The following text is an excerpt from materials produced in 2010 by Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation. Link to download the entire document at the bottom of this page.
How the Mirarr stopped a uranium mine on their land
Much of the traditional estate of the Mirarr people lies within the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park in the Top End of the Northern Territory, Australia. Since the Ranger uranium mine was imposed on Mirarr country in 1980, the Mirarr have been fighting to protect their homelands from mining.
Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula leads the fight to protect Mirarr land. In 1995 the Mirarr clan established the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) to represent their rights and interests.
Jabiluka, also on Mirarr land, is one of the world’s largest known undeveloped uranium deposits. In 2005 the Mirarr succeeded in halting the development of the proposed Jabiluka mine by securing the agreement of the mining company and authorities that no mining can commence without the written consent of the current generation of Mirarr. This agreement was the culmination of an extraordinary decade-long campaign which saw thousands of people across Australia and around the world stand up and support Mirarr in their opposition to uranium mining on their land.
Mirarr-led fight stopped plans for uranium mining at Jabiluka
In 1996 Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), a mining company majority owned by Rio Tinto that operates Ranger mine and holds the lease to Jabiluka, tried to push ahead with mining at Jabiluka. Mirarr remained steadfast in their opposition to further mining on their country and through the GAC began working with supporters in the environment, peace, faith, anti-nuclear and other civil society movements.
The result was a major domestic and international campaign against the proposed mine at Jabiluka.
The campaign involved inquiries by Australia’s parliament, legal challenges to the mine, a national speaking tour of traditional owners, a protest camp hosting 5,000 people over 8 months (527 of whom were arrested in peaceful protests, including Yvonne Margarula), large rallies in all major Australian cities, mobilisation of a national and international support base of tens of thousands of people, a speaking tour in Europe, lobbying to various international bodies including UNESCO (the World Heritage Committee recommended suspension of work at Jabiluka due to threats to Kakadu’s world heritage values) and the UNHCHR, the European Parliament (which passed a resolution against Jabiluka in 1998) and the US Congress (members of which wrote a letter in support of Mirarr to President Clinton) and much more.
Yvonne Margarula and the then Executive Officer of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona, jointly received the Goldman Environmental Prize and the Friends of the Earth International Award in 1999 in recognition of their campaign efforts. These efforts halted the Jabiluka mine. The Mirarr signed an agreement with ERA in 2005 that prevents the mine’s development without the consent of the current generation of owners. The Mirrar never accepted the inevitability of mining at Jabiluka, despite constant company, industry and government assurances that the project would go ahead. In their struggle to protect their country and culture they made Jabiluka a millstone for one of the world’s largest resource companies and have redefined future resource conflicts in Australia and internationally by elevating the rights of Indigenous people everywhere to determine what happens to their country and their community.
Mirarr opposition to this prospect is clear and continuing. Mirarr still say no to mining at Jabiluka – join them.
“We will continue to resist more mining on Mirrar country. We have no choice – this is our land and our life, we can never leave, we must protect it.” Yvonne Margarula
- Aboriginal Australians
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Civil disobedience
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- Indigenous peoples
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti nuclear
- Movements_Campaigns - Environment_Nature
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination