Aboriginal landowners and rangers in northern Australia.
Dr Cook said, “It’s lovely to see science being applied to improve land management in that part of the world: we’re talking very remote country, very limited resources for land management, and very sparse populations. It’s had a great impact.”
Northern Territory and national environment groups have pledged to fight a proposal for a new underground uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park, arguing the proponent Energy Resources of Australia has failed to supply key details that would allow NT and federal environment ministers to make an informed assessment of the project’s economic risks.
Energy Resources of Australia, majority owned by Rio Tinto, has submitted a Draft Environment Impact Assessment prior to finalising and releasing a pre-feasibility study that contains important project details, including economic data directly relevant to the company’s unproven capacity to rehabilitate the troubled mine site.
“ERA’s financial struggles are well known to investors who have fled the depressed uranium sector in droves since Fukushima,” said Lauren Mellor of the Environment Centre NT.
“The company has lost more than $400 million since the disaster, which was directly fuelled by Australian uranium, struck in 2011.
“With rehabilitation liabilities of more than $700 million – worth more than ERA’s market value – the company has warned the ASX it may not be able to fully fund future rehabilitation. Federal and NT assessors should demand all project data be made available for public scrutiny during the assessment process.”
ERA is required to end mining and mineral processing at the Ranger mine in January 2021 and the groups are concerned that the planned new underground operation, known as Ranger 3 Deeps, would complicate and delay the company’s mandated clean up and rehabilitation period.
“Ranger has been operating inside Kakadu for more than three decades and has experienced hundreds of leaks, spills and license breaches in that time, including a major radioactive spill last year that shut the plant for six months,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney.
“The mine is ageing, failing and is overdue for retirement. But instead of a planned and costed clean up and exit plan, ERA is pushing ahead with incomplete plans for a new underground mine, playing radioactive roulette at Ranger.”
“We will actively contest any new uranium mine in Kakadu because this company has a track record of broken pipes and broken promises.
“Federal and NT Environment Ministers responsible for assessment of the Ranger 3 Deeps project should require ERA to come clean about its plans and its projections and ensure all the missing project data is provided for public scrutiny.”
Editors’ Note: Dr Gavin Mudd, Senior Environmental Engineer at Monash University and a leading expert in uranium mining , legacy mines and groundwater impacts will address a public forum at 6pm on Wednesday 5 Nov at the Groove Café in Nightcliff to discuss the complex rehabilitation challenges facing ERA at the Ranger site. Dr Mudd is also available for comment and background briefings.
CONTACT: Dr Gavin Mudd, 0419 117 494. Lauren Mellor, ECNT, 0413 534 125 or Dave Sweeney, ACF, 0408 317 812
Indigenous people pay respects to Whitlam, the prime minister who cared about them November 5, 2014, SMH, Dan Harrison Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent “……..this week, some of the Gurindji men and women involved in that fight and their families travelled across the country to Sydney to pay their respects to that jangkarni marlaka (“big important man”), former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The group have travelled from Kalkaringi, 800 km south of Darwin, to honour the man who, in August 1975, poured desert soil through the hand of Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari to signify the return of more than 3000 square kilometres of Gurindji ancestral land.
“We are mates now,” Lingiari replied.
When news of Whitlam’s death reached Kalkaringi two weeks ago, the community gathered at the spot where the ceremony took place, sharing stories in honour of the man they now refer to respectfully as kulum Whitlam…… http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-people-pay-respects-to-whitlam-the-prime-minister-who-cared-about-them-20141104-11guaz.html#ixzz3IJiWV4RE
Abbott and Forrest’s assault on Indigenous land rights Independent Australia Land Rights News – Northern Edition 31 October 2014, The iconic 1976 Land Rights Act is under attack like never before under the Abbott Government, writes former Fraser Liberal Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ian Viner AO QC (via Northern Land Council – Northern Edition).
WITH the Commonwealth Government’s push for 99-year leases, the Forrest Review’s call for Aboriginal land to be privatised so as to be bought and sold, and attacks upon the Northern Land Council in particular over their defence of traditional ownership and their responsibilities under the Land Rights Act, the iconic 1976 Land Rights Act is under threat like never before.
