Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Uranium miner BHP under criticism for guzzling precious artesian water, and for not keeping its word to Aboriginal native title holders

Environment campaigner and consultant David Noonan, who provided submissions to the Juukan Inquiry, is sceptical of the desalination plant announcement.

Mr Noonan says even if it was built, BHP could be taking GAB water until the end of the decade. He wants to hear a formal commitment about alternative water sources.

Why BHP is facing a minefield, CHRIS MITCHELL, Adelaide Now, 4 Mar 22,

AUSTRALIA’S biggest company and the world’s secondbiggest miner, BHP, may disappoint conservationists and Aboriginal native title holders who had hoped for commitments to reform of heritage issues and underground water use at its Olympic Dam mine before the March 19 state election BHP, the Big Australian, with market capitalisation of $230bn, paid the state government royalties of $136m last year. Its Olympic Dam project 560km north of Adelaide is South Australia’s largest mining venture and the world’s biggest uranium mine, a global top-four copper mine and producer of gold and lead. BHP is powerful in SA.

Premier Steven Marshall is Aboriginal Affairs Minister but it would be fair to say native title holders do not wield the sort of power in Adelaide that big miners do.

Yet BHP has flagged some changes to the way it operates that could reduce its own power over its own asset.

Under the 1982 Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) Act signed with former mine owner Western Mining, BHP, which bought the mine in 2005, has almost unprecedented powers over resources and water within its 12,000sq km Stuart Shelf exploration lease.

BHP has been criticised by conservation groups and Aboriginal interests in last year’s report into rival Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge in Western Australia. The report includes criticism from the Arabana tribe of the mine’s heavy reliance on water from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), and particularly from the so-called “Mound Springs” Aboriginal heritage sites north of the mine.

On February 15, The Advertiser revealed BHP would back a new $15m study, partly funded by state and federal governments, into a Spencer Gulf desalination plant to pump water to SA’s northern mines. But BHP is still far short of publicly committing to end its use of GAB water.

Conservationists say BHP is trying to control the water agenda, to maintain its privileges under the Indenture Act. But some hope it will be pragmatic enough to cut water demand from the GAB if it eventually decides to proceed with its Oak Dam copper-gold-uranium mine 65km southeast of Olympic.

Asked last week if BHP was formally committed to ending GAB water use, a spokesman said: “We continuously monitor and publicly report our water draw under a program approved by the SA government.”

BHP is not just under pressure for environmental reasons.

It is in discussion with three native title groups about the Olympic Dam Agreement it settled in 2008 with the Kokatha, Barngarla and Kuyani.

Of these, only the Kokatha have been granted formal native title over parts of BHP’s Stuart Shelf.

BHP’s problem now is how to balance the very valuable 40-year-old legal rights it has under the indenture with rights found in a native title determination in favour of the Kokatha in 2014……….

The Kokatha fought a long, 18-year battle to win their native title in 2014. Kokatha directors say dealing with BHP on the ODA before and after their native title court win has been challenging.

At this point, they are not receiving mining royalties and are unhappy with employment opportunities for Kokatha people.

Michael Turner, a former Kokatha director and current adviser on the Kokatha Native Title Compensation Settlement and Kokatha Charitable trusts, says he has been dealing with BHP for much of his adult life.

At this point, they are not receiving mining royalties and are unhappy with employment opportunities for Kokatha people………

negotiations on BHP’s Olympic Dam Agreement had been disappointing.

“We have been calling for a review of the ODA for many years and it has constantly been deferred,” he said.

“They’re refusing to move forward. It would be great if BHP could keep to its word and respect the wishes of the Kokatha people and review the ODA for the benefit of generations to come.”…………….

The final report into the May 24, 2020 destruction by Australia’s second-biggest miner, Rio Tinto, of the Juukan Caves in Western Australia’s Pilbara was released in October. In it, Arabana chair Brenda Underwood says: “Unfortunately, our springs are disappearing. The cause … is water taken from the GAB by BHP’s mine at Roxby Downs.”

BHP and the state government believe the springs remain healthy but environmentalists fear a possible expansion to the Oak Dam could take daily GAB water use well beyond 50 million litres a day. BHP says it is averaging 34 million litres a day.

Environment campaigner and consultant David Noonan, who provided submissions to the Juukan Inquiry, is sceptical of the desalination plant announcement.

Mr Noonan says even if it was built, BHP could be taking GAB water until the end of the decade. He wants to hear a formal commitment about alternative water sources.

