Radiation exposure looming for Wiluna
Gerry Georgatos - courtesy National Indigenous Times - nit.com.au
"They are going to kill our people, some will die quickly, some by a thousand cuts," said Wiluna Elder Glen Cooke.
"We don't want Maralinga all over again where our people will be hurt and die sick and young, and for decades the truth hidden."
"If they bring uranium out of the ground at Wiluna and radiation to our people many of our young children today will be tomorrow's Yami Lesters."
Toro Energy's Wiluna uranium project's final environmental approval looks near certain from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the uranium mine will become the front runner for more uranium mining throughout Western Australia and predominately on Aboriginal lands where communities continue to thrive - for now.
The many years-long ban on uranium mining in WA has been lifted.
Angst has ripped through Aboriginal communities State-wide and especially at Wiluna and Yeeliree.
"The Government has not said that they cannot guarantee against radiation poisoning of our people," said Mr Cooke.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said radiation exposure for people living near Wiluna would be "very low".
Yeeliree Traditional Owners and chairperson of Western Australians Nuclear-Free Alliance (WANFA), Kado Muir said all the Elders from across WA who make up WANFA cannot believe the "high risk" claim by Dr Vogel of "very low" radiation exposure risks to communities nearby the proposed Wiluna mine. "There are no genuinely safe levels with radiation - radiation exposure at any level is bigger than exploding dynamite. Chernobyl and Fukishima didn't get it safe, so what makes us think Australia will? This is our peoples lives they are putting at real risk, not theirs."
"How many Western Australian communities have suffered lead and aluminium poisoning from leaks along freight routes and from refineries, and it was said risks would be contained but they weren't? They skyrocketed past base levels and with uranium a thousand times more dangerous, what are they saying? Are they mad? Uranium belongs in the ground, not above it."
"Don't our peoples, our communities, our Country matter to these Boards?"
The EPA claim to have tightened conditions around the uranium project after an independent appeals committee made 21 new recommendations after appeals were made by independent groups, the Conservation Council of WA and WANFA and its Elders to the EPA decision to approve Toro Energy's Wiluna uranium project.
Canadian company CAMECO is also seeking approvals to mine uranium on Mr Muir's Tradtional Country - Yeeliree.
WA environment minister Bill Marmion said nine appeals had been lodged against the EPA decision in May. The EPA has three uranium proposals before it. "I am satisfied the appeals committee has carefully considered all the matter raised in the appeals and have accepted their recommendations," Mr Marmion said in a statement. He said he would consult the Radiological Council and the Ministers for Indigenous Affairs and Health.
Mr Muir and Mr Cooke pointed out that the no extra recommendations were made for managing radiation.
Toro Energy's Board will make its final investment decision on whether to give the go ahead to mine uranium early next year.
WANFA's Elders speak out from Kutunatu Ngurra
Traditional Aboriginal Elders have never been more concerned about the sovereign risk to Country, and of its very health, with the loom of uranium mining. The Western Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (WANFA), made up of Aboriginal Traditional Land Owners from the Pilbara, the Kimberley, the Goldfields, the Great Victorian Desert, the Central Desert, the Gascoyne, Perth and the South West, and alongside their supporters, have declared "that it is a must do in preventing uranium mining on Country."
The WANFA met for its annual conference on September 16 at the registered sacred site of Kutunatu Ngurra camp just outside of Leonora, in the ochre heart of Western Australia.
WANFA chairperson Kado Muir said, "(The Elders and Traditional Land Owners) support Aboriginal sovereignty across all Aboriginal territories in WA. The State Government and its industries need to respect the basic human rights of Aboriginal peoples."
Mr Muir said that everyone is concerned in light of the "fast-tracking of the Toro Energy Wiluna uranium project assessment." Mr Muir had invited Environment Minister Bill Marmion to meet with WANFA representatives, Elders and land holders but he declined. "He shows an unwillingness to engage with our local Elders and community," said Mr Muir.
Despite one approval after another, and the dismissal of appeals, by the Government to the prospective uranium miners Mr Muir said that WANFA is determined "to stop the poison of uranium mining contaminating Aboriginal lands."
Mr Muir said that WANFA will "challenge the Australian Uranium Association's Indigenous Dialogue Group who are representing the industry rather than a true Aboriginal community view."
"We will also continue to expose anthropologists, archaeologists and pro-industry consultants who attempt to validate negligent practices of the mining industry."
"We want our Land Councils, Native Title representative bodies and Native Title organisations to fulfil their legal requirements to be accountable, transparent and representative of their communities views."
Ultimately, WANFA is calling for an independent public inquiry or royal commission into uranium mining. "We need an inquiry and it will be called for, and when this happens then maybe Governments and the nuclear industry will be forced to stop minimising and trivialising the dangers of radiation," said Mr Muir.