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Hapana Kwa Madini Ya Uranium

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

('No to uranium mining' in Swahili) On July 2, at a meeting in St Petersburg in the Russian Federation, the Unesco World Heritage Committee unanimously approved Tanzania’s request to allow uranium mining in the Selous game reserve. The reserve was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982 and is one of the largest remaining wildernesses in Africa.

After months of intense lobbying by nuclear industry and government the July 2, de-cision comes as a great relief to the go-vernment, whose plan to alter the boun-daries of Selous met strong opposition from environmentalists on the grounds that mining in the World Heritage Site would have disastrous consequences. They argued that mining of uranium had caused devastating environmental and health damage wherever it had been done.

But, at the meeting in St Petersburg from June 24 to 6 July 2012, the com-mittee unanimously approved Tanza-nia’s request to modify the boundary of the game reserve. The decision means that some 19,793 hectares (nearly 200 square kilometers) to the south of the Selous, where uranium deposits are found, will also excluded. Tanzania ap-plied for permission to alter the bounda-ries of Selous in January 2011, arguing that extracting uranium in the area was critical for funding development pro-grams and driving the economy. 

The Selous was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. Within the reserve no permanent human habitation or permanent struc-tures are permitted. All entries and exits are carefully controlled by the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Natural Re-sources and Tourism. The five million-hectare game reserve is home to the largest population of elephants on the continent and also has large numbers of black rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles -along with grasslands and miombo forests. Its diverse lands-cape retains undisturbed biological and ecological processes. 

The project will be carried out by an Australian uranium mining firm called Mantra Resources at a cost of US$400million. Some environmentalists and politicians, including a handful of MPs, have consistently voiced strong criticism to the mining plan. They main-tain that the project will have devasta-ting consequences on the economic and social fronts and deal a major blow to the ecology.

According to IUCN more than a quarter of natural World Heritage sites are under pressure by existing or future mineral extraction. For this reason, IUCN is calling on the private sector, state-run companies and governments them-selves to adopt and enforce the “no go” principle, meaning that no mining and/or mineral and oil exploration and production can be carried out in World Heritage sites. 

Sources: The Citizen (Tanzania), 3 July 2012 /  Tanzania Daily News, 5 July 2012 / UICN website, visited 10 July 2012.


UNESCO includes Koongarra into Kakdus world heritage listing

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On June 27, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted to modify the boundaries of the Australian Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area to include the previously excluded Koongarra area. Koongarra includes a major uranium deposit that was discovered in 1970, but which has never been mined. There are some legal steps the Australian Government will need to finalise before Koongarra is officially included as part of Kakadu National Park.

Kakadu Traditional Owners witnessed and welcomed the decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to include Koongarra within the Kakadu World Heritage Area. Representatives of the Mirarr attended the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris, France, to support moves by the Senior Traditional Owner of the neighbouring Djok clan, Jeffrey Lee, to permanently protect the Koongarra region from the threat of uranium mining.

On June 20, the Australian Federal Government said the French nuclear energy company Areva, tried to block the push for the world heritage listing of Koongarra area: Areva formally requested the nomination of Koongarra be removed from the agenda of the meeting.

When Kakadu was declared a national park in 1979, a small section of land was left off the map. This 1200 hectare region, known as Koongarra, is entirely within the Djok Traditional estate. It includes a major uranium deposit that was discovered in 1970, and for which Areva holds exploration licences, but which has never been mined.

High level Australian and international assessment teams have opposed any mining plans and recommended increased protection for the unique region.

Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan, Jeffrey Lee, has consistently opposed uranium mining on his country and has travelled to Paris to personally support and witness the boundary change as a step towards the inclusion of his land into Kakadu.

In 2010 both major Australian political parties committed to making Koongarra part of the surrounding national park.

The decision to add the environmentally and culturally significant Koongarra region in Kakadu to the World Heritage register is a powerful and positive step towards the permanent protection of one of Australia’s most special places. The Koongarra area in Kakadu includes the much-visited Nourlangie Rock (Burrunggui/Anbangbang) and is important in the Rainbow Serpent and Lightning Man storylines.

Sources: ABC Darwin, 20 June 2011; Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation Media statement, 27 June 2011; ACF press statement