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Jabiluka still has development potential says ERA

Trojan horse: The Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park. Photo: Glenn CampbellThe uranium miner based near Kakadu National Park still considers the famous Jabiluka Mineral Lease to be an important asset and appears to be in no mood to have it absorbed into Kakadu’s official borders.

Jabiluka is a sacred site to the Mirarr traditional owners, but is also potentially lucrative uranium deposit that has been earmarked for development at various times in the past four decades.

A precedent for absorbing contentious mineral leases into Kakadu was created last year, when the Australian government formally ruled that a mineral lease over the Koongarra region, held by French uranium miner Areva, would become part of the national park.

The mining lease over Jabiluka, which was the scene of an anti-mining blockade and hundreds of arrests in 1998, is held by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), which has promised not to mine Jabiluka until the traditional owners give their blessing.

The Mirarr have shown no sign of changing their mind, but when asked about the prospect of Jabiluka being absorbed into the National Park, ERA chief executive Andrea Sutton said: “For us Jabiluka is an important asset.”

Ms Sutton stressed the company was not about to break its vow to the Mirarr, but was also not ready to give up on the asset.

“In accordance with the long-term care and maintenance agreement, we will not develop Jabiluka without the agreement of traditional owners, so our policy on that has not changed,” she said.

“We will continue a dialogue as we need to with the (Mirarr) if required, but it is under that agreement and we will not develop it without agreement.”

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said it was clear that ERA, which is 68 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, still held distant hopes of developing Jabiluka one day.

“There is no doubt that the golden goose for ERA is Jabiluka,” he said.

ERA’s current proposal to extend mining at the nearby Ranger lease, which is viewed by some analysts as a marginal project at current uranium prices, was a “Trojan horse” for development of Jabiluka in the future, Mr Sweeney said.

Former environment minister Peter Garrett was part of the 1998 blockade before he was elected to Parliament in 2004, and when asked this week if he believed it was time for Jabiluka to be absorbed into Kakadu, he said; “The exploitation of uranium within the World Heritage property of Kakadu National Park, effectively against the current wishes of significant traditional owners and others, is a historical aberration and ought to finish as soon as possible.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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