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Jabiluka Uranium Mining Project (Northern Territory, Australia)

(last updated 1 Mar 2012)


Jabiluka mine data and ownership
Mirarr (Traditional Owners)
Energy Resources of Australia

2012

1 March 2012: ERA and Traditional Owners agree on decommissioning of interim water management pond at Jabiluka
The Mirarr Traditional Aboriginal Owners of the Ranger Project Area and miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) announced the decommissioning of an interim water management pond on the Jabiluka lease.

 

2011

7 April 2011: Traditional Owners want Jabiluka deposit to remain undeveloped and the site to be incorporated into Kakadu National Park
Aboriginal traditional owners have declared they want the multibillion-dollar Jabiluka uranium deposit to remain undeveloped and be incorporated into Kakadu National Park.
A senior traditional owner, Yvonne Margarula, says her Mirarr people are "deeply saddened" that for more than 30 years uranium that should never have been disturbed on their land at the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory has been exported to Japan to be used by nuclear power companies, including at the stricken Fukushima plant, which was heavily damaged by the tsunami last month and has been leaking radiation.
Ms Margarula said her people had decided they wanted the federal government to support the incorporation of the Jabiluka site into the Kakadu park, as it had for another uranium mining area at Koongarra, near the renowned Nourlangie Rock. (The Sydney Morning Herald Apr. 7, 2011)

 

2007

27 July 2007: Rio Tinto pledges to wait for Traditional Owners' consent on Jabiluka mine
Rio Tinto's new chief executive, Tom Albanese, has reassured the Mirarr people the mining giant will not pressure them to give Rio's uranium subsidiary, Energy Resources of Australia, development approval for the $50 billion Jabiluka deposit in the Northern Territory. "We have for a long time made the commitment that further development would be subject to the prior informed consent of the traditional landowners," London-based Mr Albanese said. He said Rio had made that commitment several years ago and was standing by it. (The Age July 27, 2007)

 

2006

6 March 2006: Pressure on Traditional Owners to permit Jabiluka mine
The Howard Government has used a native title claim to pressure Aboriginal owners to approve mining of the massive Jabiluka uranium deposit in Kakadu National Park, it was claimed.
The traditional Mirarr owners said the Government had indicated they would be given ownership of Jabiru, a mining town in Kakadu, if they reversed their opposition to mining Jabiluka. At today's soaring prices, the site - the world's richest undeveloped uranium deposit - is worth more than A$10 billion. (Sydney Morning Herald March 7, 2006)

 

2005

25 Feb 2005: ERA and Traditional Owners sign long-term Jabiluka deal
Energy Resources Australia Ltd (ERA) must secure consent from the Jabiluka land owners before any future mining development, under a landmark agreement signed today. ERA signed the agreement with landowners, the Mirarr Gundjeihmi Aboriginal people and the Northern Land Council.
"While the Jabiluka Mineral Lease and the 1982 Jabiluka Mining Agreement remain in force, the Jabiluka Long-Term Care and Maintenance Agreement obliges ERA (and its successors) to secure Mirarr consent prior to any future mining development of uranium deposits at Jabiluka," ERA said in a statement. The agreement also waives some of ERA's financial obligations flowing from construction of the mine's decline in 1998.
The signing of the agreement follows nearly three years of negotiation over the future management of the lease. (Australian Feb. 25, 2005)

 

2004

22 Apr 2004: Traditional Aboriginal owners today signed off on a historic agreement ending their long struggle against the controversial Jabiluka uranium mine. The landmark deal gives the owners the right to veto the future development of the site in the heart of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The Northern Land Council (NLC), acting on behalf of traditional owners, voted unanimously at its full council meeting today to ratify the agreement with the mine owner, resources giant Rio Tinto's Energy Resources of Australia (ERA).
The long-awaited deal was flagged last July but delayed until now to give more time for consultation with traditional owners. The agreement must now be approved by Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone prior to it coming into force. (Australian 22 Apr 2004)

 

