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Social impact of Uranium mining on Aboriginals

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The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Fred Chaney, today tabled in Parliament a report on the social impact of uranium mining on Aboriginals in the Northern Territory.

The report,for the six months to the end of March 1980, was prepared by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies to assist the Government in mitigating the social impact of uranium mining on Aboriginals.

Senator Chaney said the AIAS report had identified several matters of concern. These included:

. the future development of Kakadu National Park was likely to be more critical for Aboriginals than any current mining activities; .

. the importance of the new Jabiru town to be established within the National Park in relation to the future impact on Aboriginal people; ‘

. inadequacies in arrangements for the distribution of mining revenues which had resulted in some confusion and dissatisfaction among local communities.

The Minister said action was being taken by the Government and other authorities in relation to these issues.

Extensive Aboriginal participation was being encouraged in the development of Kakadu Park which is a unique area. Aboriginal art and other sites were being protected and Aboriginals were being trained and employed in various aspects of Park management.

Consultation with Aboriginals would continue to ensure that their needs and expectations were adequately reflected in the development of the Jabiru town.

A small Working Party, including the Northern Land Council, had been established to ensure that Aboriginals had professional advice on dispersing mining revenues. .

Senator Chaney noted that the Gagudju Association, which determines the distribution of Ranger payments, was beginning to make a positive development in the area.

In a recent initiative which foreshadows the long term investment benefits which could be derived from royalty income, the Gagudju Association had purchased the Cooinda leases within the Kakadu Park thereby acquiring a roadside inn and a store.

The costs of these purchases would be paid for from revenues of the Association.

The Minister drew particular attention to the resolution of the Nabarlek road issue by the Oenpelli traditional owners and Queensland Mines Limited.

Consultation between the two had resulted in advice from the Northern Land Council that the Oenpelli people were now satisfied with action proposed by QML to reduce road traffic through the area inhabited by the Oenpelli people.

The AIAS report stated that no additional development should be approved in the Alligator Rivers Region until the Aboriginal people concerned had adjusted to the very considerable changes to which they have been recently subjected.

Senator Chaney said:

"The Government has, on a number of occasions, indicated its attitude toward further development of additional mining projects in the Region. The Government will not approve any further developments of mineral deposits in the Region unless it is satisfied that the impact on the environment and on Aboriginals

is acceptable, taking into account the total level of activity in the Region as a whole." .

26 August 1980. 27/80