BHP’s Aboriginal engagement team is mindful expectations have changed across the industry since Juukan and BHP will need to be seen to be engaging seriously with traditional owners. Some believe an ODA negotiated before the Kokatha achieved native title should be written off and a new agreement established………………………………………

more  https://todayspaper.adelaidenow.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=23a5b7bd-e6d5-4a82-972e-347f65874b3a&fbclid=IwAR11bzLNHD6mcfZaJkwLcs7cvtfeJQbEhz9btfDFZeFDTsE-BvpWFcuXQnw

March 5, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, South Australia, uranium, water | Leave a comment

Traditional Owners welcome expiry of uranium mine approval, but the fight isn’t over

Traditional Owners welcome expiry of uranium mine approval, but the fight isn’t over, NIT by Giovanni Torre 28 Jan 22,- Yeelirrie area Traditional Owners have welcomed the expiry of the environmental approval to mine uranium on their land.

The approval conditions for mining at Yeelirrie, near Wiluna in central Western Australia, required the proponent, Cameco, to substantially begin mining within five years. On 20 January 2022 the approval expired with that condition unmet.

Traditional Owners have fought against mining at Yeelirrie since the 1970s when the uranium deposit was first identified by Western Mining Corporation.

Kado Muir, Tjiwarl native title holder, Ngalia leader of Walkatjurra Walkabout and Chair of the West Australia Nuclear Free Alliance said that over the past five decades “our community got together, stood up strong and has fought off three major multinational corporations”.

“Today we celebrate that Cameco cannot mine at Yeelirrie,” he said.

Shirley Wonyabong, Tjupan elder and senior Tjiwarl native title holder said: “Our community has come together over this issue and we’ve been clear that mining at Yeelirrie will not happen.”

“That area is important and we have a responsibility to protect that country and keep the uranium where it is. When you stay together and united and you don’t let mining companies push you around you can protect country,” she said.

Mr Muir said Traditional Owners were calling on the state government to not extend approvals to mine at Yeelirrie and to withdraw the approvals entirely.

Lizzie Wonyabong, Tjupan elder and senior Tjiwarl native title holder said the community has “campaigned so long” to stop mining at Yeelirrie “because of the Seven Sisters, the importance of that area, because of the dangers of uranium when you dig it up and because of the risk of extinction of the stygofauna”.

“It’s time now to put an end to the mining threat at Yeelirrie. Withdraw the approval.”

…………Federal level approval for the proposed Yeelirrie project was granted in 2019, before the Federal Election, without key protections repeatedly recommended by the Federal Government’s experts.
…….. A spokesperson for Western Australian Minister for the Environment Reece Whitby confirmed on Tuesday that Cameco has applied to the Minister for an extension on the Yeelirrie uranium project and the Minister is waiting to receive a briefing. https://nit.com.au/traditional-owners-welcome-expiry-of-uranium-mine-approval-but-the-fight-isnt-over/

January 29, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

The Australian government’s Kimba nuclear waste decision rides roughshod over Australia’s obligations under international law

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Australian Human Rights Commission advised that Article 29(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that ‘no storage of hazardous materials shall take place on Indigenous lands without their free, prior and informed consent.’ 265

1.255 The Commission submitted that in order for Indigenous people to make informed consent, adequate resourcing to representative groups needs to be provided to ensure appropriate and informed consultation. 267

EXTRACT FROM REPORT BY FORMER SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ IN SEPTEMBER 2017 FOLLOWING HER VISIT TO AUSTRALIA IN MARCH 2017

Self-determination and participation
When Australia officially endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2009, the Government stated its intent was to reset relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and to build trust in order to work together to overcome the legacy of the past and shape the future together. Furthermore, in Australia’s pledge as a candidate to the United Nations Human Rights Council 2018-2010, it committed to give practical effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ Outcome Document.

Self-determination is a fundamental element of the Declaration whereby indigenous peoples have the right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development (Art. 3 of UNDRIP) and have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions (Art. 4). The Declaration also sets out that indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which affect their rights (Art. 18).

