It was depressing to read in this morning's papers that there is now but one person classified as a traditional owner of the land which contains the Koongarra uranium deposit in the Northern Territory. When I started working for the grand father of that sole survivor we would have 40 or 50 people at meetings under the trees considering whether they wanted mining on their land. And mining they certainly did want despite the desperate efforts of do-gooder environment groups to stop them exercising their right to determine their own future.
Unfortunately for those now departed after a life of abject poverty, Labor Governments stuck to their absurd three mines policy and the mine that would have delivered the traditional owners a taste of economic security was vetoed. Unfortunately the arrival of the Howard Government coincided with a low point in uranium prices so there was no pressure to give belated approval. Not that the environmental groups stopped agitating. The traditional owners decided that they did not want to mine after all and for the last five years the owners of the mining rights have been prohibited from negotiating with them.
With the five years having expired the Australian Conservation Foundation wants laws changed to stop mining companies ever re-approaching traditional owners after they have rejected a mining proposal. It is an amazing double standard from a group that for all those years would never take yes for an answer from an Aborigine.