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Discuss about the Impact of Mining Expenditure on Remote Communities.

Uranium Mining in Australia

Since the times of the second world war, there are two major periods of uranium mining in Australia. In the first period, which is around 1954, uranium is mined from the Mary Kathleen (Queensland), Rum Jungle (Northern Territory) (figure 2 and figure 1), and Radium Hill (South Australia) along with the smaller mines in the that are located in the South Alligator (Northern Territory). It is important to highlight that the second period of mining initiated at the Nabarlek and Ranger region of the Northern Territory and later in South Australia (Roxby Downs) [1]. It has been seen that multiple cases of cancer to be reported from the people that reside near the biggest mines of Australia and it appears that the risk has doubled. This has been confirmed by the leading federal research bodies of Australia. The study has been monitored for over 20 years and the impact of the Ranger mine’s on the health of the indigenous people is studied. However, it has been seen that there have been instances of leaks and spillages arising from the contaminated water at the mining area. The mine is located near the World Heritage site of Kakadu National Park. Studies conducted have shown that a large number of the Aboriginal people are diagnosed with cancer in the Northern Territory from the period of 1994 to 2003. The highlighting fact is that the rates of people diagnosed with cancer are found to be 90 percent more than what was expected. A total of 27 cases were reported from the form the studies [2]. This study presents a report on the increased risk of disease due to uranium mining near remote aboriginal areas of Australia.

In the year 2006, a research work was conducted within the context of the Northern Territory (NT). It is important to highlight that the Northern Territory is larger than the combination of the Italy, Germany and France combined. The place only has a population density of 0.15 person in the one-kilometre square. During the year 2006, a total of 201888 occupied the place and among that, a bit more than the 100,000 people resided in the city. Among the previously mentioned data, only 58,500 were the aboriginals. This study focussed on the Kadaku region and the cancer occurrences is highlighted within the study. The Northern Territory region has the fundamental details of the persons that were diagnosed with cancer. There were also the cases of the common skin related skin cancer, but they were not found to be occurring within the aboriginal communities. The communities that generally reside in the Kakadu region are the Bininj and Mirarr. The findings of the study suggest that the cancer was diagnosed within a total of 27 aboriginal individuals that were residing in the Kakadu region between the years 1994 to 2003 (table 1) [5].

Cancer Occurrence Among Aboriginal Individuals Near Uranium Mines

Table 1: Incidence of cancer in remote aboriginals

Site

Actual cases

Expected cases

Ratio

All Cancers

27

14.4

1.9

Lung

4

2.6

1.5


It was found that the actual number of cancer cases was higher than the expected number. The actual number of the thyroid cancer cases were found to be slightly higher than the expected number. The total number of cancer cases in because of any particular type of cancer. it has been seen that other than the cases of lung cancer there were also the cases of lymphoma and leukaemia within the aboriginals. even it was noticed that the occurrence of cancer among the among all other cancer is higher than the expected and it was not restricted to any particular site of occurrence. In the Kakadu region is located towards the western side of the Arnhem land [5]. Previously it has been reported that the rates of mortality rates among the aboriginals are higher in the East Arnhem district in comparison to the Northern Territory (table 2). The rates are based on the small number of the deaths arising from cancer. 75 cases have been reported over the span of the 10-year period. In the East Arnhem district a total no cases of cancer have been reported over the 10-year period and at the same time, no cancer incidence data have been reported in any period. It is important to mention that if the occurrence of cancer among the people of the East Arnhem district then it can be inferred that the occurrence of cancer among the aboriginals is common. The high occurrence of cancer in the Kakadu region can be due to the cancer being common among the Aboriginal people [5].

Table 2: cancer cases in the aboriginal persons in the Northern Territory and East Arnhem District

East Arnhem (Female)

Total count of cancer cases in the Northern Territory (Female)

East Arnhem (Male)

Total count of cancer cases in the Northern Territory (Male)

1986-90

609

227

656

298

1991-95

206

260

486

369

There are approximately 3000 people living in the living in the Northern region which covers the parts of the Arnhem Land and the Alligator River region. The half of the population of the region in the region belong the aboriginal community. in this region there are two small townships called the Oenpeolli and Jabiru (Gunbalanya). The jabiru community is almost 256 kilometres away from the eastern side of Darwin. While the Oenpelli is located to the northeastern side of Jabiru and is 60 km away. The aboriginal population of Oenpelli is about 764 and it has the largest population or the largest community which is located near Nabarlek. The aboriginal people that reside in Oenpelli are called collectively as Gunwinggu. Gunwinggu is a language which is spoken by a group of people that previously migrated from the earlier establishments of Chuch Missionaries located in Oenpelli in the year 1925 [6]. There are about 9 outstations located in the Oenpelli area and it has calculated that the entire population of the region is found to be 400 people. Also, in the previous times there are about 300 people that previously used to reside in the region.