While Australia has adopted numerous policies aiming to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait socio-economic disadvantage, the failure to respect the right to selfdetermination and the right to full and effective participation in these is alarming. The compounded effect of these policies has contributed to the failure to deliver on the targets in the areas of health, education and employment in the Closing the Gap strategy and has contributed to aggravating the escalating incarceration and child removal rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

LETTERS PATENT
The Letters Patent, long title “Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom erecting and establishing the Province of South Australia and fixing the boundaries thereof”, defined the boundaries
of the Province of South Australia:

Provided Always that nothing in those our Letters Patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal Natives of the said Province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own Persons or in the Persons of their Descendants of any Lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such Natives


January 3, 2022 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Traditional owners lodge legal challenge to planned Kimba nuclear waste dump


Traditional owners lodge legal challenge to planned Kimba nuclear waste dump, 
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-21/barngarla-challenge-kimba-radioactive-waste-facility-napandee/100717404?fbclid=IwAR3QiztQ5454cuTfmjLaBaCb_nK4usDM43TObZV5R
ABC North and West SA / By Declan GoochPatrick Martin, and Gillian Aeria  Tue 21 Dec 2021 raditional owners on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula have formally lodged a legal challenge to the federal government’s plan to build a nuclear waste dump in the region.

Key points:

  • The Barngarla people have begun legal action against a planned radioactive waste dump
  • The federal government wants to build the facility near Kimba
  • Traditional owners have complained they were not consulted properly

The government wants to store low and intermediate-level waste at a property called Napandee, near the town of Kimba.

The Barngarla people say they were not included in the consultation process, which included a ballot of ratepayers.

“We don’t want it to be at Kimba because we were excluded from the vote under white man’s law,” Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chairman Jason Bilney said.

The group filed for a judicial review of the site selection process in the Federal Court on Tuesday.

The ballot of Kimba ratepayers, which the government has repeatedly cited as evidence of community support, showed about 60 per cent of voters were in favour of the plan.

“The government says broad community support — well what broad community support did you have, let alone with the native title holders of Kimba or on the Eyre Peninsula?” Mr Bilney said.

The ballot of Kimba ratepayers, which the government has repeatedly cited as evidence of community support, showed about 60 per cent of voters were in favour of the plan.

“The government says broad community support — well what broad community support did you have, let alone with the native title holders of Kimba or on the Eyre Peninsula?” Mr Bilney said.

He said South Australian law required a parliamentary inquiry if nuclear waste was to be brought in and stored.

“We are going to see continual opposition emerge over the next five to 10 years, and this has got a long way to run.”

He expected the court to decide in the Barngarla group’s favour.

“They have a clear and strong case. They were excluded from the community ballot, and they do have native title rights, and it’s essential the Federal Court stands up and protects those rights.” 

The government had initially tried to legislate the location of the facility in a way that would have eliminated the possibility of a judicial review.

It later amended the legislation in response to pressure from Labor so it received the support needed to pass both houses of parliament.

In a statement, resources minister Keith Pitt said the declaration of Kimba as the site for the facility was a “significant step”.

He said his facility was a crucial piece of national infrastructure for Australia’s nuclear medicine industry and nuclear research capabilities. 

December 23, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

We froze’: What was this 1.3-metre missile doing at an Aboriginal heritage site?

We froze’: What was this 1.3-metre missile doing at an Aboriginal heritage site?
EXCLUSIVE: An unexploded high-tech missile was discovered at a culturally significant Aboriginal heritage site in remote South Australia. Neither the company that is believed to have made it – nor the Department of Defence – have explained how it got there.
SBS,  Tuesday 21 December 2021By Steven Trask, Sarah Collard  A group of Aboriginal Traditional Owners was inspecting a culturally significant site in remote South Australia when they discovered a high-tech anti-aircraft missile, a joint investigation by SBS News and NITV can reveal. 

The 1.32-metre missile is believed to have been built by a subsidiary of Swedish weapons maker Saab and was found at a registered heritage site called Lake Hart West, about 40 kilometres from the small town of Woomera, in January this year.

Woomera is home to one of the largest weapons ranges in the world and the missile appears to be a similar model to those tested by Australia’s Department of Defence near the town in 2019. 

Lake Hart West is important to the Kokatha people of the Western Desert region of South Australia; it is scattered with artefacts, historic shelters and tool-making sites.

“It startled us. There were four of us and we froze about five metres away from it,” says Kokatha man Andrew Starkey, who registered Lake Hart West as a heritage site with the South Australian government in the early 2000s.

“We were worried that there could be other missiles covered by the sand and in the bushes.

“There are over 20 heritage features all within a one-kilometre radius. There are rock engravings only a couple of kilometres away – it’s only through luck that that was not destroyed.”

