Initial Kakadu Mine Move Welcomed

March 23, 2001

Key environment groups have today welcomed news of increased doubts over the future of the Jabiluka uranium project inside Kakadu National Park. The news, made in an address to the Securities Institute by Rio Tinto CEO Leigh Clifford, comes on the third anniversary of the start of the Jabiluka protest blockade which involved thousands of people and saw hundreds of arrests.

Yesterday Mr Clifford stated that "given (public and indigenous) opposition, and current market circumstances" it would be hard for us to support a development in the short term." Against a backdrop of record low uranium prices today's Australian newspaper quoted Mr Clifford assessment that " Jabiluka's production prospects were not good".

Rio Tinto became the majority shareholder in troubled Kakadu uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) following its takeover of North Ltd in August 2000.

ERA is pushing to develop the controversial Jabiluka deposit despite intense opposition from the region's traditional Aboriginal owners and the wider community.

"Rio Tinto have today taken a significant step towards a resolution of this issue," said Wilderness Society corporate campaigner Leanne Minshull. " Rio are aware of the difficulties facing any potential developer of this project. We welcome this change in the company's position on Jabiluka and call on them to act to end this project once and for all."

Environment and indigenous groups have successfully stalled work at the site since September 1999 and have renewed calls for Rio Tinto to exit the project.

"Three years ago today a campaign of mass peaceful civil disobedience began to highlight the threats posed by Jabiluka," said Friends of the Earth national nuclear campaigner Bruce Thompson. "Today's news is a tribute to the community campaign that continues to prove Jabiluka remains deeply unpopular and should not proceed."

The Jabiluka development remains the focus of strong protest action and has been opposed by the Australian Senate, the European Parliament, a high level UNESCO assessment mission and the majority of the Australian community.

"Around the world there has been a clear message that Jabiluka is unsafe, unnecessary and unwelcome," NT Environment Centre spokesperson Mark Wakeham said. "Halting new uranium mines in Kakadu is good news for the Territory, Australia and the world."

"Kakadu is Australia's largest National Park and is a remarkable and deeply loved place," said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. "All who care for this region will be heartened to hear this news and will continue their efforts to work for a future for Kakadu free of radioactive contamination."

For further information contact:

Bruce Thompson
Friends of the Earth National Anti-Nuclear Campaigner
0417 318 368