As uranium mining near Kakadu faces an uncertain future, activists calling themselves Camp Concern have reunited inside the Northern Territory park to mark 40 years on from the launch of an anti-mining protest.
Camp Concern was an anti-uranium mining protest camp that started with five people on October 26, 1975, on land now encompassed by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.
The camp ended up witnessing hundreds of participants, before being disbanded after four years. The Ranger Uranium Mine was controversially completed in 1980.
Camp Concern founding member Hip Strider was among those who returned to the original protest site at the weekend. “We’re having a gathering to celebrate,” Mr Strider said.
He said the camp reunion was especially timely given the now unlikely future of the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) -operated Ranger mine.
ERA was once one of the world’s biggest uranium producers but has posted losses totalling $700 million since 2011, as it struggles to sell into a market devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In June, majority-shareholder Rio Tinto announced it was putting a planned expansion of the mine on hold, and half of ERA’s board members shortly afterwards resigned.
The land’s traditional owners, the Mirrar people, have also made it clear they do not support ERA’s bid to continue mine operations beyond the expiry of a lease in 2021.
This is despite having received $150 million in royalties over the past decade.
A statement from ERA this month indicated the company would undertake a business review following knockbacks from the Mirrar people and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation.
“In light of this development, ERA has commenced a process of assessing whether the company’s assets may be impaired,” the statement read.
Launching a ‘hippy’ camp in 1975
Mr Strider said the Mirrar people’s knockback of the Ranger mine lease extension was cause for celebration, given Camp Concern was originally set up to support Aboriginal anti-mining concerns in the 1970s.
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