The conservation of Aboriginal heritage sites has been under intense scrutiny since mining company Rio Tinto blew up the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia in May 2020.

An inquiry into the disaster found that existing state and Commonwealth laws were failing to protect Aboriginal heritage areas.

The Defence Department maintains it does not test weapons at culturally significant Aboriginal sites. But neither the department nor Saab have addressed questions over why the missile was found at Lake Hart West………………………………………

Human rights lawyer John Podgorelec has been representing the Starkeys as they pursue a complaint under OECD guidelines that govern “responsible business conduct” by foreign companies operating in Australia.

The Australian National Contact Point, which runs the process, said a complaint had been received against an “Australian-based enterprise” in the “defence sector”.

SBS News and NITV have confirmed the complaint relates to Saab.

An entry on the OECD complaint database reads: “Specifically, the issues relate to the discovery of an unexploded ordinance in South Australia by the Starkey Traditional Owners, resulting in risk to personal safety and artefacts of cultural significance.”………… https://www.sbs.com.au/news/we-froze-what-was-this-1-3-metre-missile-doing-at-an-aboriginal-heritage-site/3c67ce10-15ed-442c-b735-cea3673e5caa

December 23, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Growing opposition to radioactive waste dump

Federal plans for a radioactive waste facility near Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula face growing opposition with Barngarla Traditional Owners today launching a Federal Court challenge to Minister Keith Pitt’s decision to site the facility on their lands.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People requires that ‘States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.’

“The federal plan has many flaws, one of which is poor consultation with the Aboriginal and wider community,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Barngarla have never given consent. Instead, they have been denied a vote in a federal community ballot. This approach is simply not acceptable in the third decade of the 2000s.

“Fewer than a thousand South Australians have had a say in a plan that has profound inter-generational implications.

“The proposed facility is unnecessary given federal parliament’s recent support for a $60 million waste storage upgrade to secure the most problematic intermediate level waste at the federal Lucas Heights nuclear site for the next three to five decades.

“Extended interim storage at Lucas Heights is prudent and possible. Moving intermediate level waste from Lucas Heights – a site with security, radiation monitoring, emergency response and local expertise – to a site near Kimba with far fewer assets and resources is irresponsible and inconsistent with best industry practice.

Sites that store and manage nuclear medicine waste around Australia will still need to do so, irrespective of the status of any national facility, so the Minister’s repeated reference to nuclear waste being spread across 100 sites is disingenuous and inaccurate.

“The planned federal action is contrary to SA state law and does not enjoy bi-partisan political support. The waste plan needs formal environmental and regulatory assessment and approval and is occurring in the context of both state and federal elections in 2022. This issue has a long way to run and will be actively contested.”

For context or comment contact Dave Sweeney on 0408 317 812

ACF’s 3-page background brief on federal radioactive waste plans

Measure twice, cut once: Advancing responsible radioactive waste management in Australia

December 21, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, Opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Traditional owners apply for judicial review to stop South Australia nuclear waste dump


Traditional owners apply for judicial review to stop South Australia nuclear waste dump

Barngarla people say they were never consulted over the project which ‘should never be built’ Guardian,   Tory Shepherd, Tue 7 Dec 2021 .

Traditional owners say they will keep fighting to stop a nuclear waste dump planned for South Australia.

Late last month, the federal government confirmed a facility will be built at Napandee, 24km from Kimba, and it is beginning the regulatory and design processes.

However, the Barngarla people say they’ve been excluded from consultation and will now lodge an application for a judicial review of the entire project.

The first hearing is expected to be in March – the month the SA election is due and the federal election could be held. That could then be appealed and the case could end up in the high court, and in a different political context.

Plans to build a nuclear waste facility in South Australia have been thwarted for more than two decades. After a series of governments, inquiries, and a state royal commission, one was meant to be operational in 2020. Now it is planned for 2030.

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chair Jason Bilney said if they win the legal challenge, it opens the way for the government to nominate other sites.

They didn’t include us from the start,” he said. “What we’ve always hoped for and fought for is to stop the nuclear waste dump because it should never be built on Napandee. It didn’t have our support,” he said.

A ballot of ratepayers found more than 60% supported the facility. The traditional owners say they were excluded because they do not live in the council area. They held a separate ballot, in which they unanimously rejected the proposal.

Bilney said if you added those two ballots together, the support would have been less than half.

“This [judicial review] will delay it,” he said.

“Everyone has the right to question this government and the processes they go through.”

