ANFA statement to 2019 "Water is Life" gathering

ANFA statement to 2019 “Water is Life” gathering

The Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) committee sends our warmest support and solidarity to the national Water is Life gathering 2019.

Adnyamathanha/Kokatha man Dwayne Coulthard speaking as co-chair of ANFA at the Canberra summit. Photo: Original Power

ANFA is a network of Aboriginal people, environmentalists, health professionals and trade unionists concerned about and opposed to nuclear activities.

The nuclear industry consumes and contaminates vast quantities of water and we stand with you all in taking action to protect this important resource, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have done forever.

Traditional Owners and community members across Australia have long resisted the imposition of nuclear projects on our lands. In 1997, affected people came together in Alice Springs under the banner of the ‘Alliance Against Uranium’ to talk about these concerns. 

Over the years our group has expanded to include all aspects of the nuclear chain and changed our name to the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance to reflect this. ANFA participants have always talked about the importance of water and the threats of contamination posed by the nuclear industry.

Local communities in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and Flinders Ranges are currently facing the threat of an imposed national nuclear waste facility. They, along with others in WA and NSW, have spoken strongly against a radioactive dump and the impacts on water.

Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the impacts mining has on the availability and quality of water.  The history of Aboriginal resistance to mining and its damage to water, country and culture is proud, strong and continuing.  Since the early days of uranium mining in the Northern Territory and South Australia when Aboriginal people spoke stronglyagainst the proposed mines to today when Traditional Owners across Western Australian continue to resist new mine plans, the message about uranium remains clear: the poison, leave it. 

Enormous amounts of clean water (and fossil fuels) are required to mine and process uranium. There are unresolved issues of ground water contamination and increased movement of radioactive materials. And there is the problem of radioactive waste management – including highly toxic tailings dams that will remain for centuries – polluting the local environment long after the companies have gone. 

Uranium mining and exploration puts precious and finite groundwater supplies at risk, particularly in desert regions where maintaining clean water is essential for life and culture.  

In South Australia Roxby Downs uranium mine uses 35 million litres of ancient water from the Great Artesian Basin per dayand is licenced to use 42 million. In this famously dry country, squandering so much of our precious water for mining company profits should never have been allowed and should not continue.

In the Northern Territory the Ranger uranium mine has been leaking contaminated tailings into the surrounding groundwater for decades. The mining company has started to clean up that site and is now grappling with how to protect groundwater and rivers into the future. There are no guarantees that they will manage it. This toxic trouble should never have been unleashed. 

We send solidarity and strength to you all there in Canberra from many places across this country where people are living with and resisting the impacts of mining on their water, country and culture. 

Thank you for being there and please know we are with you in spirit and heart. Water is Life!