"Buried in last week’s budget was money for rehabilitating the Rum Jungle
uranium mine near Darwin. The exact sum was not disclosed.
Rum Jungle used to be a household name. It was Australia’s first large-scale
uranium mine and supplied the US and British nuclear weapons programs during
the Cold War.
Today, the mine is better known for extensively polluting the Finniss River
after it closed in 1971. Despite a major rehabilitation project by the
Commonwealth in the 1980s, the damage to the local environment is ongoing.
I first visited Rum Jungle in 2004, and it was a colourful mess, to say the
least. Over later years, I saw it worsen. Instead of a river bed, there were
salt crusts containing heavy metals and radioactive material. Pools of water
were rich reds and aqua greens — hallmarks of water pollution. Healthy aquatic
species were nowhere to be found, like an ecological desert.
The government’s second rehabilitation attempt is significant, as it recognises
mine rehabilitation isn’t always successful, even if it appears so at first.
Rum Jungle serves as a warning: rehabilitation shouldn’t be an afterthought,
but carefully planned, invested in and monitored for many, many years.
Otherwise, as we’ve seen, it’ll be left up to future taxpayers to fix."
Failing to correctly price and mandate the ecological restoration of mining
sites is stealing from the public.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics