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Mine Tour - 12/09/2003
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Yesterday, 5 of the Kunga women joined us, along with 3 people that help them out as they are very old and speak limited English. Some of these women remember their first exposure to white man when they were little girls. Some aboriginals in Australia had no contact with white men up until the 1960's. The Kunga women were not so lucky, their group suffered the results of an atomic test by the British on their traditional lands 50 years ago, causing many to fall sick and die.

During the night 4 more people joined us. I believe by the time I get back to camp another 6 people will have joined us.

At 10am the mining company sent out a bus to pick us up for the mine tour. Not everyone joined us because of fears of radiation exposure or because they have been before. The whole tour is conducted from within the bus, 2 mine representatives spoke to us and answered questions. While we only saw what the mine company wanted us to see and we were not permitted underground or in buildings it was still interesting. Of course, the mine's PR was to put a positive spin on the operations here and to alleviate fears. I believe it is important for both sides to have exposure to each other and for us to exchange views.

In Oct. 2001 they had a major fire in one of the operations of the mine and are continuing to rebuild, even today. This pass month they also had one spill of 103,000 liters of contaminated water from a dam, and also another large spill. This mine extracts cooper, uranium, gold and silver, in that order. Its uranium deposits is one of/ if not the largest deposit in the world. The tailings piles, or waste from mining covers a large parcel of land and will continue to grow over time. They know they can continue mining for 70 years at current levels but believe possibly as long as over 250 years. The tailings piles will remain radioactive long after the mine closes and moves away. This will be an expense and source of concern for generations to come. At 12:30pm we departed the bus and walked into camp. Of course there are a lot of issues I haven't mentioned: land rights, water use (the mine consumes massive quanties), water contamination and waste disposals.

While we were away the wind had picked up, with duststorms covering everything in camp and blowing over tents. Some of that dust has to have come from the uncovered tailings piles only 5-7 kilometers away. Gerti and I walked into town, even though the temperature was above 40 C at this point. At least here we could escape the duststorms.

Well take care and I'll write when I can.

Love and peace, Jeff
International Peace Pilgrimage Toward A Nuclear Free Future.