Bilney also said the site was just a “Band-Aid solution” and echoed conservationists who are pushing for the low and intermediate level waste to be stored at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s facility at Lucas Heights………..

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was a “long way from a done deal”.

“This plan will face scrutiny in the federal court, but it also needs to face the court of public opinion. The government needs to give Australians, particularly South Australians and the Barngarla people, a genuine say about this plan and its inter-generational risks and impacts,” campaigner Dave Sweeney, said.  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/dec/07/traditional-owners-apply-for-judicial-review-to-stop-south-australia-nuclear-waste-dump

December 9, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, legal | Leave a comment

How the federal government gets around the problem of trucking nuclear waste over Aboriginal land.

– Kazzi Jai   5 Dec 21, (Facebook No nuclear waste dump anywhere in South Australia) . The [Napandee . Kimba] property is not now Aboriginal land, as there is no Native Title over this piece of land. However there are parcels of land with Native Title neighbouring the site, which are used for camping and hunting by the Barngarla people of the region 2 The present Bill new section 19B empowers the Minister to acquire additional land for road access., thus overcoming Native Title on those areas. Minister Pitt says he will introduce an amendment to ensure that Title rights cannot be compulsorily acquired. (from Hansard)

December 6, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Traditional owners expected to challenge nuclear waste facility in South Australia

Traditional owners expected to challenge nuclear waste facility in South Australia
The Barngarla people have unanimously rejected the federal government’s controversial plan to store radioactive medical waste on their land, and may take their case to the state’s supreme court,  Guardian, Tory Shepherd 29 Nov 21

The federal government has confirmed that a controversial nuclear waste facility will be built near Kimba, in South Australia – but the traditional owners are expected to mount a legal challenge.

Resources minister Keith Pitt announced two months ago that a 211-hectare site at Napandee, 24km out of Kimba, had been chosen from three potential sites to store Australia’s radioactive waste. After 60 days of further consultation, he confirmed that decision on Monday morning.

An Australian Electoral Commission ballot found more than 60% of local residents supported the facility. However, the traditional owners, the Barngarla people, say many of them missed out on the vote because they were not living in the Kimba council area.

When surveyed separately, the Barngarla voters unanimously rejected the proposal.

At the time, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chair Jason Bilney said he planned to launch a judicial review, challenging in the supreme court the selection of Kimba over other sites.

Guardian Australia has contacted the corporation for comment.

Pitt said the government would now acquire the land to build a new facility that would store low- and medium-level medical waste that is scattered across more than 100 locations in Australia……….

The new facility will house low-level waste permanently, and medium-level waste temporarily, until a permanent solution is found for that.

Conservationists have told a parliamentary inquiry into the future of the Lucas Heights nuclear facility that the Sydney site should be expanded to take the nation’s waste until that long-term decision is made, rather than having a new facility built. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/nov/29/traditional-owners-expected-to-challenge-nuclear-waste-facility-in-south-australia

November 29, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, wastes | Leave a comment

COP 26, especially Australia, has failed First Nations people

 At this supposedly historic event, I saw a conference that relied on dated colonial constructs and ignored Indigenous people. I watched the Australian pavilion used to promote gas and carbon capture and storage, sponsored by corporations such as Santos. Outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists, First Nations people witnessed an aggressive big business approach to climate negotiations, hardly the turning away from and permanent closure of extractive, polluting industries that we are all calling for.

 Guardian 15th Nov 2021

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/nov/15/empty-words-no-action-cop26-has-failed-first-nations-peopl

November 16, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

BHP’s legal privileges overOlympic Dam copper-uranium mine have had devastating consequences for traditional Aboriginal owners

David Noonan  Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch, 20 Oct 21

 · “A Way Forward” Juukan Caves Inquiry Final Report https://www.aph.gov.au/…/Nort…/CavesatJuukanGorge/Report Inquiry Report conveys a striking critique of BHP legal privileges over Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine, see Legislative exemptions from cultural heritage protections p.147-148:

“Acts such as these have had devastating consequences for traditional owners as rights to protect cultural heritage are intentionally disrupted and prevented … these Acts remain in force and even when they are repealed their associated histories of injustices will remain … States and territories as well as companies involved in such acts should seek to fast-track transitions and recompense traditional owners for injustices that have occurred.”