Impact of Mining on Groundwater Resources

It has also been found that about 670 of the aboriginal people were residing in the Jabiluka and Ranger regions. Particularly this area includes the following communities:

  • Mamukala 1, Mamukala 2 Patonga
  • Manaburduma Hunters Camp Mamukala
  • Nourlangie Mudginberri Manaburduma- Jabiru Town Camp

  In Jabiru, mining town is established in the year 1979/1980 which is to the east of the Ranger. In the Jabiru area, a total of 133 aboriginals reside and a majority of the aboriginals live in the camp tow of the Manaburduma [1].

There are several health issues for the aboriginals that reside in the remote places of the Northern Territory. There are health issues that affect the health of the aboriginals of the people that reside in the remote places.

  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution- The people that reside away from the uranium mines face health issues from the indoor and outdoor air pollution. Air pollution can be described as a complex mix of the particulate contaminants and the gaseous contaminants. A very small section of the study has indicated that the particulate matter from the bushfires negatively impacts the cardiovascular and respiratory illness. The incidence of both the respiratory and the cardiovascular diseases is high in the aboriginals in comparison to the non-indigenous people. The pregnant women are more vulnerable due to the increased risk from the pre-eclampsia due to the pollution from the vehicular traffic in comparison to the non-indigenous people [7].
  • Asbestos- The people that reside away from the uranium mines face health issues from asbestos pollution. Asbestos is one of the naturally occurring minerals which is found in the industrial, commercial and domestic throughout the 20th it is important to highlight that the inhalation of asbestos causes the malignant mesothelioma. The indigenous people that reside near the mines have the issues of the incidence of the asbestos-related diseases like malignant mesothelioma and the rate of incidence is higher than the national rates [8].
  • Contaminated land and water- the indigenous communities that reside in remote places are vulnerable due to water contamination. It has been found that mining activities near the indigenous land have issues related to the contamination of copper sulphide which comparatively impacts the ecosystem and the with the environmental and cultural significance. Vast lands of Australia have deposits of uranium and they have been mined for many years which are located near the indigenous lands. It has been seen that some of the traditional seafood items have the large accumulation of ionizing radiations from the wastes generated by the mines [9]. While it is important to mention that the nuclear weapons tested during the second world war have led to the presence of the radionuclides in the atmosphere for several decades. It negatively impacts the health of the aboriginal or the indigenous communities. The indigenous children that reside near the mining areas have shown to be at a greater risk of abnormal blood levels in comparison to the non-indigenous people. This is mainly attributed to the poorly constructed houses on the bare soil and the iron deficiency among the aboriginals have led to the increased amount of lead uptake. Cadmium along with the other heavy metals have a detrimental effect on the on the various traditional seafood items like the clams, dugong and turtle. The high prevalence of diabetes among the aboriginals have increased due to the increased exposure towards the cadmium which increases the tendency of diabetic neuropathy [10, 20].
  • The remoteness of the places of residence of the aboriginal people has links with the adverse health outcomes. The leading cause of the of the rates of mortality has even found to be the cardiovascular diseases. The cardiovascular disease is more prominent among the aboriginals than the other communities that reside the urban areas. The children that reside in the remote areas have the higher incidences of the respiratory diseases and this has led to the higher rates of hospitalizations. The reason is still not known, however, the aboriginal communities getting environmental exposures in remote places have led to an increased amount of adverse health effects. There are several disease-causing issues among the aboriginals and the reason is more of the exposure towards the environment. The several factors that mainly act to cause disease in the aboriginal communities are the overcrowding, heavy metal and bacterial contamination of the drinking water, exposure to the biomass smoke, exposure to the geogenic dust [11].
  • Contamination of the drinking water- it has been a major concern for the majority of the aboriginal communities that are having issues with the drinking of water which is contaminated with heavy metal and bacteria. Heavy metals are one of the major pollutants that contaminate the water bodies. It is difficult to degrade the heavy metal and that is why the levels of contamination are always found to be high. It is known that the heavy metals even in low concentration will affect the health of the aboriginal people. lead is neurotoxic and thus no specific threshold is identified which can safely develop issues in the nervous system. In the remote areas that is resided by the aboriginal communities, the communities are groundwater is contamination is one of the biggest issues. The groundwater contamination is a major issue for the places that are do not undergo regular monitoring and where the water resources are self-supplied. This is even more rampant in the communities that are smaller in size [10]. The concern even aggravates due to the close proximity of the several aboriginal communities near the uranium mines. It is important to mention that the Ranger Mine in the Northern Territory leaks contaminated water of 100,000 L into the groundwater every day which is beneath the Kakadu. While it is also important to mention that Uranium is mined near the aboriginal lands and the ionising radiations also affect the neighbouring wildlife due to the accumulated mining wastes. This ionising radiation even gets absorbed into the aboriginal wildlife and some of them are also considered to be as aboriginal food like the fish, turtles and mussels. It has been noticed that the provision of prevention and protection of the aboriginals is not adequate. The degree of the contamination is not adequate and as it is mainly directed towards the removal of the microbial contaminants from the water samples. This is mainly done by the process of the chlorine and Ultraviolet treatment. Thus, it is important to highlight there is a lack of the procedures of heavy metal removal. The issue further aggravates due to the risks from the mining activities and the seasonal changes in the climate. Along with all these proper research is required to highlight the exact levels of the heavy metals in the contaminated water samples [12].

