(November 21, 1997) Leave it in the ground. Simple concept - leave uranium in the ground. This was the whole message behind ROXSTOP, a desert action and music festival recently held in northern South Australia at the Roxby Downs/Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine. It ran from Sep. 22 to Oct. 2 and saw over 250 anti-uranium activists from all over Australia come together to oppose Western Mining Corporation's questionably operated Roxby Downs mine.
(481.4773) Roxby Action Collective -The logic behind calling for the closure of Australia's largest and richest mine is easy to understand: uranium is dangerous to life. Experts the world over aren't arguing about whether radiation from uranium and its associated products are dangerous - they all agree that ionising radiation is dangerous. The debate is merely about how much radiation is publicly acceptable, and that level is consistently getting lowered every 15 years or so. Put this in a context of irradiated workers, manipulation of Aboriginal groups in the region, namely the Kokatha and Arabanna peoples, serious environmental mismanagement of the tailings dam (it leaked 3 billion litres within the first 6 years of operation, and, with the acknowledgement of the South Australian Government, continues to leak at the moment), and devastating impacts on the beautiful mound springs of the Lake Eyre region (some have dried up and more will shortly), and one can understand the constant storm of controversy that surrounds WMC and the Roxby Downs uranium mine. And make no bones about it, it is the uranium which makes the mine profitable, not copper.
Roxby Downs is a difficult mine to close - it has always shared bi-partisan political support from Labour and Liberal, and is a massive orebody of copper, uranium, gold and silver. WMC is currently undertaking a A$1.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) expansion of Roxby to increase production levels. There will potentially be more uranium produced at Roxby alone than at Ranger, Jabiluka, Beverley, Kintyre and Honeymoon put together. Hence the urgency with which activists came together for ROXSTOP - this is one fight we must - and will - win.
ROXSTOP incorporated many activities - protests at the mine itself, tour of the overall facility (where the lack of radiation protection signs was of deep concern), listening to the history and stories of the Kokatha people from women elders, and the stories of the Arabanna male elders, an all-day music concert with artists and bands from all over Australia, a public meeting on worker's health issues in the township of Roxby Downs with a special radiation expert from the USA (Dr David Richardson), solidarity with unionists and workers from the mine, visiting many of the springs in the Lake Eyre region to witness Roxby's long term damage. Perhaps the most poignant event, though, was the spontaneous blockading of a road-wide semi-trailor for half a day.
The massive truck contained a pre-fabricated steel structure for part of the new pipeline which will take even more water from the Great Artesian Basin. This basin feeds the mound springs their water in what is otherwise one of the driest regions on the planet. The power of a small band of people lying down on a desert highway can never be underestimated - within the hour police tried forcefully to remove protesters, however, using our much greater numbers we easily prevailed and we continued blocking the road for half a day. We had achieved our main aim - interfering with the expansion program, increasing costs, achieving wide media coverage across Australia and raising awareness among the local community and workers.
The anti-uranium movement in Australia is at a cross-roads: existing mines are expanding (Ranger, Kakadu Nat. Park, Roxby Downs); there are four proposals for new mines across the country with more expected and a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in the southern suburbs of Sydney. The Howard government has continually halted approvals because of widespread community opposition and active campaigning by the environment movement. The people of Australia have been consistently saying for decades we don't want uranium from our country to be dug up and exported to another country to become somebody else's problem - remember Chernobyl? remember the spontaneous anger shown on streets Australia-wide at French tests in our nearby Pacific neighbours? Howard and his boys do not have the mandate to destroy our country and world heritage areas for short term profit and at the expense of Aboriginal land rights and rural communities - whether it's Roxby, Ranger, or anywhere.
ROXSTOP highlighted to WMC and the Federal and South Australian governments that they are not off the hook. Roxby is a national shame and should be closed immediately. People are seeing through economic rationalism and mobilising. This campaign will only get more vibrant. It has to. Leave it in the ground INDEED.
Source & Contact: Roxby Action Collective: PO Box 222 Fitzroy, Victoria 3065, Australia. Tel: +61-3-9419 8700; Fax: +61-3-9416 2081
For more info and photos, see home.vicnet.net.au/~seaus/roxstop.html
Take a break (at Kakadu national park). At a recent meeting in Alice springs of Aboriginal and Green groups, Jabiluka traditional owners expressed a strong wish to proceed with preparing a major blockade/civil disobedience action in the Kakadu national park. The action will most likely take place in March/April/May next year. Anyone who has non-violent direct action experience, either at nuke weapons establishments or at Gorleben or Temelin, or Japanese nuclear sites, or wherever, are urged to consider taking a holiday in the Kakadu national park around that time. International support in terms of people willing to put their bodies on the line, financial support, logistic support, etc. is needed very much. High on the 'wish list' of things needed is communication equipment - eg. a satellite telephone. It's quite remote up there.
Contact: John Hallam, Nuclear Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Sydney. Suite 15, Ist Floor, 104 Bathurst street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Tel: +61-2-9283 2004; Fax: 6+1-2-9283 2005.