October 21, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

‘It makes us sick’: remote NT community wants answers about uranium in its water supply


‘It makes us sick’: remote NT community wants answers about uranium in its water supply,  
Laramba’s Indigenous residents fear they are at risk of long-term illness and say they need to know who is responsible for fixing the problem, Guardian, by Royce Kurmelovs and Isabella Moore, Mon 18 Oct 2021,

Jack Cool is looking to hitch a lift out of town.

The 71-year-old former stockman has lived in Laramba, a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory, for most of his life

Since his partner, Jennifer, 57, and his youngest daughter, Petrina, 35, started kidney dialysis at the end of last year, he has been trying to make the two-and-a-half hour trip south into Alice Springs whenever he can.

Cool, who also takes medication for kidney issues, says he doesn’t know why this has happened to his family but he thinks it has something to do with the water.

“When we drink the water it makes us sick,” he says.

Problems with Laramba’s water supply have been known since at least 2008 but the scale of the issue was not revealed until 2018, when testing by the government-owned utility company Power and Water Corporation (PWC) found drinking water in the community of 350 people was contaminated with concentrations of uranium at 0.046mg/L.

That is nearly three times the limit of 0.017mg/L recommended in the Australian drinking water guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Follow-up testing in 2020 found the problem was getting worse as uranium concentrations – which occur naturally in the area – had risen to 0.052mg/L, and the water also contained contaminants such as nitrate and silica.

A stream of conflicting advice

Prof Paul Lawton, a kidney specialist with the Menzies School of Health Research who has been working in the Territory since 1999, says there is no good evidence to say for sure whether the water at Laramba is safe to drink…….

Assoc Prof Tilman Ruff from the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne says uranium contamination also delivers “relatively low but relatively frequent doses” of radiation

“The overall consequences from a radioactive point of view is that this will widely dispose in the body and organs, and will contribute to a long-term risk of cancer,” Ruff says.

Because children are particularly vulnerable, with girls 40% more likely than boys to be affected over their lifetime, Ruff says there is “no good amount of radiation”.

Though there are still many unknowns, authorities elsewhere have addressed similar situations by acting with caution. In Eton, Queensland, a bore supplying the community was turned off when concerning concentrations of uranium were found in the water supply……….

A permanent holding pattern’

Laramba is just one of many among the 72 remote Indigenous communities in the Territory whose water is contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals.

This year the NT government promised $28m over four years to find “tailored” solutions for 10 towns, including Laramba, after a campaign by four land councils for laws to guarantee safe drinking water across the territory.

Asked what was being done to fix the problem, a spokesperson for PWC directed Guardian Australia to sections of the company’s latest drinking water quality report that discuss pilot programs for “new and emerging” technologies to “potentially” clean water of uranium and other heavy metals……….

What little information that is available has filtered through in the media or highly technical language that many people, for whom English is a second language, can’t understand.

In the meantime both men say several people, including some in their own families, have been diagnosed with kidney problems or cancer.

“We have to drink, so we are drinking it,” Hagan says. “We don’t know anything about $28m. We’re still here drinking the same water. Nothing’s changed.”

The co-director of the Environment Centre NT, Kirsty Howey, says communities such as Laramba have been left in a “permanent holding pattern” and the lack of engagement is a “feature of a flawed system”.

Boiling point

Andy Attack, a non-Indigenous man who runs the Laramba general store, says in the three years he has lived there he has noticed a change in the community.

“People here are just so respectful and polite and calm,” he says. “The water is something that makes them really angry, and they don’t like being angry. It’s not nice seeing them like that.”

Attack says the first thing he was told when he moved to Laramba was not to drink the water. He installed reverse osmosis filters normally used in hospitals, which cost $130 a year to maintain, on the taps in his house.

Those who can’t afford such sums must either rely on rainwater or buy expensive 10L casks. ……….https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/18/uranium-in-the-water-remote-nt-community-wants-answers-about-safety

October 18, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium mining and high cancer rates in Aboriginals around Ranger mine

Kakadu mining and radiation, The Saturday Paper 14 Aug 21, Max Opray  Carved out of the pristine surroundings of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, the Ranger uranium mine has long been a site of deep controversy.

The mine may have been decommissioned in January, but concerns remain about its legacy, as the Mirarr traditional owners suffer through a mysterious health crisis.

The stillbirth rate among Aboriginal people living near the mine is more than twice as high as among Indigenous Australians elsewhere in the Top End, and rates of cancer are almost 50 per cent higher.

A six-year Northern Territory investigation into the issue failed to identify the cause, noting only that risk factors relating to diet, smoking and alcohol consumption were higher in the local population than in other Aboriginal populations.