Controversies-Governmental reports suggest that there are 2 mines that operate in Australia in the presence. In South Australia, there is a mine called the Olympic Dam and the Ranger Mine in the Northern Territory. There are issues that are raised by several groups that the water consumption by the Olympic Dam mine has some issues in the management of the tailings. There are leakages of water from the tailings and this raises the danger of contaminating the ground aquifers. This is a serious breach of the quality control at the mines and it will result in the radionuclides polluting the water resources and it will turn the water resources into hypersaline. There are also certain cases of breaches in the Ranger Mine located in the Northern Territory [13]. The mines have an environmental impact significantly on the outside of the mining region. Majority of the concerns are related to the operation of the uranium mines in Australia. There are issues like transport impacts, infrastructure construction, road building, dust releases, water consumption issues, water release issues. The vital or the key cause of concern is related to the mining of uranium itself and then another question whether the Uranium will be employed as a chief source of energy. It has already been mentioned that the leakage of the uranium waste into the groundwater resources will have a serious impact on the health of the aboriginals. The contamination of the groundwater resources will negatively impact the health of the aboriginals with the wide-ranging problems of health [14, 17].

Challenge- a challenge is prominent among the aboriginals that reside in the remote places of the aboriginal communities due to the overcrowded condition living and housing. Overcrowding can lead to a wide range of issues and overcrowding occurs due to the poor housing conditions, community design, inappropriate design, unavailability of the housing provisions. Overcrowding leads to a serious challenge in caring for children, maintenance of personal hygiene. The people that reside in the overcrowded places face issues in proper wellbeing and the worsening conditions lead to the spread of the infectious disease and elevated chronic conditions. There are negative implications of living in overcrowded places and it leads to infectious diseases like rheumatic diseases, diarrhoeal diseases, ear and eye infections, respiratory infections, skin infections. The Aboriginal children that reside in the remote places are worst sufferers, it is important to note that just after their birth the respiratory tract gets infected with the bacteria and this elevates the negative health risks [15,18].

Obstacle- aboriginal people have a strong relationship with their land. It is mentioned in the aboriginal law that the aboriginal people have their moral obligation and legal right to their country. Thus, due to this reason, the aboriginals are able to perceive changes occurring in the environment in a prominent way in comparison to the others. The aboriginals that reside in the downstream of the Ranger Mine have the fear of consequences of uranium contamination in the long run. It is believed by the aboriginals that the water that releases from the contaminated water is polluting their land and food. Because it is important to highlight that the aboriginals gather their food from the waterways. The aboriginals are emphasizing that their view on the impact of uranium mining is disregarded because their knowledge is not rational and not scientific [16, 19].

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that it has been seen that multiple cases of cancer to be reported from the people that reside near the biggest mines of Australia and it appears that the risk has doubled. This has been confirmed by the leading federal research bodies of Australia. The study has been monitored for over 20 years and the impact of the Ranger mine on the health of the indigenous people is studied. However, it has been seen that there has been an instance of leaks and spillages arising from the contaminated water at the mining area. The mine is located near the World Heritage site of Kakadu National Park. There are approximately 3000 people living in the living in the Northern region which covers the parts of the Arnhem Land and the Alligator River region. The half of the population of the region in the region belong the aboriginal community. in this region there are two small townships called the Oenpeolli and Jabiru (Gunbalanya). It has been a major concern for the majority of the aboriginal communities that are having issues with the drinking of water which is contaminated with heavy metal and bacteria. Heavy metals are one of the major pollutants that contaminate the water bodies. It is difficult to degrade the heavy metal and that is why the levels of contamination are always found to be high. It is known that the heavy metals even in low concentration will affect the health of the aboriginal people.

