ERA denies Jabiluka postponement rumours
By Justin Randell
Rumours that the Jabiluka mine has been postponed have been denied by Energy Resources of Australia. The rumours originated from a press conference for resource journalists in which ERA stated that it would not begin taking ore from the Jabiluka mine until 2001, not 2000 as some had believed.
The statements provoked a press release from anti-Jabiluka activists in Darwin stating that the mine had been postponed and suggesting that ERA needed more time to negotiate with the traditional owners of the mining lease site.
There were false rumours last year that ERA was negotiating with the government to pull out of the project altogether.
Asked about the media release, an ERA spokesperson told Green Left Weekly that the mine was going "full speed ahead". The tunnel under construction is due to be finished by June. After this had been completed, a 6-12 month design phase was necessary to discover how big the uranium deposit was before plans for its extraction could be drawn up.
Questioned about negotiations with the traditional owners, the ERA spokesperson said that the key issue to be resolved was the route of a road between the Ranger and Jabiluka mines.
Whether the traditional owners support the mine at all was not mentioned. This highlights the importance for ERA of the Ranger milling option, in which unmilled ore is taken from Jabiluka by truck to the Ranger site. This would save the company many millions of dollars, but would increase the risk of further damage to the environment.
It is clear from that the campaign against the mine must also continue "full steam ahead", since ERA is not considering pulling out of the venture, and there is little evidence that it will stop, even if the World Heritage Bureau puts Kakadu on the endangered list in June.