The investigation was conducted by staff at the Population and Digital Health Branch of the Northern Territory Department of Health  and overseen by an independent reviewer in cancer, epidemiologist professor Bruce Armstrong.

The report, published in November 2020, concluded ionising radiation from uranium mining was unlikely to be linked but did not categorically rule it out.

However, a Flinders University Centre for Remote Health analysis of the government investigation, published in the Medical Journal of Australia this month, found that the parameters of the inquiry were too narrow.

“Cancer is a complex condition,” Dr Rosalie Schultz, author of the analysis, tells The Saturday Paper. “A study like this can’t find a definitive cause.”

The Alice Springs GP was concerned that the main outtake of the report was that Aboriginal people should smoke and drink less.

“Statistically, it didn’t look like smoking and drinking caused the excess cancer rate,” she says. “It’s almost like blaming people rather than looking into the reasons – why is it people are smoking and drinking more in that area in particular, for instance?”

With more than 200 documented leaks, spills and other incidents associated with the mine, Schultz argues the impact of Ranger was multifaceted, including social consequences not considered by the investigation. “Things like destruction of waterbirds and creeks, the worry of that when you get your food and livelihood from the land,” she says.

A senate estimates committee heard in 2009 that 100,000 litres of contaminated water a day was leaking from the mine’s tailings dam into rock fissures beneath Kakadu.

In another breach in 2004, dozens of mine employees were found to have showered in and consumed water containing 400 times the legal limit of uranium.

In response to the release of the Territory government report, Reuben Cooper, chair of the Red Lily Health Board Aboriginal Corporation, welcomed messages “to encourage reduction in smoking and alcohol consumption” but said the findings offered an incomplete picture.

“This investigation does not discuss the reasons for higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption in the Gunbalanya–Kakadu region,” he said, “which could include factors such as cultural dislocation, stress and royalty payments. Nor does it discuss the potential social impacts that the uranium mining industry has had on the population in the region.”

Schultz’s analysis expands further on these points, noting how unevenly distributed royalty money can increase inequality and the ways in which locals were deprived of a sense of agency and authority.

“The inquiry didn’t look at other knowledge, such as the Dreaming stories about sickness country,” Schultz says.

Centuries before Western science understood the dangers of radioactive substances, Aboriginal people were avoiding the uranium-rich sites near Kakadu, which were considered inappropriate places to camp.

The Dreaming stories of the Jawoyn people warn against disturbing stones or drinking water in what they called “sickness country” south of Ranger, beneath which Bula the creator is said to lie dormant.

In and around the Ranger site itself, the Dreaming stories of the Mirarr warn of sacred sites that are dangerous to disturb……………..

With no data available about individual exposure to ionising radiation, the report authors concluded this was unlikely to have been a contributing factor based on measurement of environmental radiation levels, consumption of bush tucker, and airborne exposure to radon gas.

Justin O’Brien, chief executive of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr people, says the “shocking paucity of data” extends to all aspects of the health and social impacts of the mine. “It’s a very limited data set, so no wonder the findings are inconclusive,” he says………..

With the mine decommissioned in January this year, O’Brien is concerned about whether operators Energy Resources of Australia, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, will properly rehabilitate the Ranger site, warning that radioactive waste from uranium mining can remain hazardous for tens of thousands of years.

“This is just the first chapter of the legacy of this mine, and the world is watching Rio Tinto,” he says. “The mining company has been given five years to complete all the rehabilitation work – this is patently insufficient.”…………

For Schultz’s part, the monitoring of Ranger failed even in the context of Western science. “They didn’t do what was recommended to consider local perspectives and concerns,” she says. “It was a top-down epidemiological approach, where if you can exclude ionising radiation, the mine is off the hook. It feels like the science is taking a narrower approach now – we used to have researchers embedded in communities. Forty years later … we just look at five data points and that’s it.”  https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/life/health/2021/08/14/kakadu-mining-and-radiation/162886320012251#mtr

August 14, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Barngarla native title owners were excluded from decision-making on Kimba nuclear waste plan.

Barngarla people say their votes weren’t counted in Kimba nuclear dump census, The Advertiser 22 July 21

As SA awaits confirmation on a location of a national nuclear waste dump near Kimba, traditional owners say they weren’t included in a vote on the contentious project.

A First Nations people say their voice wasn’t heard in the proposal to create a permanent, national nuclear waste storage facility, despite a census of the nearest township.

