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Jabiluka (1997)

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Safe uranium mining education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

We see the location of the proposed mine, and a description of the proposed new road, followed by shots of demonstrators against the mine. Phillip Shirvington, CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, the mining company at Jabiluka, says that the mining of uranium is safe because the tailings are returned to the site after mining. The landowners, the Mirrar people, say that it is not safe.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the site of the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory and the debate surrounding it. The clip opens with aerial views of the proposed location with a voice-over commentary explaining the sacred significance of the mine site to the Indigenous Mirrar people and the danger it poses to Kakadu’s wetlands. Following shots of anti-mine protests, the clip ends with chief executive officer Phillip Shirvington of Energy Resources Australia explaining how he believes the mine will not affect the environment. A soundtrack is used strategically in the clip.

Educational value points

  • This clip raises the issue of the environmental soundness of plans to create an underground uranium ore mine at Jabiluka. Concerns over mining beneath a floodplain in close proximity to Kakadu National Park’s wetlands centred on pollution to the water and vegetation ecosystems. The viewer is left questioning the miner’s environmental credentials when Philip Shirvington ignores the underground aspects in his outline of care and restoration.
  • The traditional owners of the proposed site, the Mirrar people, opposed plans to mine at Jabiluka because sacred sites of significance were located in the area. The Mirrar believed mining threatened natural and cultural heritage values especially the proposed road connecting Jabiluka to the established Ranger mine, which would violate sacred sites. A 1982 mining agreement with mining interests was later repudiated by the Mirrar people as being gained under duress.
  • This documentary uses persuasive techniques to present opposition to mining at Jabiluka, in particular playing on fears of threats to the environment and public health. ‘Radioactive waste’ stencilled on a barrel and the voice-over’s warning of uranium as ‘the world’s most dangerous mineral’ undermine Shirvington’s reassuring message. Electronic chords on the soundtrack bring a hint of unease and the sound of clap sticks reminds the viewer of the rights of the Mirrar.
  • Jabiluka, seen here as the focus for protest action, became a national symbol of resistance to the nuclear industry. After the government granted approval of the Jabiluka mine proposal in October 1997 the Jabiluka mine blockade was launched in March 1998. More than 50 protestors camped adjacent to the Jabiluka lease area and nearly 3,000 more joined them in action aimed to slow construction and gain community support. More than 500 were arrested.
  • A map of the Jabiluka mining lease is superimposed over images of the natural landscape that would be affected by the mine, ending with a contrasting shot of the Ranger mine. The threat of leakage and spillage of various pollutants, including radionuclides from tailings dams and waste transportation into the Kadadu wetlands, continues to alarm opponents of the Jabiluka mine, especially after contaminated leaks from the nearby Ranger mine in 2000.
  • In 2008 the mine at Jabiluka had still not been built. In 1997 when this documentary was made the Australian government was considering the proposal for a mine at Jabiluka. During the 1998–99 period mine development proceeded. A combination of legal action, shareholder protests, direct action and appeals to UNESCO halted further development. Mining has been deferred and would only proceed with the permission of the Mirrar people.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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