HUMAN RIGHTS TRAMPLED IN AUSTRALIA -- PROFITS
MCKINNEY SAYS HEALTH AFFECTS OF MINING IS BEING
July 12, 1999
WASHINGTON D.C. -- While the
fight to put Kakadu National Park on UNESCO's World
Heritage Committee's "In Danger" list was lost,
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) says we brought
cultural and historical conscienceness to the world.
Today, UNESCO's World Heritage
Committee, with the support of the U.S., determined
that Australia's Kakadu National Park did not meet
the conditions to be placed on its "In Danger" list.
The U.S. also agreed that the "In Danger" listing
was not appropriate. However, the committee
will detail a series of measures Australia will
have to undertake to protect Kakadu's cultural and
environmental values and they want a progress report
by April 15, 2000 on the proposed Jabiluka uranium
mine. They also called for implementation of an
impact study of the aboriginal people and more details
of how the Australian government may limit the mining
"The decision by the committee
to require measures that address Kakadu's cultural
and environmental values will force the mining companies
to have a conscience," says McKinney.
While this is a positive step,
Congresswoman McKinney is also concerned about the
long term health affects to the indigenous people
caused by over 20 years of uranium mining.
Recently, an Australian Delegation visited the Congresswoman
to discuss the Jabiluka mine, but when asked about
the health affects of mining, they said they had
not looked into that issue.
"It is clear that the health
affects on the indigenous peoples is not being considered.
This practice must change. If you are going
to study Kakadu's cultural and environmental values,
you should also look at what mining does to the
health of the local people. Toxic waste flowing
from the mines is estimated to remain radio-active
for about 250,000 years. This will have a
devastating impact on the local population for generations
to come," says McKinney.
In the year marking the United
Nation's 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, business interests prevail over
the rights of oppressed indigenous people.
The pre-eminent international human rights observer,
Human Rights Watch (New York), recently published
a disturbing report on the current misconduct of
international corporations. In this report,
'Business and Human Rights -- The Bottom Line,'
1999, they reported that numerous major international
corporations have been committing gross human rights
violations against indigenous peoples.
"Nations need to honor the history
and culture of the people who originally inhabited
the land. All over the world native groups
are being exploited by businesses and governments
for fiscal gain. Right now in the U. S. the
Navajo Tribe is battling a uranium mine being built
on their land in New Mexico. The exploitation
of native people has been an enduring tradition
throughout the world. It is time for this
practice to stop. The decision by the World
Heritage Committee will be a lesson to the world
in cultural sensitivity and respect for indigenous
people and their rights," concludes McKinney.
The proposed Jabiluka mine site
is situated inside the Kakadu National Park, a World
Heritage area known for its rich biodiversity and
cultural significance. The Mirrar people are
the traditional aboriginal owners of the land and
they have owned and occupied the Kakadu region for
over 60,000 years. The Jabiluka mine will
be the second uranium mine to be opened on their
land despite their unanimous protests.
Kakadu National Park is one
of only 20 sites around the world recognized for
both cultural and natural significance by UNESCO.
Kakadu is home to a treasure of Australian wildlife,
including 900 plant species, 300 kinds of birds,
75 reptiles, 50 native mammals, 30 amphibians, a
quarter of all Australian freshwater fish and countless
inspect species. It occupies over three million
acres in the northern part of Australia's Northern
Territory, making it twice as big as America's Yellowstone
National Park. The Kakadu region was made
famous for providing breathtaking scenes in the
film "Crocodile Dundee."