Pilanguru people to fight on as uranium mine gets environmental approval via The Guardian

Traditional owners say the Indigenous community has not been adequately consulted about Vimy Resources’ planned Mulga Rock open-pit mine

Traditional owners have vowed to fight a proposed uranium mine at Mulga Rock, about 240km west of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, which was given conditional environmental approval on Monday.

The Environmental Protection Authority of WA recommended the Barnett government approve construction of the open-pit mine and uranium processing plant, operated by Perth-based Vimy Resources Limited, after a three-month public environmental review.

The proposed project would mine 4.5m tonnes of ore a year, processed down to 1,360 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate, which would be trucked to Port Adelaide in sealed steel drums.

It would require the clearing of 3,787ha of native vegetation, the preferred habitat of the endangered sandhill dunnart, which the proposal says would be rehabilitated at the end of the mine’s 16-year life.


The area was subject to a native title claim by the Wongatha people but that was rejected by the federal court in 2007.

There are four registered Aboriginal heritage sites within the 9,998ha property, containing scattered artefacts including stone flakes and tools which, according to a 2010 heritage survey, represented short-term occupation by Aboriginal peoples following ephemeral water sources.

Two of the sites are in areas slated for development and at least one is expected to be affected by land clearing and excavation.

“We use to go out there with our elders,” Hogan said. “We can’t see how this mine could go ahead.

“The seven sisters’ tjukupa [Dreaming] goes through there and the two wadis [lore men] went through that area too. The elders use to take us there for cultural practice, they would leave us there for a few days and then come back to pick us up.

“We don’t want that mine to go ahead. We will fight against that mine at Mulga Rock.”


Most of those displaced people now live at Tjuntjuntjara near the South Australian border but one woman remains at Coonana, a remote Aboriginal community near Cundalee.

The closest house to the planned uranium mine is at Pinjin station, 105km away.

The EPA report said the impact of radiation from the mine on human health would be negligible. “Worst-case scenario” testing, based on hypothetical homes within 9km of the boundary, projected an exposure of about 0.04 millisieverts per year, compared with the normal radiation exposure in Australia of 1.5 to 2mSv/yr.

It said exposure along the transport route would be negligible: 0.0006mSv/yr for a car stuck behind the uranium truck for the full six-hour journey, or 0.004mSv/yr for a person who spent a year standing beside the trucking route.

The estimated exposure for workers, who will be housed in on-site accommodation, was 3mSv/year, compared with the regulatory dose limit of 20mSv/yr for uranium mine workers.

Mia Pepper, an anti-nuclear campaigner at the Conservation Council, said a bigger concern was that radiation from the tailing pits could leach into the water table and impact the Great Victoria Springs, a class A nature reserve about 30km to the south.


She said the EPA was too ready to accept the mitigation practices proposed by Vimy and the Conservation Council would lodge an appeal.

“The difference with uranium is the risks are very, very high and when things go wrong, they go very wrong,” she said.

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