Palm Sunday to send message on uranium mining, nuclear power

March 23, 2007

"Nuclear fools' day" protests will mark Palm Sunday — April 1. The protests are in response to the most significant push for expanded uranium mining in Australia since the Hawke Labor government's 1983 decision to defy public opinion and allow uranium mining to continue at Rio Tinto's Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, and to be developed at Australia's two other largest uranium deposits — BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) mine in South Australia, opened in 1988, and Rio Tinto's Beverley mine (also in SA) in 2001.

All three mines are located on Indigenous land and are opposed by the land's traditional owners. A planned expansion of the Ranger operation into neighbouring Jabiluka was successfully defeated by a mass campaign and a rolling blockade in late 2003, forcing Rio Tinto to return 50,000 tonnes of ore into the mine and close it.

Labor might get elected thanks to their promise to scrap the federal government's business-friendly Work Choices laws, but it is offering a sweetener to big business in the form of scrapping its "no new mines" policy at its upcoming national conference. This would open the door to a raft of new uranium mines. Honeymoon in South Australia is already being prepared for mining; Jabiluka may again be a target; and, with uranium ore prices at record highs, the big miners have their eyes on a dozen or more other potential sites.

A May 2006 Newspoll found 66% of all Australian voters (and 78% of ALP voters) opposed an expansion of uranium mining. Despite longstanding public opposition, however, the filthy trade enjoys bipartisan support.

BHP and Rio Tinto account for most of Australia's coal mining, yet the new push for expanded uranium mining is being cynically promoted as part of the solution to climate change, by fuelling "clean, green nuclear reactors".

Palm Sunday protests will take place in all capital cities, as well as in Alice Springs, Kempsey and Newcastle. The ALP's moves to ditch its "no new mines" policy will be a particular target. The demonstrations will make clear the public opposition to new uranium mines, to the prime minister's nuclear power push, to a new nuclear Cold War, and to nuclear waste dumps.

[Details of Palm Sunday protests can be found in the advertisement on page 16 or at <>.]

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