Mirarr perspectives on mining and rehabilitation of the Ranger project area

G. M. Mudd, G. Kyle and H. D. Smith

Traditional Owners benefit from an agreed plan by knowing the temporal dimension of separation from their country, and of being able to envisage a definite rehabilitated landform replacing the voids, artificial lakes and foreign structures of modern mining. Nowadays, all mining companies are required – or at least are well-advised – to plan for the transition from operations to closure, and thence to a post-mining regional economy. In addition to the scientific studies and logistical planning that are required for operations that lead to rehabilitation and closure, mining companies are increasingly recognising that their withdrawal from a region can have more significant impacts on culture and economy than did their arrival. The Mirarr people belong to three Bininj clans whose combined estates include the Ranger and Jabiluka Uranium Project Areas and parts of Kakadu National Park. Those lands the custodianship and management of which Mirarr have inherited from extinct clans, include parts of Western Arnhem Land, and parts of Kakadu National Park. In the case of Mirarr estates in the ARR, royalty payments will have ceased a decade or more before closure, and the Mirarr will not have access to much of the country from which they made their living before the mine. Further, it is likely that, due to ambient radiation, there will be an access restriction over the Ranger site for many decades after the mining company has gone and the landform has gradually re-established. That will restrict Mirarr from resuming their traditional hunter-gatherer economy on those lands, and they will be obliged to seek a livelihood from other means. In the Mirarr case, amounts have been diverted from royalty receipts, and directed to sustainable investments that will provide an income stream into the future. Mirarr have declined to take any active part in the operations of a mine they have always opposed, and so there is no dependence on a major employer to deal with after the mining company leaves. Post-mining land tenure can be a difficult problem. In the Mirarr case, the land on which Ranger is built is Aboriginal freehold land under ALRA. After closure, that land should return to ALRA status. However, since the mine was built, Kakadu National Park has been proclaimed around the Ranger lease. Kakadu is itself largely ALRA land that has been leased by its numerous Aboriginal owners to Parks Australia. Mirarr have expressed the wish that, after closure and surrender, the Ranger lease be incorporated into Kakadu so that the contiguous Bininj estates on the western side of the ARR can be managed under one plan. 

Mudd, G. M., Kyle,G., & Smith, H. D. (2007). Mirarr Perspectives on Mining and Rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area. Australia's Uranium Conference, Darwin, NT, 15-16 May.

Mirarr perspectives on mining and rehabilitation of the Ranger project area