Martu people from the community of Parnngurr in the Pilbara region of WA are travelling to Sydney on a speaking tour in late June, building support for their fight against a uranium mine proposed on their traditional lands at Kintyre in WA.
Multi-national uranium company Cameco received “conditional approval” for the Kintyre mine from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt in April this year.
WA Mines Minister Bill Marmion boasted that “more than $300 million has been invested in WA uranium exploration since the Liberal National Government lifted the uranium ban in 2008… these mines could be exporting $1 billion worth of uranium by 2020”.
Meanwhile, the WA government is pushing ahead with plans to close down remote Aboriginal communities like Parnngurr, refusing to guarantee the ongoing supply of basic amenities like water and power (see back page).
Curtis Taylor, an Aboriginal activist from Parnngurr, told Solidarity that the community was initially established by Traditional Owners in the 1980s who were concerned about mineral exploration in the region.
“They heard about miners doing exploration in that area of the Karlamilyi National Park and so they went back during the homelands movement and put a windmill… where the community is right now and decided to stop the uranium exploration,” he said.
Kintyre was excised from the National Park in 1994, laying the foundations for the approval of the mine.
Taylor condemned the tactics of companies like Cameco and the WA state government, who exploit the poverty and lack of services provided to communities in an attempt to secure support from Native Title holders, “When a company comes out and says we are going to give you better healthcare or better schools, that should be what the government is doing already. A lot of our people can’t fathom how this Premier can come out and threaten to close communities, when in recent years in WA there’s been a lot of resources that have been dug up and shipped overseas and this has not flowed through to local Aboriginal people”.
The fight stands in a proud tradition of resistance to the nuclear industry. June 19 marks one year since the victory of the Warlmanpa people and the anti-nuclear movement against a proposed nuclear waste dump on their land at Muckaty station. The victory came after eight years of campaigning and building broad support, including a commitment from the ACTU to support work bans on the proposed dump.
By Paddy Gibson