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Kintyre Uranium Mine, Australia


The project is located at the western edge of the Great Sandy Desert in the East Pilbara region of Australia [6]. Uranium was first discovered in the area by Rio Tinto Exploration in 1985, where the company found another eight deposits at Kintyre. 

In 2008, Cameco Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation entered into a joint 70/30 venture with Cameco owning 70% of the business [1].  The companies bought the mine for $450,000,000 on condition that the Western Australian government approve the sale as well as ensuring an agreement is made with the Martu Traditional Owners [1]. Operation of the mine was envisaged by 2015 once feasibility studies, and mine construction was completed [1]. The Kintyre uranium mine is situated on the 136,000 square kilometres of traditional land which the Martu people have native title rights to the land [2].

In 2012, Cameco signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Martu people, which, according to the Cameco website, took three years of "relationship building" with the Martu people to come to this agreement. This was due to the complicated legal nature of the Native Title Act which made the decision possible, and forces Indigenous Australians to nominate a corporate body to represent them legally. In this case, the Martu people nominated the Western Deserts Land Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC) and in 2012, WDLAC gave up some of the Martu Traditional Owners land for mining purposes, resulting in the ILUA [2,6].

In 2015, the Western Australia environment minister Albert Jacob gave the green light to operation of Kintyre mine, despite Martu Traditional Owners opposition to it. A Martu community member quoted "the Martu people do not want this uranium mine. Everybody has said no" [2].

The project has also been condemned by environmentalists who are concerned about the mines' location in Karlamilyi National Park, and the high levels of radioactivity uranium mining can produce. Western Australia (WA) Conservation Council's Mia Pepper says "radiation is so mobile in our environment when we start mining it, you know, it becomes hugely dangerous, and I don't know of anywhere where they can safely mine uranium" [4]. The mine site is located close to water holes, salt lakes and rivers which could all be at risk [8].

In 2016, members of the Martu community located in Western Australia's Pilbara region staged a walking protest, where they embarked on a week-long march to protest against the Kintyre mine, walking 110 kms to the site. Indigenous leaders who are located in surrounding communities within the Karlamilyi National Park are concerned about the threat mining activities could have on their water supply, and the potential threat to flora and fauna in the Karlamilyi National Park [5]. 

A Martu Elder, expresses her concern over the mine saying "It's (the mine) too close to where we live, it's going to contaminate our waterways, we've got our biggest river that runs right past our community"[5]. Opposition to mining activities in the area around Kintyre mine has been ongoing since the late 80s and early 90s when Rio Tinto Exploration were drilling and exploring the area, according to a filmmaker and a Martu member  [1,5].

Furthermore, nine artists who are members of the Parnngurr community, showed their opposition to the mine by creating artwork representing the communities' land. This artwork was sold in 2014 to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, and for the purposes of raising money for the campaign against the mine, the WA Nuclear Free Alliance sold print versions of the artwork [5].

There are currently no plans for work to go ahead at the Kintyre mine according to the Cameco website. They state that further progress towards development decisions will not go ahead until market conditions for uranium improve [6].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Kintyre Uranium Mine, Australia
State or province:Western Australia
Location of conflict:East Pilbara (near Telfer)
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Kintyre mine is an open pit uranium mine and is currently at an advanced stage exploration phase. The mine has estimated resource shares of 53.5 million lbs of uranium concentrates. The project is to include a range of facilities including a processing plant, waste-rock dump and tailings storage facility, and an airstrip. There is currently no work taking place at the Kintyre mine, as the company awaits improved market conditions for uranium. [5,6].

-The project has an expected mine life of about 13.5 years

Project area:15,100
Level of Investment for the conflictive project495,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1,000
Start of the conflict:1985
Company names or state enterprises:Cameco from Canada
Mitsubishi Corporation from Japan
Relevant government actors:-Western Deserts Land Aboriginal Corporation ( WDLAC).
-Western Australian Government
-Federal Government
- Federal Minister for the Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-Martu Traditional Owners:
-Western Australia Conservation Council:
-Western Australia Nuclear Free Alliance:
-Green Left Australia:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Martu Traditional Owners
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:According to Green Left Australia, grassroots groups are pushing for policy change to include the increased use of renewable energies. According to Geoscience Australia, the Western Desert has an excellent capacity to generate solar and geothermal energy which would enable powering the domestic energy supply, decreasing the need for nuclear produced energies [8].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Environmental justice was not served here because there is no mention of Cameco taking into consideration the opposition expressed by Martu Traditional Owners or environmental organisations against the mine, and the mine is planned to go ahead once market conditions improve.

Sources & Materials

[1] Kintyre uranium deposit, Australian Nuclear and Uranium Sites, Jim, 1/4/12.

[2] Uranium Minefield: Middle Men Are Bleeding Aboriginal Land Dry, Vice, Jack Kallil, 11/5/15.

[3] Cameco violates Australian Aboriginal lands, censored news, Brenda Norrell, 22/10/09

[4] Federal approval granted for Cameco to develop Kintyre uranium mine in Pilbara, ABC News, Tyne McConnon and Ebonnie Spriggs, 24/4/15.

[5] Martu people leave on 110km march in protest against Pilbara uranium mine, ABC News, Angus Sargent, 4/6/16.

[6] Kintyre, Cameco Corp, no author, 2021.

[7] Pilbara uranium mine: Minister dismisses concerns over environmental approval, ABC News, 6/3/15.

[8] Fighting uranium mining in WA Aboriginal communities. Green Left, Simona Galimberti, July 17 2015.

Meta information

Contributor:Ciara Leonard, Autonomous University of Barcelona
Last update10/12/2021
Conflict ID:5712



The group of Martu people and protestors set off to walk to the Kintyre project in 2015 .

Source: Tobias Titz

Artwork by nine artists from the Parnngurr community to highlight the area's story and their opposition to the mine


Source: Jagath Dheerasekara