2003

20 Aug 2003: Mining companies vow not to mine in World Heritage areas
In an environmental coup, 15 of the world's biggest mining companies have vowed not to mine in world heritage areas. The companies, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Pasminco have signed the agreement preventing them from operating in or even exploring sites that carry United Nations World Heritage Site Status, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu. (ABC 21 Aug 2003)
> Download ICMM release (Aug. 20, 2003) (PDF)

 

13 Aug 2003: ERA begins backfilling the Jabiluka mine
(ABC 14 Aug 2003)

> View NT Environment Center news release Aug. 26, 2003

The first truckload of uranium ore returning underground , August 13th 2003
The first truckload of uranium ore returning underground, August 13th 2003
Photo: Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation

 

1 Aug 2003: The Northern Territory government has given the go-ahead for a clean-up of the controversial Jabiluka uranium mine, ending a long row which pitted conservation groups and Aboriginal people against mining company ERA.
Under the clean-up program, ERA (Energy Resources Australia) will backfill the 1.8 kilometre decline located next to the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. ERA, majority owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, will retain the lease on the mine but will sign a formal agreement with traditional owners, the Mirrar people, undertaking no future development without their explicit permission. (The Age 1 Aug 2003)

9 July 2003: The Jabiluka Traditional Owners are in negotiation with ERA and the Northern Land Council in relation to Jabiluka's long term care and maintenance: The agreement - expected to be signed within weeks - will provide for the backfill of the mine, there's 47,000 tonne of uranium ore sitting under a tarpaulin, that would go back down the mining tunnel. The agreement would also give the traditional owners a veto over any further development of Jabiluka. (The Age 9 July 2003)

17 April 2003: At the occasion of the Rio Tinto AGM held in London, Rio Tinto chairman Sir Robert Wilson has confirmed the company won't proceed with the Jabiluka uranium mine in Australia's Northern Territory without the consent of the region's traditional land owners. This commitment would not be forgotten when he retires in October 2003. (AAP 18 April 2003)

 

2002

27 Aug 2002: In an BBC interview, Robert Wilson, chairman of Rio Tinto, made a commitment to rehabilitate the Jabiluka mine site, but didn't say when this would begin. The Traditional Owners and conservationists now call for an immediate begin of the site cleanup.
> BBC Hardtalk 27 Aug 2002
> Watch full interview (24 min, Real)

16 May 2002: New report finds "the Jabiluka project is facing a continually escalating water management crisis"

Review of Water Management at Jabiluka : Environmental Issues and Recommendations, December 2001, by Dr Gavin M. Mudd
> Download full report (619k PDF)

23 Apr 2002: Supervising Scientist criticizes ERA's environmental management

Investigation of the Stockpiling and Reporting Incidents at Ranger and Jabiluka 2002, Supervising Scientist, Environment Australia, 2002
> View summary and download full report

6 Mar 2002: Uranium levels detected in January 2002 in the Swift Creek downstream of the Jabiluka mine site - which is now in standby mode, rose up to six times above levels upstream of the mine. This is the first sign that contaminated water at the Jabiluka site could be tainting pristine water systems in the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. (The Australian, March 6, 2002)

 

2001

27 Apr 2001: Mining giant Rio Tinto says development of its Jabiluka uranium site in the Northern Territory is an economically unattractive investment and unlikely to go ahead. Speaking at the company's annual general meeting, company director Sir Robert Wilson told shareholders and Rio Tinto representatives that development at Jabiluka cannot proceed without the consent of the Northern Land Council and the area's traditional owners. He said that consent is nowhere near forthcoming and may never be, making the whole issue only a remote possibility. When asked whether Rio Tinto would sell its 68 per cent stake in uranium miner ERA, Sir Robert Wilson said they have no present plans to do so. (ABC 27 Apr 2001)

12 Apr 2001: The mining company Rio Tinto has confirmed it has no short term plans to mine uranium at the Northern Territory's Jabiluka mine, and has placed a 10-year moratorium on the project. The chair of Rio Tinto, Sir Robert Wilson, has made the announcement at the company's annual general meeting in London. (ABC 13 Apr 2001)

