The Mirarr people have fought to protect our country and people from uranium mining for many years. Now we are defending our country against the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine. We invite you to come to our country to join our struggle to uphold the cultural and environmental values of Kakadu” – Mirarr Clan, March 1998
Twenty-two years ago this message from the Mirarr initiated an unprecedented blockade bringing thousands of protesters to Kakadu. 1998 was the height of the decade-long and ultimately successful fight to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine with tens of thousands across Australia adding their voice to support the Mirarr and stop Jabiluka mine.
March 2020 marks the twenty-second anniversary of an eight-month blockade involving thousands of peaceful protesters who travelled to support the Mirarr in their fight to stop a mine. The site of the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine in Australia’s Northern Territory is now under active revegetation. There is ongoing monitoring of water on the site as well as weed and fire management but the mine that was predicted to have exported hundreds of tonnes of uranium by 2018 has not been built.
The blockade was a big part of a wider campaign and perhaps if you are reading this you had a hand in stopping the Jabiluka mine. Heartfelt thanks to you all.
The Jabiluka campaign was an unprecedented against-all-odds effort involving a powerful coalition of diverse organisations and tens of thousands of people both around Australia and across the world. International agencies and parliaments took part, hundreds of people were willingly arrested, legal challenges were mounted, parliamentary processes undertaken and so much more. Despite pressure from the mining company and the government and continual assertions that the mine would be built the Mirarr remained strong in their determination to protect their country from further unwanted mining. And they prevailed, the Jabiluka mine does not exist.
While Jabiluka was halted, rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine, adjacent to Jabiluka, is now a significant focus for the Mirarr. Ranger was imposed on the Mirarr in 1978 and the mine must close by January 2021.
As Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation board member and younger sister of Yvonne Margarula, Annie Ngalmirama says: “We want to see ERA do a complete job and clean up the Ranger mine so it can be put into Kakadu National Park. We have all been wanting this for many years.”
- 1969: Jabiluka deposit identified.
- 1980: Pancontinental (50% Government owned) begins uranium mining on Mirarr country at Ranger after Federal Government removes right of veto.
- 1983: Election of Hawke Labor government, three mine policy suspends development at Jabiluka indefinitely.
- 1991: Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) 68% owned by North Limited purchases Jabiluka Mineral Lease.
- 1995 August: Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation established.
- 1996 March: Howard government elected, vows to progress new uranium mines with Jabiluka first in line.
- 1996 September: Stop Jabiluka mine campaign kicks off with Mirarr national speaking tour.
- 1997 June: Traditional owners drop Stop Jabiluka Mine banner from escarpment and escalate activities opposing the mine plan.
- 1997 July: Mirarr attend Students of Sustainability conference in Townsville. “Student Camp” actions and information sessions held in Kakadu with students from around Australia.
- 1997 November: First Jabiluka Action Group formed in Perth.
- 1997 December: Yvonne Margarula begins Federal Court action against Jabiluka lease. “Jabiluka” documentary launched in Jabiru and Gunbalanya, NT.
- 1998 January: European Parliament passes resolution condemning the Australian government’s approval of Jabiluka.
- 1998 February: Mirarr tour, campaign grows nationally.
- 1998 March: Blockade camp established on Mirarr land within Kakadu. Regular protest action begins at Jabiluka.
- 1998 May 19: International Day of Action to Stop Jabiluka. Yvonne Margarula arrested with three other Bininj for trespass on her land.
- 1998 June: Yvonne Margarula attends UNESCO World Heritage Bureau meeting in Paris resulting in a high-level Mission nominated to visit to report to the World Heritage Committee on whether mining causes Kakadu to be ‘World Heritage In Danger’.
- 1998 August: Yvonne Margarula, Jacqui Katona, Christine Christophersen and Dave Sweeney attend over 40 meetings and events in Europe.
- 1998 September: Legal challenge brought by Yvonne Margarula to the approval of the Public Environment Report by Senator Robert Hill. Federal Election is called, Jabiluka is an election issue.
- 1998 October: Howard government re-elected. UNESCO World Heritage Mission visits Kakadu and Canberra to assess threats to World Heritage values.
- 1998 November: World Heritage Mission report reveals serious threats to Kakadu. Yvonne Margarula is awarded inaugural Nuclear Free Future Award. Mirrar travel to Kyoto for World Heritage Committee meeting.
- 1998 December: World Heritage Committee accepts the UNESCO Mission findings and recommends voluntary suspension of construction at Jabiluka. Australian government refuses to suspend construction activity.