References

  1. gov.au. IMPACT OF URANIUM MINING ON ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY – Parliament of Australia [Internet]. Aph.gov.au. 2018 [cited 27 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Former_Committees/uranium/report/c11
  2. Murdoch L. Uranium mine blamed for high Aboriginal cancer rate [Internet]. The Sydney Morning Herald. 2018 [cited 27 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.smh.com.au/national/uranium-mine-blamed-for-high-aboriginal-cancer-rate-20061123-gdow3g.html
  3. World-nuclear.org. Australia's Uranium | Uranium Mining in Australia - World Nuclear Association [Internet]. World-nuclear.org. 2018 [cited 28 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/australia.aspx
  4. org.au. Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin : Environmental health challenges in remote Aboriginal Australian communities: clean air, clean water and safe housing [Internet]. Healthbulletin.org.au. 2018 [cited 28 October 2018]. Available from: https://healthbulletin.org.au/articles/environmental-health-challenges-in-remote-aboriginal-australian-communities-clean-air-clean-water-and-safe-housing/
  5. Tatz C, Cass A, Condon J, Tippett G. Aborigines and uranium: monitoring health hazards. Australia: AIATSIS Research Discussion Paper. 2006 Dec.
  6. Howitt R. Sustainable indigenous futures in remote Indigenous areas: relationships, processes and failed state approaches. GeoJournal. 2012 Dec 1;77(6):817-28.
  7. Bradstock RA, Williams RJ, Gill AM, editors. Flammable Australia: fire regimes, biodiversity and ecosystems in a changing world. CSIRO publishing; 2012.
  8. Marinaccio A, Binazzi A, Bonafede M, Corfiati M, Di Marzio D, Scarselli A, Verardo M, Mirabelli D, Gennaro V, Mensi C, Schallemberg G. Malignant mesothelioma due to non-occupational asbestos exposure from the Italian national surveillance system (ReNaM): epidemiology and public health issues. Occup Environ Med. 2015 Sep 1;72(9):648-55.
  9. Knibbs LD, Sly PD. Indigenous health and environmental risk factors: an Australian problem with global analogues?. Global health action. 2014 Dec 1;7(1):23766.
  10. Clifford H, Pearson G, Franklin P, Walker R, Zosky G. Environmental health challenges in remote Aboriginal Australian communities: clean air, clean water and safe housing. Australian Indigenous Health Bulletin. 2015;15(2):1-3.
  11. Zhao Y, You J, Wright J, Guthridge SL, Lee AH. Health inequity in the Northern territory, Australia. International journal for equity in health. 2013 Dec;12(1):79.
  12. abc.net.au/news. 'People are scared': NT residents given bottled water after lead found [Internet]. ABC News. 2018 [cited 28 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-20/borroloola-water-supply-tests-positive-to-lead-contamination/9677638
  13. Blackwell, D. and Dollery, B., 2014. The impact of mining expenditure on remote communities in Australia: The ranger uranium mine and the Tanami gold mine in the Northern Territory. Australasian Journal of Regional Studies, The, 20(1), p.68.
  14. Bryant K. Uranium mining, waste and Indigenous Australia [Internet]. Overland literary journal. 2018 [cited 28 October 2018]. Available from: https://overland.org.au/2014/09/uranium-mining-waste-and-indigenous-australia/
  15. Stevens M, Bailie R. Gambling, housing conditions, community contexts and child health in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Australia. BMC public health. 2012 Dec;12(1):377.
  16. Campbell TD. A clash of paradigms? Western and indigenous views on health research involving Aboriginal peoples. Nurse Researcher (2014+). 2014 Jul 1;21(6):39.
  17. Scambary B. My Country, Mine Country: Indigenous people, mining and development contestation in remote Australia (CAEPR Monograph 33). ANU Press; 2013 Jan 1.
  18. Altman J. Indigenous rights, mining corporations, and the Australian state. InThe Politics of Resource Extraction 2012 (pp. 46-74). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
  19. O'Faircheallaigh C. Community development agreements in the mining industry: an emerging global phenomenon. Community Development. 2013 May 1;44(2):222-38.
  20. Harvey B, Bice S. Social impact assessment, social development programmes and social licence to operate: tensions and contradictions in intent and practice in the extractive sector. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal. 2014 Oct 2;32(4):327-35.
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