30 Mar 2001: Cameco's stake in Jabiluka owner ERA is available for sale.

22 Mar 2001: Rio Tinto stalls efforts to sell majority stake in Jabiluka owner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd for poor uranium outlook

22 Mar 2001: It would be hard for ERA majority owner Rio Tinto to support development of the controversial Jabiluka uranium project in the short-term given the opposition to the mine, and the low price for uranium, Rio Tinto chief executive Leigh Clifford said. (AFR, ABC, March 23, 2001)

 

2000

29 Nov 2000: At its meeting in Cairns, the World Heritage Committee decided not to list Kakadu National Park as "in danger".
Concerning natural issues the Committee acknowledged that there is a need for greater transparency and monitoring and decided that a revised Australian science panel be established.
Concerning cultural matters the Committee urges the Government and the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation to resume dialogue aimed at addressing outstanding cultural issues. It states that if this fails both groups are to try and agree on an independent facilitator to get things back on track. If this fails the issue comes before the Committee again next year.

23 Nov 2000: A new report by the International Council of Science (ICSU), an UNESCO scientific advisory body, analyzes the possible impacts of the Jabiluka mine on the world heritage values of Kakadu National Park. The World Heritage Committee had asked an Independent Scientific Panel (ISP) from ICSU to provide advice on the science relating to the Jabiluka mine.
In the report, ISP calls for Australia to establish an independent committee to monitor the Jabiluka uranium mine's impact on Kakadu National Park's World Heritage values.
> Download ISP of ICSU Report No. 3, September 2000

6 Oct 2000: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) has lodged a submission in support of the Mirrar traditional owners of Kakadu with the World Heritage Committee, calling on the Commission to list the Kakadu National Park as "in danger". Jabiluka will again be on the agenda of the World Heritage Bureau and Committee when they meet in Cairns, 27 Nov - 2 Dec 2000.
> View/Download ATSIC Submission to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on World Heritage Properties in Australia and Kakadu, Sep 2000

On 30 August 2000, ERA revised the Jabiluka ore reserves from 90,400 to 71,000 t U3O8 (-21.5%).
> ERA Media Release 30 Aug 2000

On 11 August 2000, Rio Tinto acquired a majority stake in ERA parent company North Ltd.

On 19 April, 2000, the Australian Government released a progress report on its efforts in meeting the commitments it made to the Committee when it decided last year that there was no case to list Kakadu as being "in danger".

> Minister Hill's media release 19 April 2000
> Download Australia’s Commitments: Protecting Kakadu Progress Report to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee, 15 April 2000 (100k PDF)
 


1999

Northern Land Council vetoes milling of Jabiluka ore at Ranger
The full Northern Land Council (NLC) has backed the request of Jabiluka's traditional owners not to talk with mining company ERA for five years about the Ranger mill alternative. Following a full council meeting on October 19-21, the NLC advised Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) that it will not consider ERA's preferred milling option -- trucking Jabiluka ore 20 kilometres to the existing mill at Ranger -- until at least the year 2005. ERA says it will now go ahead with building a mill on site at Jabiluka - at extra cost of A$150 million. (Oct 27, 1999)

Kakadu National Park not listed "In Danger"
During its extraordinary meeting in Paris on July 12, 1999, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided not to list the Kakadu National Park "In Danger" for the development of the Jabiluka uranium mine. The committee came down in favor of the Government and uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA), despite hearing an impassioned plea from Aboriginal elder Ms Yvonne Margarula. Ms Margarula, the senior traditional owner of the Mirrar people, called for Kakadu to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of the Jabiluka mine. The committee also ignored calls for an in-danger listing from its three formal advisory bodies on natural and cultural heritage. (The Age, July 13, 1999)
> View WHC release July 12, 1999

