Australia // Northern Territory //

Kakadu’s yellow gold

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The land around Kakadu’s border with Arnhem Land contains fifteen percent of the world’s known uranium reserves, and mining and refining the ore produces millions of dollars in royalties for the park’s traditional owners (not to mention making a pretty penny for the mining company itself, multinational Rio Tinto). Environmentalists have long campaigned against mining in the park, arguing that it’s impossible to contain the low-level radioactive waste produced. There have been more than 150 leaks and spills at the Ranger Uranium Mine near Jabiru since it opened in 1981, and the vast open pit (surrounded by, but technically separate from, the national park) certainly makes for a sight deeply incompatible with the park itself. Until recently it was possible to take guided tours of the mine, although these were halted in 2013 after a transition began from open-cut mining to underground exploration. But subterranean or otherwise, and despite uranium still being touted as a catalyst for carbon-neutral power generation, mining in Kakadu won’t stop being a divisive issue anytime soon.

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