- 1999 February: Yvonne Margarula appeals her conviction for trespass in Supreme Court of Northern Territory. Environment Minister Robert Hill rejects Mirrar concerns regarding sacred site threatened by ongoing construction at Jabiluka at a meeting with Yvonne Margarula in Canberra.
- 1999 March: Supreme Court rejects Yvonne Margarula’s appeal against trespass charge. North Limited premises blockaded for four days by protests against Jabiluka.
- 1999 April: Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona win the Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots environmental activism. Hosted by First Lady Hilary Clinton in US White House.
- 1999 June: 37 US Congress members led by Cynthia McKinney write to President Clinton urging action in support of Mirarr and protection of Kakadu.
- 2000: Rio Tinto purchases North Limited including 68% share in ERA.
- 2000 November: Kakadu Charter signed. Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and Australian Conservation Foundation commit to working together towards a healthy mining-free Kakadu region.
- 2001 April: Rio Tinto Chair Sir Robert Wilson make public commitment that Jabiluka will not be developed without Mirarr consent.
- 2003 August: Backfill of Jabiluka tunnel commences.
- 2005 February: Jabiluka Long Term Care and Maintenance Agreement signed. Rio Tinto legally bound not to develop Jabiluka without Mirarr consent.
- 2015: Major rehabilitation works at Jabiluka conclude.
- 2021: Mandated conclusion of operations at Ranger: the end of uranium mining in Kakadu.
- Sign Language The story of the Jabiluka symbol, Kathleen McCann
The artist’s story of how the Stop Jabiluka hand symbol was designed and grew to become a symbol for the anti-nuclear movement.
- Jabiluka Fight for Country: How the Mirarr stopped a uranium mine on their land
An excerpt from materials produced in 2010 by Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.
- Stop Jabiluka Mine Handbook
Stop Jabiluka Mine (the Jabiluka Handbook) gives a fascinating insight into an important part of Australian social movement history. It also provides a great overview of the kinds of issues to consider when organising a large scale direct action convergence. Download the handbook from the box at the bottom of this page.
- Dirt Cheap 30 years on: the story of uranium mining in Kakadu, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation in association with The Environment Centre NT, 2011
Uranium mining was imposed on the Traditional Owners of Kakadu in the late 1970s and the controversial Ranger mine commenced production in 1981. Three decades later the mine is majority-owned by Rio Tinto and Kakadu uranium is still shipped out of Darwin to fuel nuclear reactors in Japan, Europe and elsewhere. Dirt Cheap 30 years on includes rare footage of Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Toby Gangale stating clear opposition to mining on his country and documents his prescient concerns about uranium. It shows how the Australian Federal Government overrode the human rights of Kakadu’s Traditional Owners in order to impose a toxic industry in a World Heritage Area.
- Fight for Country, Rockhopper Productions, 2006
In 1998, over 5,000 people travelled to Kakadu, in the Northern Territory, to stand alongside the traditional owners of the land, the Mirrar people, and lend their support to the Jabiluka Campaign. The fight to prevent the development of the Jabiluka uranium mine was one of the biggest protest movements in Australia’s history and over 600 people were arrested in the process. It took film-maker, Pip Starr, four years to make this film, including one year spent documenting these historic events.
- Dirty business interview: Jacqui Katona: Jabiluka protesters, SBS, 2012
- Jabiluka: The Aboriginal Swindle, Frontline Films, 1997 (need to rent)
- 3CR Podcast – We won! Celebrating 20 years on from the Jabiluka blockade
Young Mirrar Traditional Owners talk about the future of Jabiru and Kakadu beyond uranium mining, 20 years on from the Jabiluka mine win and with uranium ore processing coming to an end at Ranger uranium mine in 2021. Today we hear Simon and Jimmy Mujandi speaking alongside some activists deeply involved in the Jabiluka campaign Dave Sweeney, Sarojini Krishnapillai and Kirsten Blair at a film screening of Pip Stars documentary ‘Fight For Country’ at ACMI at the end of 2018.
- 3CR Podcast – Radioactive Show 22.03.2014
The 23rd of March marks 16 years since the Jabiluka blockade began in 1998. Hundreds travelled to Kakadu National Park in the NT to oppose the construction of a uranium mine on the land of the Mirrar people. Hear from Mirrar Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula, and Mirrar Aboriginal woman Jacqui Katona who both led the campaign, as well as an interview with peace activist Jo Vallentine who lived on the blockade.
Archived by The National Library of Australia
Note: This article is a collaboration between Kirsten Blair, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, and Antje Dun, Commons Librarian.
Do you know of any other Jabiluka resources to link to or contribute? If so, please contact the Commons librarians.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- Indigenous peoples
- Movements_Campaigns - Anti nuclear