North Ltd to hold Extraordinary General Meeting on Jabiluka project
NORTH has bowed to pressure from Green shareholders as well as the Wilderness Society and will hold an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the Jabiluka project. The meeting will be held before its annual meeting on October 29, 1999. Requests for the EGM were sent to North , the owner of Jabiluka's operator, Energy Resources of Australia, by about 120 shareholders who hold 350,000 shares in the resources company. (The Australian, 10 July 1999)

Jabiluka works to be resumed

"Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA) will be resuming the advancement of the Jabiluka tunnel on Friday 21 May 1999 after a three-day stoppage for technical scheduling reasons." (ERA Release 18 May 1999)
Work suspended on Jabiluka decline
"ERA Chief Executive, Phillip Shirvington advised today that advancement of the Jabiluka decline will be temporarily suspended for technical and scheduling reasons from Tuesday, 18 May 1999.
While this suspension is unrelated to negotiations with Traditional Owners, it incidentally meets the precondition given by them for their cooperation in discussions to develop a process to complete the Interim Cultural Heritage Management Plan." (ERA Release 11 May 1999)

ERA: Jabiluka decline construction on schedule

"The schedule for the Jabiluka mine development remains on target. By 31 March 1999, excavation of the Jabiluka decline (underground tunnel) had reached 920 metres toward the orebody. Completion of the decline in July 1999 will mark the end of stage one of construction. As foreshadowed on 8 January 1999, the Jabiluka schedule will then enter a six to 12 month design phase that will enable the completion of further environmental and cultural studies as well as negotiations on the Ranger-Jabiluka road construction." (ERA - Quarterly Profit, Production & Exploration Report, 29 April 1999 )

On 27 April 1999, the Australian Senate referred the Jabiluka approvals process to a Senate inquiry. Democrats' spokesperson on nuclear issues, Senator Lyn Allison, said the referral to Committee reveals the fundamental inadequacy of the Government's handling of the issue to date. [Senator Lyn Allison, News Release April 27, 1999 ]
> View Senate Committee announcement
> Download transcripts of the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Reference Committee hearings: 11 June 99 in Canberra (260k PDF) · 16 June 99 in Darwin (188k PDF)

Conclusion of the Senate Committee report:

"The Committee believes that the Jabiluka uranium mine poses a grave threat to the natural and cultural heritage values of Kakadu National Park. The Traditional Aboriginal Owners see the land, their sacred heritage and their living culture as one. The continued development of the mine is dangerous, threatening the very survival of a culture that has existed in Kakadu for 50,000 years. The mine should not be allowed to proceed."
> Access Senate Committee report (30 June 1999): View online · download ZIP archive of RTF files (240k)

On 19 April 1999, the San Francisco based Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund announced that Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona receive the 1999 Goldman Environmental Prize , worth US$ 125,000, for their campaign against the Jabiluka uranium mine.

On 15 April 1999, the Australian government has released its response to the report of the UNESCO Fact Finding mission that visited Kakadu in November 1998. The Fact Finding mission reported to the World Heritage Committee that Kakadu should be placed on the 'in-danger' list because of the Jabiluka mine. The government has prepared a response to that report. This includes a major report by the Supervising Scientist addressing science issues relating to the Jabiluka mine.
> Access Response by the Government of Australia to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee regarding Kakadu National Park - April 1999
> Access Assessment of the Jabiluka Project - Report of the Supervising Scientist to the World Heritage Committee - April 1999


1998

On Dec. 1, 1998, the UN World Heritage Committee defered the decision for six months whether Kakadu should be listed as World Heritage 'in danger'. For the meantime, it called for a halt to construction work at the Jabiluka mine site.
> View World Heritage Committee 1998 Decision on Kakadu National Park

On Nov. 25, 1998, the United Nation's World Heritage Bureau has found the Jabiluka uranium mine is threatening the cultural and environmental values of Kakadu National Park. The bureau conducted a week-long investigation of the mine site and has concluded the mine should not go ahead. It believes the environmental regulations laid down by the Government were not rigourous enough.
> View World Heritage Committee Report (Nov. 98): Executive Summary · full text (179k RTF format) · full text (1.5M PDF format)
> View submissions to World Heritage Committee by:

