Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Higher cancer and stillbirth rates in Aboriginal people living near the Ranger uranium mine

Aboriginal people near the Ranger uranium mine suffered more stillbirths and cancer. We don’t know why,  The Conversation, Rosalie Schultz, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, College of Medicine and Public Health Centre for Remote Health, Flinders University, August 2, 2021 This article mentions stillbirth deaths in Aboriginal communities.

The Ranger uranium mine, surrounded by Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, operated for 40 years until it closed in 2021During this time, Aboriginal people in the region experienced stillbirth rates double those of Aboriginal people elsewhere in the Top End, and cancer rates almost 50% higher.

But a NT government investigation couldn’t explain why. And as I write today in the Medical Journal of Australia, we’re still no wiser.

We owe it to Aboriginal people living near mines to understand and overcome what’s making them sick. We need to do this in partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations. This may require research that goes beyond a biomedical focus to consider the web of socio-cultural and political factors contributing to Aboriginal well-being and sickness.

Investigating the health impacts

Uranium was mined at Ranger from 1981 until 2012. Processing of stockpiled ore continued until 2021. This is despite community opposition when the mine was proposed and during its operation.

Over the life of the mine, there have been more than 200 documented incidents. Diesel and acid spills have contaminated creeks and drinking water.

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation represents the Mirarr people of the region. For decades it has expressed grave concerns about continuing incidents and the lack of an effective government response.

When Ranger’s operators proposed expanding the mine in 2014, opponents pointed to suggestions of higher rates of stillbirth and cancer among Aboriginal people living nearby.

The NT health department then set up an investigation. Investigators began by identifying all Aboriginal people who had spent more than half their lives near the mine between 1991 and 2014. These people were compared with all other Aboriginal people in the Top End.

The investigators considered the worst-case scenario would be if Aboriginal people were exposed to radiation from the mine contaminating bush food, water or air, and this exposure increased stillbirth and cancer rates.

Investigators also looked at smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and poor diet as possible contributing causes.

Here’s what they found

Investigators found the rate of stillbirth was 2.17 times higher among Aboriginal women near the mine. Radiation can lead to stillbirth by causing congenital malformations, and some other risk factors for stillbirth appeared more common amongst women near the mine. However the investigation found neither radiation nor other risk factors explained the higher rate of stillbirth.

The rate of cancer overall was 1.48 times higher among Aboriginal people near the mine than elsewhere in the Top End. No rates of single cancers were significantly higher…………. https://theconversation.com/aboriginal-people-near-the-ranger-uranium-mine-suffered-more-stillbirths-and-cancer-we-dont-know-why-164862

August 2, 2021 Posted by | health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Historic handback of Kakadu town to Mirarr traditional owners,

Historic handback of Kakadu town to Mirarr traditional owners, The Age By Miki PerkinJune 26, 2021,  For four decades the Mirarr people, led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula, have been calling for the town of Jabiru, inside World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, to be returned to its rightful custodians.

At a handback ceremony on Saturday, their decades-long fight for recognition of their traditional ownership over Jabiru culminated in the grant of freehold title over the town, the first of its kind in Australia.

At a handback ceremony on Saturday, their decades-long fight for recognition of their traditional ownership over Jabiru culminated in the grant of freehold title over the town, the first of its kind in Australia.

The fight for land rights in the region began in 1978, when Jabiru was built on Crown Land without the involvement of traditional owners to service the controversial Ranger uranium mine.

Ranger began operations in 1980, and was run by Energy Resources Australia, which is majority-owned by Rio Tinto.

Initially, there were plans to bulldoze the Jabiru town once the mining lease expired, but the Northern Territory government and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr people, have developed an ambitious plan to transform it into a tourism hub for Kakadu, and a regional centre.

The Commonwealth has promised $276 million towards the revitalisation of the town, which includes a new international airport, a five-star eco-tourism lodge, and better access to Kakadu’s natural attractions, but there have been criticisms at the speed of progress.

Justin O’Brien, the chief executive of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation said the lease handover was a historic milestone in the transition from a mining economy to tourism but the town’s future challenges should not be underestimated.

Energy Resources Australia had failed to engage in a timely way on the town’s transition, Mr O’Brien said, with former mining employee houses not ready for use, and at least 70 ERA houses vacant…….

Processing of ore at the uranium mine finished in January and the mine’s vast pits will be filled in over the next five years, but there are concerns about the rehabilitation process.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney welcomed the tenure change but said there were profound challenges ahead for the costly and complex mine rehabilitation, which is set to be completed by 2026.