The plan cleared a major hurdle in June, with a shortlist of sites passing the Senate on June 21.

Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt expected to name Napandee farm, near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula as the likely choice in the coming weeks.

The debate about the facility centres on a 2019 census by the Australian Electoral Commission, which found more than 60 per cent of Kimba residents were in favour of the facility.

However, the body for the local Indigenous community, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation said their voices on the proposal were not heard.

Group chair Jason Bilney said the Kimba ballot did not account for the First Nations people, who have a significant stake in the land, and in the Dreaming stories associated with it.

“The simple fact remains that even though the Barngarla hold native title land closer to the proposed facility than the town of Kimba, the First Peoples’ for the area were not allowed to vote,” he said.

“It’s a cop out to say we weren’t on the electoral roll, we had to do a separate vote, but how do we guarantee our votes are combined,” he said.

The bill allowing construction of the facility only passed the senate last month, after a clause was introduced which allows judicial review for those opposed to any decision.

“They tried to take the umpire out in the fourth quarter, so we’re glad to have had that amendment included, it‘s a win for democracy,” Mr Bilney said………….

Mr Bilney said if a proper heritage assessment and consultation with the Barngarla people had occurred, the dialogue could have been less combative.

“It’s about being open and transparent, it should have been put to us and all South Australians affected, what about all the towns who will now have nuclear waste trucked through, where was their say,” he said.

If we’d been consulted and a part of the process from the beginning, it could have been a different story.
“A lot of our people remember the impacts up in Maralinga, my grandfather was from up there and we remember some of the impacts and cancers that came about in the years after.

“They didn’t have a right back then, so we’re fighting for our say now.”

South Australia has a chequered nuclear history, with long term effects of radiation at the Maralinga bomb site and dumping at the Arkaroola mine in the Flinders Ranges marring public confidence in anything nuclear.

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/messenger/port-lincoln/barngarla-people-say-their-votes-werent-counted-in-kimba-nuclear-dump-census/news-story/1bfeeac4e42e268b0f9e6729b82d8e7f

July 22, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) will take legal action against nuclear dump plan if Resources Minister Keith Pitt names Napandee as the site

Barngarla will pursue judicial review if Napandee site named. https://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/story/7330119/barngarla-may-seek-legal-review/?fbclid=IwAR28Hj_22In6jE2Vd3s7ZrWBtOe0nHJxbyqdKk_xXF6hXv8Z-TNbEtBu5CEMembers of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) have said the outcome of the nuclear waste amendment bill was the result they were hoping for.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 was passed by the Australian Parliament on June 22.

The BDAC had previously raised concerns about the absence of a judicial review process by naming the Napandee site in the proposed legislation.

“The government sought to change the law to remove our democratic right to judicial review of their actions so that no court could ever assess what had been done,” they said in a previous statement.

However BDAC chair Jason Bilney said the bi-partisan support the bill received in parliament was what they were looking for, as changes were made to the bill to reinstate the ability to pursue a judicial review of the site selection process.

The bill was initially tabled in parliament in February 2020 with the intention to name the Napandee site near Kimba within the legislation.

Now federal resources minister Keith Pitt will be required to name the host site through ministerial decision, which will allow for a potential judicial review of the site selection process in future.

Mr Pitt is also not bound to name one of the three sites currently shortlisted.

Mr Bilney said it had been a “long, hard battle” for 15 months, and that he and others were in Canberra that week as the bill went through.

“It’s a good outcome for the Barngarla people, but also all Australians because it affects all Australians,” he said.

The BDAC have stated since the passing of the bill that if there is a declaration of the Napandee site, the BDAC will seek a judicial review.

“The Barngarla and farmers worked together and the senate did not agree to pass any bill which removed judicial review,” they said.

“We had certain demands, which amounted to removing site specification in the bill and removing Schedule 1.

“The government gave in to these demands and effectively amended their own bill to reflect what Barngarla, Labor and the cross bench had said we required.

“So, we have no issues with the new bill, as it is the bill that we demanded occur.

“Namely, it preserves judicial review.

“In simple terms, we won this battle in parliament and we are very grateful for Labor and the cross bench, including senator Hanson’s One Nation, the Greens, and senator Patrick.”

We even had the Explanatory Memorandum further amended to make it clear that the Minister was not limited to just the three sites in the Table and that the Table was purely a historical record.

July 8, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, legal | Leave a comment