On Nov. 20, 1998 the High Court in Sydney refused to grant special leave to the Jabiluka Traditional Owners, the Mirrar people, to appeal against the validity of the Jabiluka mine. The application was brought by tribal elder Yvonne Margarula, who claims the Northern Territory Government did not have the legal authority to issue a lease for the Jabiluka mine in 1982. However, two judges of the High Court rejected that argument and awarded costs against the applicant.
There is now no legal impediment to uranium mining starting at the Jabiluka mine in the Northern Territory. (ABC News 20 Nov 1998, The Age 21 Nov 1998)

On August 27, 1998, Federal Resources and Energy minister Warwick Parer gave conditional approval for uranium ore to be processed at the Jabiluka uranium mine inside the borders of Kakadu National Park. Senator Parer said that he had written to ERA to say that he endorsed the environmental recommendations made by Senator Robert Hill yesterday. Senator Hill had rejected ERA's preferred proposal of mixing 30 to 50 per cent of the mined uranium tailings with a cement paste and disposing of them in specially dug pits on site with the rest being disposed of in the mine shaft. He said there was not enough scientific evidence that this was environmentally acceptable for a mine surrounded by the world heritage Kakadu National Park. But he did say that burying all the tailings deep in the mine would be acceptable. (The Australian, 28 August 1998)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has made his recommendation to Resources and Energy Minister Warwick Parer on the Jabiluka Mill Alternative proposed by ERA (involving the disposal of 50% of the tailings in purpose-built pits): "Senator Hill has advised that there is at this stage, insufficient scientific information to make a decision on whether ERA's preferred option is environmentally acceptable. Further environmental assessment work would need to be done before any decision on this option could be made." (Sen. Hill press release 26 Aug. 1998)

> View Environmental Assessment Reports on the Jabiluka Mill Alternative by:

> more assessment documents

The United Nations' World Heritage Bureau has set up an international inspection team to visit Jabiluka and prepare a report for the World Heritage Committee meeting in Japan in December. The team will investigate if mining uranium will damage World Heritage values at Kakadu National Park. (Sydney Morning Herald 26 June 1998)

Construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine started on 16 June 1998, though a decision on the mill location and an environmental assessment of the Jabiluka Mill Alternative are pending still.
> View ERA press release of 16 June 1998

On 9 June 1998, only one week after the closure of the public comment period on the draft guidelines for the report, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) had issued the Public Environment Report (PER) on the Jabiluka Mill Alternative of the Jabiluka uranium mining project. The PER was available for public review until 6 July 1998.
The company had proposed building a 55-hectare tailings dam for the Jabiluka Mill Alternative, but now plans to mix the tailings with cement and place the solid waste inside the mine, and in two purpose-built disposal pits.
> View PER summary · ERA announcement / report order form
> View final Guidelines for a Public Environment Report on the Proposed Development of the Jabiluka Mill Alternative at the Jabiluka No 2 Uranium Mine

On 2 June 1998, the Northern Territory Government had given final approval for the construction of a uranium mine at Jabiluka in Kakadu National Park. The Territory's Minister for Resource Development, Eric Poole, says while final approvals will be required for a mill and some infrastructure, construction of the mine itself can begin. Mining company Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has agreed in court to give seven days' notice to traditional owners before starting work on the mine. ERA wants to mill the ore at its existing Ranger mine, but after traditional owners vetoed that option, the company proposed a processing mill for the Jabiluka site. Mr Poole says ERA is not expected to reach the ore until about eight months after construction begins. (ABC News 2 June 1998)

On 22 May, 1998, construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine had been put on hold: A Federal Court judge had ordered the Territory's Minister for Mines and Energy not to approve the project. Justice Marshall found the Minister did not have enough information before making his decision to approve its construction, and said there were environmental issues which needed to be resolved.
This injunction restraining the Northern Territory Government from signing Jabiluka uranium mine approvals has been lifted by the Territory Supreme Court on 1 June, 1998.