“There has been 40 years of industrial activity involving heavy metals and radioactive materials in a wet-dry tropical place, surrounded by a World-Heritage listed area,” Mr Sweeney said. “To bring that up to a standard where it could be reincorporated into the surrounding area is a very, very high bar.”

In a statement, Energy Resources Australia extended its congratulations to Mirarr traditional owners and said that after 40 years of production its priority was to successfully rehabilitate Ranger to a standard that could be incorporated into Kakadu National Park.

In the mid-1990s, Ms Margarula and other Mirarr people mounted a high-profile campaign to oppose the Jabiluka uranium mine. Elders also lodged the Jabiru native title claim which was decided by the Federal Court in 2016 after one of Australia’s longest-running native title matters. The court granted native title to the Mirarr.

In 2017, researchers published their findings about a wealth of artefacts on Mirarr country which indicated humans reached Australia at least 65,000 years ago — up to 18,000 years earlier than archaeologists previously thought.  https://www.theage.com.au/environment/sustainability/historic-handback-of-kakadu-town-to-mirarr-traditional-owners-20210625-p584c7.html

June 28, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

With uranium mining closed, Kakadu ‘stagnates” during long wait for proposed federal funding.

Fears Kakadu is ‘probably going to stagnate’ during the long wait for promised federal funding, ABC
By Roxanne Fitzgerald  11 Apr 21
, The federal government has been urged to fast-track an investment worth more than $200 million it promised two years ago to revitalise the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

Key points:
Kakadu National Park has been waiting two years for a pivotal federal investmentPoliticians and traditional owners fear Kakadu will ‘stagnate’ without it

A Senior Advisory Group has been established to examine the management of the park.

The Australian government has allocated only $5.4 million so far to transition Jabiru — the community in the centre of the park — from a mining town into a world-class tourism hub.

Outlined in 2019 federal budget papers, the $216.2 million was also meant to fund road upgrades, a new park visitor centre and more than $50 million in tourism infrastructure over a 10-year timeframe.The federal government’s promised spending has now grown to $276 million.

Parks Australia has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and consultations with traditional owners for delays in approving funding………….. .
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-11/nt-calls-for-kakadu-investment-to-be-fast-tracked/100054140

April 11, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

The remediation of Ranger uranium mine: will it really restore the environment?

Traditional owners were given land rights in return for their support for the Ranger mine, and Kakadu National Park was born.   ……. the land will finally be returned to the traditional owners… the question is, in what state?  ………    we could find the site an eroding heap of substandard scrub.    

As part of cleaning up the mine site, contaminated buildings and equipment will be buried in one of the mine’s enormous pits.    

  We’ve been told that burying the equipment and the contaminated material in the mine site is out of step with global best practice in the mining industry.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Australia a renewables leader – or the Saudi Arabia of nuclear energy”

“Nuclear power is dangerous, unnecessary and colossally expensive. It would take more than a decade to build a nuclear reactor in Australia and cost billions. It’s the ultimate climate action delay tactic”
“Australia has an opportunity to position itself as a world leader in renewables.”
The NT, with our abundance of Uranium, should be the Saudi Arabia of nuclear energy’: Senator McMahon,    Hepburn Advocate, Roxanne Fitzgerald, 19 Feb 21,

Northern Territory Senator Dr Sam McMahon says she is “delighted” her push for nuclear has been backed, after the Nationals announced new amendments to a bill in favour of nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.

Nationals Senators, led by Matt Canavan and Bridget McKenzie have announced a raft of amendments to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) bill to invest in nuclear power.

Senator McMahon says the drafted legislation supports her long-established calls to unlock nuclear energy…..

The Northern Territory, with our abundance of Uranium and potential nuclear fuel Thorium, should be the Saudi Arabia of nuclear energy.

But political activist group Get Up’s national director Paul Oosting says that as Australia forges ahead with solutions to the climate crisis, such as solar technology, the push for nuclear could delay climate action.

“Nuclear power is dangerous, unnecessary and colossally expensive. It would take more than a decade to build a nuclear reactor in Australia and cost billions. It’s the ultimate climate action delay tactic,” Mr Oosting said.

“Australia has an opportunity to position itself as a world leader in renewables. It’s critical this pivotal moment in our history not be squandered on obsolete and failing technologies that will lock in irreparable climate damage.”

Mr Oosting said he was concerned the clean energy corporation could become a “slush fund” for the coal, gas, and nuclear industry, and cautioned politicians from backing the bill.