The whole framework and security of traditional Aboriginal land, protected by theLand Rights Act, is in danger of being subverted by Governments, bureaucracies and people who have no real understanding or sympathy for traditional communal land ownership.
99-year town leases turn traditional ownership upside down.
In reality, they put the Commonwealth back into ownership and control of traditional Aboriginal land like it was before the Land Rights Act was passed as if Aboriginal land had returned to reserve status under Commonwealth control………..
The Forrest Review recommendations make it plain that the objective of Commonwealth land tenure reform policies in the Northern Territory should be to smash traditional ownership by making Aboriginal land “tradeable and fungible” as it says in Chapter 8. History tells us that land grabberswill quickly move in and Aboriginal land will be traded away forever and Aboriginal people left on the fringe once again.
The real objective of Commonwealth policy should be to put the Aboriginal people in control of their own destiny for the next 99 years. Keeping Aboriginal land firmly under Aboriginal control is the only way for that to happen.
Northern Territory Aboriginal people should learn from Maori history in New Zealand………http://www.independentaustralia.net/australia/australia-display/abbott-and-forrests-assault-on-indigenous-land-rights,7052
$200m sought to rehabilitate former Rum Jungle uranium mine, ABC News 31 Oct 14 By Joanna Crothers The Department of Mines and Energy is seeking $200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the former Rum Jungle mine site.
Attempts to rehabilitate the site, Australia’s first uranium mine, stem back to the 1970s.
Scientists from the Department of Mines and Energy (DoE) have been drilling at the site over the past three weeks and analysing rock samples.It is estimated that five million cubic metres of rock will need to be relocated or re-buried in two of the mine’s deepest pits.
The process is likely to take three years and cost millions, scientists say…….Uranium and copper were mined at the site from the 1950s until the site closed in 1971. Waste rock at the site was buried but it started releasing acid and metals into the nearby East Finniss River. Ms Laurencont said the rocks were larger and more oxidised than was thought.
Last year the Federal Government allocated $14 million for developing a rehabilitation plan, in addition to $8 million already spent on a preliminary plan.
Acidic drainage has plagued the site since it closed and the Finniss River is a significant fishing sport for Indigenous people and Territory anglers.
The recreational reserve now known as the Rum Jungle South Recreation Reserve was shut from 2010 until 2012 by the Northern Territory Government where some low-level radiation was detected.
The Department will present its plan of rehabilitation to the Treasury in March next year.Other plans to rehabilitate include cleaning up other areas of the site and reintroducing vegetation onto the site. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-31/mines-department-seeking-200m-to-fix-former-rum-jungle-mine/5858764
“Our current Government is putting out a Green Paper called ‘The New Frontier’which includes Western Australia, Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, and they’re talking about the economic viability of the new frontier,” Lee said.
“What that translates to, is mining, taking of land, and when you start removing people from their land, then you can’t close the gap because you’re once again denying people their human rights.”
Aunty Pat, said communities need home bases, where a sense of belonging can be achieved, and children educated in the old ways to provide a path to the future where the loss their ancestor’s suffered can be replaced with traditional culture.
“We need to have a place where we can deal with a holistic approach of taking a family on a property and do the healing process,” Aunty Pat said.
“It will not take three months or six months, it could take a whole year and on this property we should have trained qualified people who will deal with the children and have some form of a mini school for the children to learn how to read and write the old way.”
Ms Vanessa Lee, said it’s crucial for our government and our country to try to understand how the land is important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“I don’t think people understand the whole importance of land to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it’s not just land rights, it’s a sense of spirituality,” Lee said.
“Everything comes from the earth and goes back to the earth, and that’s where you’ve got the Dreaming happening.”
Mr James said there’s evidence that what these organizations are doing out there is helping and making a difference, but they need continual support……..http://thestringer.com.au/forgotten-children-of-the-promised-land-the-fight-to-save-rural-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-communities-8944#.VE6TiiLF8nk
for the traditional owners to have any confidence in the capacity of ERA and the regulators to manage Ranger the recommendations of the report must be acted on “swiftly and completely”.