On April 29, 1998, Federal Environment Minister Hill has decided an environmental assessment will be conducted on a possible alternative milling site for the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine.
> View Press Release 44/98 and DPIE Press Release 98/307
> View Draft Guidelines for a Public Environment Report on the Proposed Development of the Jabiluka Mill Alternative at the Jabiluka No 2 Uranium Mine, May 1998 . The Draft Guidelines were open for public comment until 1 June 1998.

On March 26, 1998, the Australian Senate passed a motion against the Jabiluka project.
> View Senate motion

From March 23 to October 18, 1998, environment and indigenous groups organized a blockade against Jabiluka.
> For more information, see the Jabiluka blockade info pages of Jabiluka Campaign .
> View the Mirrar Gundjehmi (Jabiluka Traditional Owners) site.
> For latest news about the Jabiluka case, check: ABC News - Northern Territory
> View Jabiluka archive of The Age daily

On February 11, 1998, the Australian Federal Court has upheld the validity of ERA's lease over the Jabiluka uranium deposit. The mineral lease, issued in 1982, has been challenged by the senior Aboriginal traditional owner of the region.

On January 15, 1998, the European Parliament adopted an urgency resolution in favour of indigenous peoples concerned from uranium mining, and against the Jabiluka project, in particular.


1997

On October 20, 1997, the Australian Senate passed a motion against the Jabiluka project.
> View Senate motion

On October 8, 1997, the Australian Government had approved the Jabiluka uranium mining project in the Northern Territory (DPIE press release 97/213P).

In August 1997, the Northern Territory Department of Lands, Planning and Environment issued its Environmental Assessment Report on the Jabiluka No.2 uranium mine proposal. (View full report )

The World Heritage Unit, a section of the Federal Environment Department, has recommended deferring a decision on the Jabiluka mining project until a regional social and cultural impact study is completed. This decision is in line with conservationists and Aboriginal groups but at odds with the federal Environment Minister Robert Hill who has said that the study should run parallel to the mining project assessment. [UI News Briefing 97/05]

The Australian Radiation Laboratory has identified 'significant problems' with projected radiation exposure levels for workers contained in the Jabiluka draft EIS, indicating that 'the occupational radiation doses [.] may be up to a factor of two low'. [UI News Briefing 97/03]

The Northern Land Council (NLC) has rejected the EIS (NLC press release of 6 Feb 1997).


1996

On 17 Oct 1996 ERA released its draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Jabiluka project. The EIS examines a number of options for developing the Jabiluka #2 orebody, which contains 90,400 tonnes of U3O8 (76660 tonnes U at 0.39% U). The EIS is available from ERA Publications as 3 volumes or on CD Rom (QuarkXpress) for $20. The Executive Summary (24 pages) is free; it is also available online . See also EIS supplement .

For details of the environmental assessment process, see the Australian Environmental Protection Agency Environment Assessment Branch Notifications: Jabiluka No.2 project and Jabiluka Mill Alternative .

In its Comments on the Jabiluka Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Friends of the Earth Sydney raised the lack to address the long-term impacts of the project, in particular of the tailings disposal. These concerns are discussed in more detail in the Friends of the Earth Sydney Critique of the Supplimentary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Jabiluka Uranium Project.

The Northern Land Council (NLC) has informed ERA that the Aboriginal landowners associated with the Jabiluka project area have not given their consent to any proposal to modify the project, including the proposal to mill Jabiluka ore at the Ranger site, and moreover, do not wish the Jabiluka project to proceed at all. Discussions are continuing between representatives of the NLC and the Aboriginal landowners, but ERA still intends to act in accordance with the 1982 agreement entered into by the Traditional Owners, Pancontinental Mining and Getty Oil, which has already been assigned to ERA with the NLC's approval. (ERA, 22 May) [UI News Briefing 96/21]

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