Held To Ransom: Rio Tinto’s radioactive legacy at Kakadu
Publish Date: 17th April 2014
The Mirarr Traditional Owners of Kakadu National Park have accused mining giant Rio Tinto of
holding the World Heritage area to ransom by revealing it will not guarantee the rehabilitation
of the controversial Ranger uranium mine unless the company’s plans to expand operations at
the site are approved.
ERA, 68% majority owned by Rio, has revealed in its annual report that funding for
rehabilitation, despite being legally required, is now likely contingent on securing approval for
the proposed ‘Ranger 3 Deeps’ underground expansion of the mine.
…if the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful
development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the
rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area. (ERA Annual Report p.17)
At its London AGM this week Rio Tinto boss Sam Walsh attempted to distance the parent
company from Ranger’s rehabilitation, saying it was an issue for ERA. However, Mirarr
Traditional Owners said the company has failed in its obligations despite profiting massively
from mining the area for the past 30 years.
“The attitude of Rio and ERA demonstrates little has changed in the more than three decades
since Galarrwuy Yunupingu described talks over the Ranger mine as ‘like negotiating with a gun
to my head’,” CEO of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation Justin O’Brien said.
“The mining giants have made enormous profits at the expense of Mirarr traditional lands and
are now holding the Word Heritage listed area to ransom.”
This comes just months after the spill of 1.4 million litres of toxic slurry, while the mine is shut
down and under investigation and while ERA develops its proposal for further mining at Ranger.
“Rio Tinto is a tenant on Mirarr land. They come and they go. If a tenant told you they weren’t
prepared to fix the damage they caused to your house unless you agreed to give them a longer
term lease, you’d laugh them out of the building – what does this type of announcement say
about these tenants?” asked Mr O’Brien.
“It is inconceivably thoughtless and arrogant of any mining company to manage its corporate
social responsibilities in this way and regrettably brings to mind the comment made by Mirarr
Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula in 2003: ‘The promises never last, but the problems
For further information or comment: Justin O’Brien on 08 8979 2200 or 0427 008 765