Recent uranium workshops hosted by the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation in Western Australia were an opportunity for traditional owners to become involved in a new mining industry from its beginning, Yamatji chief executive Simon Hawkins told MINING DAILY.
“A lot of the previous mining activity in Western Australia occurred pre-Native Title so traditional owners see uranium as an opportunity to actually have a proper partnership with the activity on their country post-Native Title,” Hawkins said.
“There is an opportunity, being a new industry, to have that engagement and get those issues of compensation and involvement with industry right from the start.”
Attended by key industry and Government stakeholders as well as local Indigenous community members, the workshops were designed to raise awareness about uranium mining in the wake of the Western Australian Government’s 2008 decision to allow uranium mining in the State.
They provided information on uranium and radiation, types of mining, environmental and health risks, regulations and rehabilitation of mine sites.
“We saw the workshops as an opportunity to make traditional owners and other people aware of all of the issues of uranium mining, both for and against, as well as for industry and Government to start contemplating how they are going to engage with Aboriginal people,” Hawkins said.
According to Hawkins, traditional owners were concerned about the effect the industry would have on the land, both during mining itself and with how any waste would be stored.
“Traditional owners have a very strong view because it is their country and they have relationship to the land that brings an extra layer of complexity to the issue,” he said.
Hawkins believes that having the workshops so early in the uranium industry’s existence is a positive start, but work will have to continue with Western Australia’s Indigenous population.
“I think having these workshops and getting information out there is the start of the process,” he said.
“There still needs to be a lot more engagement by the industry and Government to allay concerns and address issues.”