The Pilanguru community of Western Australia is about to experience uranium mining of the Mulga Rock open pit. Vimmy Resources was granted approval without any prior consultations to the indigenes of this community. 3,800ha of vegetation will be cleared in the process. Sandhill dunnart, an endangered species, will be greatly affected as this is their habitat.
Uranium is the heaviest and possibly the deadliest metal on the planet. It is highly unstable, meaning it comprises of atoms which are unstable, hence can microscopically explode. When it does explode, it releases a strong burst of energy in a process known as radioactive disintegration.
Bruce Hogan, the chair of the Pilanguru Native Title Group has stated that the people will not give up. They will continue to fight for their community. He stated that this was a historical area where the elders used to take them for native and cultural activities.
Sadly, miners working in the community will also be in danger. This is due to the fact that although uranium ore is harmless, once it goes through extraction, the miners will be exposed to the fine particles of uranium. They can also breathe in radon, which is a by-product of uranium. They breathe this in, and this can ultimately cause cancer, particularly lung cancer. In 2007, the Strahlentelex information service listed some diseases as being closely linked with uranium exposure including bronchial and lung cancer. Other diseases are leukaemia, bone marrow cancer, psychological disorders and birth defects
The Environmental Protection Agency for Western Australia, however, has stated that the impact of uranium radiation will be negligible to health. This was confirmed after a three month public environmental review after which Vimy Resources was given approval to carry out the mining. According to a “worst-case scenario” testing, which was based on hypothetical homes within 9km of the boundary, projected an exposure of about 0.04 millisieverts per year, which is minimal compared to the normal radiation exposure in Australia of 1.5 to 2.0 millisieverts per year. Australian mining operations are undertaken under the country’s Code. This is the Code of Practice and Safety Guide for Radiation Protection and Radioactive Waste Management in Mining and Mineral Processing. The State governments administer this code.
The Conservation Council members are concerned that radiation from tailing pits could leach into the water table. This could detrimentally affect on the Great Victoria Springs, which is a Class A nature reserve 30km to the South. They are also concerned about successful remediation of the site.