“When Taylor’s Bill comes before Parliament, politicians who accept the seriousness of the climate crisis we face – of all parties and none – must act to ensure coal, gas, and nuclear are excluded from any definition of ‘low emissions technology’, the return-on-investment requirement is kept, and the independence of the CEFC board is maintained,” he said………….he said………….   https://www.hepburnadvocate.com.au/story/7134825/the-nt-should-be-the-saudi-arabia-of-nuclear-energy-senator-mcmahon/

February 20, 2021 Posted by | Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Mediation continuing over rehabilitation of Range uranium mine

Mediation continues behind closed doors, but the case is a clear reminder that commitments are not set in stone and that clean-up funding for even the most environmentally destructive projects is not guaranteed.

While national and/or state law jurisdictions regulate specific requirements for closure and associated financial assurance, which also determine the period of rehabilitation, it is essential that members of the mining community are aware of applicable law and regulation in all jurisdictions of operation……….

“In the context of price volatility, investment shifts and now Covid-19, many major companies have been mothballing operations and selling mines to juniors, smaller and/or less resourced companies around the world. The most notable may be Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland, sold for $1 in 2016.”

The socio-economic and financial arrangements for closure agreements are especially important in order to avoid dumping the costs on taxpayers and society .

How long should a miner commit to oversight?  https://www.mining-technology.com/news/mining-rio-tinto/   Yoana Cholteeva11 February 2021 

A subsidiary of Rio Tinto is currently in mediation  with the Australian Government over continuing commitments to scientific monitoring of the Ranger mine. We examine the dispute and take a look at some positive examples of land remediation.

Land rehabilitation as part of mining oversight is an essential process where the land in a mining area is returned to some degree of its former state. Recently, a new dispute over the rehabilitation of the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory of Australia, owned by a Rio Tinto subsidiary, once again reignited the debate over how long a miner should maintain oversight once operations have stopped.

Rio Tinto’s oversight dilemma

Continue reading

February 18, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Solar, storage to take over from Ranger uranium mine

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Northern Territory, solar, storage, uranium | Leave a comment

Clean-up plan for Ranger uranium mine is ”woefully inadequate”

Gundjeihmi and ERA enter negotiations to extend Ranger Uranium Mine rehabilitation

By https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-09/gundjeihmi-era-negotiate-ranger-uranium-mine-rehabilitation/13043076 Matt Garrick

An Aboriginal group in Kakadu National Park says the rehabilitation plan for a decommissioned uranium mine is “woefully inadequate”, and is calling for a 26-year extension to the process.

Key points:

  • Mining at the Ranger Uranium Mine wound up yesterday after more than 40 years
  • Traditional owners in Kakadu are now calling for an extension of the project’s rehabilitation phase
  • The company that runs the mine has signalled its support for the move

Production at the Ranger Uranium Mine, on the outskirts of the national park, drew to a close yesterday after more than 40 years of operation.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr traditional owners, has used the closure to demand owner Energy Resources Australia (ERA) rehabilitate the site beyond its current lease expiry in 2026.

Within that timeframe, the company is required to restore the site to its previous pristine state.

“That’s not long enough,” the corporation’s CEO, Justin O’Brien, said.

“We are now awaiting a drafting from the Commonwealth Government for amendments to the Atomic Energy Act such that you can actually put in place an extension to the rehabilitation period.”

Mr O’Brien said traditional owners were pushing for the rehabilitation period to be extended by an additional 26 years, which would carry the process through until 2052.

He said ERA and its parent company, Rio Tinto, had signalled their support for an extended term of rehabilitation — but the timeframe and details of that extension are still being negotiated.

In a statement, the company said it was committed to “achieving all documented rehabilitation outcomes in its Mine Closure Plan (MCP) by January 2026”.

It confirmed negotiations were underway with traditional owners to “determine an appropriate mechanism” to extend the company’s tenure at the Ranger site, which would allow it to continue rehabilitation beyond 2026.

Environmental group the Australian Conservation Foundation yesterday welcomed the end of production at the site, the last active uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

The foundation’s Dave Sweeney, who is an anti-nuclear campaigner, said he was supportive of the push to extend the rehabilitation period.

“The company should not be approaching clean-up asking itself what it can do in five years,” he said.

“It should be approaching clean-up asking ‘What is the best possible way to reduce and address the damage that has happened?’

“What’s the best outcome — not the best outcome we can do in five years.”

The wind-down of production at the mine is expected to prompt an exodus from the nearby town of Jabiru, where ERA holds the lease for about 300 houses.

One hundred and twenty-five ERA staff were made redundant this week.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

End of an ERA: four decades of radioactive risk come to an end at Kakadu

Over 40 years of high-impact uranium mining and processing at Energy Resources of Australia’s (ERA) Ranger mine in Kakadu ends today.