Uranium miner ERA ‘did not meet expected standards’, new report over Kakadu acid spill says By James Dunlevie ABC News 24 Oct 14 A report has criticised standards at a Kakadu uranium mine, but local Aboriginal people say the investigation process had broken down and they had not been told the report was being released.
The investigation looked into the circumstances surrounding the incident at the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Ranger uranium mine in the national park, where 1,400 cubic metres of acidic slurry was spilt out of a collapsed tank about 1:00am on December 7, 2013.
The report found “at the time of the tank failure ERA’s management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet expected standards”. In a joint statement announcing the release of the report, Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane and his Territory counterpart, Willem Westra Van Holte, thanked the members of the Ranger Incident Taskforce for their efforts “in particular, the contributions by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council”.
It’s just absurd that you would establish a taskforce to investigate … over a nearly 12-month period and then release the report and not have any dialogue with any taskforce members.Justin O’Brien, CEO Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation
ERA to lift safety standards at Ranger Uranium Mine 24 October, 2014 Ben Hagemann Australian Mining, The Ranger Uranium mine has been directed to engage in improvements to process safety procedures on site, as a result of inadequate safety at the time of the failure of a leach tank in December last year.
The Department of Industry released a summary joint statement for the investigation which said that at the time of the failure of Leach Tank 1, the management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet the expected standards. Continue reading
Kirsten Blair, 22 Oct 14 Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation was disappointed to learn that Ministers Ian MacFarlane and Willem Westra van Holthe had released a summary report of the investigation into the collapse of a leach tank at the Ranger uranium mine within the bounds of Kakadu National Park late last year without consulting all members of the investigation taskforce.
Gundjeihmi, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger mine site, has a position on the taskforce which was established to investigate last year’s radiological accident but was not informed of the intention to release the report yesterday.
Justin O’Brien CEO of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation said “We are bitterly disappointed that the investigation taskforce process has broken down, not for any want of trying on our part. It is critical that the recommendations of this report are fully implemented with highest priority given to a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework at Ranger, a point which the ministers have acknowledged but up to this point have not committed to act on.
“The tank collapse which sent over a million litres of radioactive acid spilling across the mine site was yet another example of the poor management and failed systems at Ranger. For Traditional Owners to gain have any confidence in the capacity of the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and the regulators to manage this mine the recommendations of this report must be acted on swiftly and completely.
“ERA wants to expand the Ranger mine underground. Without a comprehensive regulatory review and implementation of the remaining recommendations it would be ludicrous for the Federal Government to even consider such a proposal.” Mr O’Brien concluded
according to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, mining is returning millions to Aboriginal owned corporations. Western Australia’s Pilbara is the engine room of the nation’s mining boom. But the two billion years old 400,000 square kilometres Pilbara is home to some pretty sad poverty, all of it First Peoples – Roebourne and Wickham for starters, and any of the cluster of communities around Marble Bar, Tom Price, Nullogine, Port Hedland.
Port Hedland is Australia’s busiest port, with ships leaving daily filled with iron ore extracted from Aboriginal land but with the profits returned to multinationals – next-to-nothing for the communities where many of the native title claimants live . Native title owners? A fool’s gold many say.
But if not billions of dollars there are millions of dollars going the way of Aboriginal corporations. Continue reading
Coniston massacre: Nigel Scullion returns site to traditional owners 86 years after killings 7 News, ANTHONY STEWART October 9, 2014, The site of Australia’s last recorded massacre of Aboriginal people has been returned to its traditional owners.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion travelled to Yurrkuru 274 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs to present native title deeds to traditional owners.
Here, in 1928, up to 100 Aboriginal people were killed near the Coniston cattle station in reprisal for the death of a white man. The murders later became known as the Coniston massacre.
Warlpiri and Anmatyerr people welcomed Senator Nigel Scullion on to their land with traditional song and dance.
Senior Anmatyerr man Teddy Long said generations of his family had been fighting to have the massacre acknowledged and the land returned. “My old man, my father been explaining to me what happened to me, the shooting days,” he said.
“In the massacre days many people were killed here and that’s why [I've] been fighting real hard for this land”
Land returned decades after Land Rights claim Traditional owners initially lodged a claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act for the land in 1985………
In 1928 The prime minister at the time, Stanley Bruce, launched an a board of inquiry into the actions of police and pastoralists.
