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Environment

Mining Uranium

Scenario

On 17 April 2003 Sir Robert Wilson of Rio Tinto signed an agreement that there would be no further mining at Jabiluka without the permission of the traditional owners of the land, – the Mirrar. However, many people feel that this is a backward step for Australia, pointing out that the proposed mine would have very little impact on Kakadu National Park and an incursion of a mere 100 hectares would open up an enormously wealthy mine with consequent economic benefits to Australia as a whole and to the Northern Territory and the Mirrar people in particular.

A complicating factor is that it is uranium which is being mined. Uranium is controversial because it is used to produce nuclear energy (which may include nuclear weapons) and because its extraction and processing result in radioactive wastes which can cause long-term contamination. Moreover, it is argued, a mine would disrupt and despoil a beautiful and significant area set aside for conservation and, most important of all, infringe on the rights of the Indigenous people who are the traditional owners.

Consider

  • What ought to guide an ethical response to this problem and who has the right to make a final decision?