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A decade longe battle against Yeelirrie uranium mine led by Tjiwarl women, Australia

Tjiwarl women alongside other people have fought the Yeelirrie mine for more than ten years. The mine has been approved by Federal Authorities. But they continue with the resistance.


Uranium mining in aboriginal territories has a long history in Australia. As early as 1906, South Australia’s Radium Hill was mined for radium. Amateur prospectors mined haphazardly, damaging Ngadjuri and Wilyakali lands. And an estimated 100,000 tonnes of toxic mine residue (tailings) remain at Radium Hill with the potential to leach radioactive material into the environment. Uranium mines across Australia have similar legacies, with decades of activism from the Mirarr people against the Ranger and Jabiluka mine sites in Kakadu National Park.[5]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:A decade longe battle against Yeelirrie uranium mine led by Tjiwarl women, Australia
State or province:Western Australia
Location of conflict:Yeelirrie
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Specific commodities:Uranium
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Yeelirrie uranium project will consist of an open cut mine, metallurgical plant and associated infrastructure and facilities that will produce uranium concentrate for export. Ore will be mined from shallow pits by open cut techniques with the ore processed using alkaline leaching. The open pit mine will be about 9km long, up

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project128,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:135,354
Start of the conflict:01/01/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Cameco from Canada - Company proposing the uranium project
Relevant government actors:- Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Australia
- Federal Government of Australia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Tjiwarl Nation
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Specific impacts on women
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Proposal and development of alternatives:No alternative has been proposed. The uranium mine has been approved and has the licence until 2043.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Althought the mine has been approved, the Tjiwarl nation continue the struggle against the uranium mine. In their own wrds: “The fight is not over - this is only one part of our campaign, and we will not allow this decision to stop us now. It’s a bad decision, but it’s not the end decision” [4].
Sources & Materials

[click to view]

[1] Australian Conservation Foundation (2019): Three Tjiwarl women from WA’s goldfields win conservation award for uranium mine campaign
[click to view]

[2]NITV (2019): Leave it in the ground’: Traditional Owners hit back at Federal Government
[click to view]

[3] NITV (2018)Traditional Owners lose their fight to stop uranium mine in WA
[click to view]

[3] Traditional Owners lose their fight to stop uranium mine in WA
[click to view]


[4] Cameco Official booklet of the Yeelirrie project
[click to view]

[5] Uranium mines harm Indigenous people – so why have we approved a new one?

[5] Uranium mines harm Indigenous people – so why have we approved a new one?
[click to view]

[6] JAPINGKA Aboriginal Art: Seven Sisters Dreaming Star Dreaming
[click to view]


Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Vimeo 2018: Supreme Court Action to Stop Yeelirrie uranium mine
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ksenija Hanaček ICTA-UAB
Last update08/12/2019
Conflict ID:4841
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