Australia’s longest-running uranium operation was licensed to operate until January 8, 2021.

“This is a very good day for Kakadu, the Northern Territory and Australia,” Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said.

“The Ranger mine has generated controversy, headlines and heartache for four decades. The focus must now be on ERA and parent company Rio Tinto doing comprehensive and credible site rehabilitation and supporting the transition to a post-mining regional economy.

“Today we should also acknowledge the sustained efforts of the Mirarr Traditional Owners and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation to protect their country and culture from the impacts of mining.

“The Mirarr opposed the Ranger mine 40 years ago, led a successful campaign to stop ERA developing a further mine at nearby Jabiluka 20 years ago, and are now driving the re-shaping of a culture- and conservation-based local economy.

“Plans for cleaning up the site of the Ranger mine are being hampered by an unrealistic rehabilitation time frame, funding uncertainty, and fears about a tailings dam leaking toxic contaminants into the surrounding national park.

Closing Ranger, protecting Kakadu, a recent report co-authored by ACF, also found data deficiencies and technical issues, particularly around groundwater and tailings management.

“Australia has a long history of sub-standard mine rehabilitation in both the uranium and wider mining sectors. A far better approach and outcome is needed at Ranger. This work is a key test of the commitment of ERA and Rio Tinto, as well as the NT and federal governments.”

January 9, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Ranger Danger: Rio Tinto Faces Its Nuclear Test in Kakadu Uranium

December 17, 2020 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Unfinished Business: Rehabilitating the Ranger Uranium Mine 

December 17, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

The end of the uranium mining era leaves Jabiru with some social and housing problems

NT mine closure has Jabiru community anxious about an uncertain future, and some are already leaving,   https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-13/nt-jabiru-housing-uncertainty-as-uranium-mine-end-nears/12975950,  By Matt Garrick
  Packing her life away into boxes and preparing to shift out of her small Northern Territory town has had an emotional impact on Denise House — but it’s not the feeling she expected.

Key points:

  • The Ranger uranium mine will cease operations on January 9
  • Dozens of mining families are expected to leave town in coming months
  • Future rental prices and the standard of the town’s housing remains “unknown”

“It’s funny because I don’t feel like I’m leaving yet, although we know we are. There’s a date, we’ve already got our flights booked and everything,” Ms House said.

“But I’m sure there will be tears.”

The House family is among an exodus of families preparing to up stumps and leave Jabiru — a mining town on the edge of Kakadu National Park with a population of just over 1,000 people — as mining operations officially cease on January 9, 2021.

The vision is for Jabiru to eventually be turned into an Indigenous-run tourism town and service hub.

The entity set up to help handle the transition, Jabiru Kabolkmakmen Limited (JKL), is among those conceding the town faces a huge challenge in the coming year. Continue reading

December 14, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

North of Australia is headed for a severe heatwave

November 3, 2020 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Clean-up for Ranger uranium mine. Rum Jungle mine still a polluted mess

 

October 10, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Mirrar people at last have control of Jabiru, as Ranger uranium mining set to end operations

   Traditional owners regain control of Jabiru as historic land rights law passes Senate Natasha Emeck, NT News, 3 Sept 20 HISTORIC land rights legislation that will allow the traditional owners of Jabiru to regain control of their township has passed through the Senate.

Amendments to Aboriginal land rights laws passed through the upper house of federal parliament pm Thursday, returning the ownership of Jabiru to the Mirarr people and allowing for a long-term township lease.

The mining town was built in 1982 to service the Ranger uranium mine, which will cease operation in January 2021, heralding a new era for the town and surrounding Kakadu National Park.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said today’s historic moment had been a “long time coming” for the Mirarr people, who had been campaigning for this for 20 years.

Senior Mirarr traditional owner and Kakadu resident Yvonne Margarula, pictured in Kakadu National Park.

Mirarr senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula said her people were glad to see the legal changes finally happen.

They are essential to ensuring the vibrant post-mining future of Jabiru and the Kakadu region that Mirarr have been planning for,” she said.

We look forward to welcoming visitors from all around the world to our beautiful country.”

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, who represents the Mirarr traditional owners, have crafted a masterplan to turn Jabiru into an Indigenous-led tourism and services town.

This bipartisan change to the legislation is an essential step to correct the historical exclusion of the town of Jabiru from Aboriginal ownership and allow Mirarr to take the legal control they need to enact their vision,” chief executive Justin O’Brien said.

 

September 3, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment