The Koongarra uranium deposit is estimated at about 14,000 tonnes. Mining companies − most recently the French company AREVA − have been trying to mine the deposit for decades despite the opposition of Traditional Owners.
In 2010, the federal government agreed to make Koongarra part of the surrounding Kakadu National Park. In June 2011, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted to modify the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park World Heritage Area to include the previously excluded Koongarra area. The listing recognises Koongarra’s proximity to Nourlangie Rock, a major Aboriginal rock art site. As at March 2012, legal steps are in train to finalise Koongarra’s inclusion in Kakadu National Park.
Senior Traditional Owner of the Djok clan, Jeffrey Lee, travelled to Paris for the UNESCO discussion and vote. Mr Lee made the following statement:
I would like to thank the World Heritage Committee for inscribing Koongarra, my country, on the World Heritage List. Thank you for talking about this and for listening to my words. I have waited a very long time for this to happen and it comes as a very happy feeling for me to see all of us looking after this place.
I am supported by all the Bininj clans of Kakadu and most particularly by neighbouring clans such as the Mirarr People, through their representative body the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representatives of which are here with me at this meeting.
I want to ensure that the traditional laws, customs, sites, bush tucker, trees, plants and water at Koongarra stay the same as when they were passed on to me by my father and great‐grandfather. Inscribing the land at Koongarra as World Heritage is an important step in making this protection lasting and real.
February 2013 update: Legislation has been introduced to federal Parliament to reincorporate Koongarra into Kakadu National Park. It is likely to pass with support from Labor, the Coalition and the Greens (and some or all independents). The legislation will repeal 1979 legislation which excised Koongarra from Kakadu National Park.
March 2013 update: the legislation incorporating Koongarra into the Kakadu National Park has passed the Senate so the process is now complete!
Below: Jeffrey Lee speaking in 2008
[This webpage last updated March 2012.]