It ruled the police had “acted in self-defence”……https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25219778/coniston-massacre-nigel-scullion-returns-site-to-traditional-owners-86-years-after-killings/
“The writing is on the wall for Rio – post-Fukushima the uranium commodity price is at an historic low, the global market outlook shows no signs of recovery and the company continue to lose millions at Ranger mine every year. NT and Commonwealth regulators need to use the Ranger 3 Deeps EIA process to take a sobering look at the mine’s struggling financial position, it’s poor worker safety, nuclear security and environmental record and use this opportunity to close the door on this costly and contaminating trade for good.”
7 Oct 14 The Environment Centre has vowed to contest any new uranium mining in Kakadu National Park and called on Rio Tinto to commit to a comprehensive closure and rehabilitation plan for Ranger uranium mine. The call coincided with an international day of action on October 7th with trade unions, communities and Indigenous groups protesting to highlight the health, environment and social impacts of Rio Tinto’s multinational mining operations.
Rio Tinto and subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia are currently seeking an approval to develop a new underground uranium deposit, Ranger 3 Deeps, despite recent claims that the company is unwilling to take responsibility for the $600 million plus clean-up costs from its open pit operation.
Rio’s Chief Executive Sam Walsh has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for rehabilitation, most recently at the company’s Melbourne AGM, suggesting instead that its subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia, 68% owned by Rio should bear sole responsibility despite its weak financial position.
Lauren Mellor from the Environment Centre NT said “We are supporting the international call today to hold Rio Tinto to account for its appalling track record on environmental, social and industrial safety issues. Here in the NT Rio’s Ranger uranium mine has recorded over 200 license and security breaches, spills, and accidents in its 30 year history. Continue reading
Dave Sweeney, 6 Oct 14 Today’s announcement that Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has lodged its Environmental Impact Statement for underground mining (the Ranger 3 Deeps or R3D project) at its embattled Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu raises serious concerns about the project’s environmental impacts and economic viability, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
This application faces significant procedural and market hurdles and will be actively contested by national and NT environment groups.
“Uranium mining at Ranger has been the source of headlines, heartache and hazard for years but all mining and mineral processing ends in January 2021 when a mandated rehabilitation and closure process commences. ERA faces a serious management challenge to rehabilitate the Ranger site to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park”, said ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“Ranger 3 Deeps would add considerable cost and complexity to this challenge. Instead of literally digging itself into a deeper hole ERA and parent company Rio Tinto should be advancing a comprehensive clean-up and closure program at Ranger”.
“ERA runs a failing mine in a fragile place. Kakadu deserves the highest protection and ERA requires the highest scrutiny. Instead of promises and plans to go underground Rio Tinto needs to ensure its under-performing subsidiary ERA meets its rehabilitation requirements in time and in total. After decades of being able to mine and mill Rio Tinto must not now be allowed to cut and run”.
Concerns around the planned R3D project include:
- the projects impact on the required rehabilitation of the Ranger site (note: ERA’s authority for mining and mineral processing expires in January 2021)
- doubts over the capacity of ERA and the commitment of parent company Rio Tinto to fund required rehabilitation works at Ranger. The former mine will need to be rehabilitated to a standard suitable for inclusion in the surrounding World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. This complex and costly task is being actively undermined by the lack of certainty surrounding rehabilitation financing. Rio Tinto argue they have no legal obligation to do the job, while ERA say they do not have the money. One corporation lacks commitment, the other capacity and Kakadu is held to ransom.
- uncertainty surrounding the safety and adequacy of related infrastructure at the Ranger site (most starkly highlighted by the collapse of a leach tank and spill of overa million litres of radioactive and acidic slurry in December 2013)
- ERA’s poor operational history which has seen over 200 leaks, spill, licence breaches and incidents at the Ranger mine and detailed concerns raised over the adequacy of the mine’s regulatory regime.
- The poor uranium commodity price post Fukushima – a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – ERA’s revenue has been steadily declining and net profit after tax has been negative in the last three years (2011-13). There is a real concern that falling costs will lead to ERA cutting corners.
Context and comment: Dave Sweeney, ACF – 0408 317 812