IUCN has congratulated the Australian government on its decision to include the Koongarra project area which covers substantial uranium deposits, into Kakadu National Park and World Heritage site, prohibiting any future mining activity in this area.
The decision to incorporate the indigenous lands of Koongarra into the national park is supported by the Djok traditional owners of the land. In a gesture of significant generosity and vision, the traditional owners have stated their opposition to mining and their wish to see the land incorporated in the park which is owned and co-managed by indigenous people.
IUCN also acknowledges the pledge of the Coalition parties in Australia that they too will not allow mining and will honour the wishes of traditional owners.
Covering nearly 20,000 km2 of exceptional natural beauty, significant cultural values and unique biodiversity in the Northern Territory of Australia, Kakadu is an iconic World Heritage site. It is one of very few places listed for both its cultural and natural values. It contains the vast monsoonal wetlands of the Alligator Rivers and parts of the Arnhem Land escarpment where spectacular galleries of aboriginal art are located.
Koongarra lies in the shadow of Nourlangie Rock, one of Kakadu’s most popular visitor destinations due to its ancient rock art galleries, first settlement paintings and sacred burial sites.
The mineral deposits are surrounded by the national park and any mining activity would affect wetlands of international significance and compromise Kakadu’s unique natural and cultural values.
“The decision to incorporate the Indigenous lands of Koongarra into Kakadu National Park will help secure the integrity of the park and the Outstanding Universal Values for which it was listed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List,” said IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre.
Penelope Figgis, Vice Chair Oceania of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas welcomed the decision. “The fact that this decision is supported by both sides of politics is very heartening as it suggests that the heritage of the nation and the world can be above politics. The need to preclude mining and add the land to the park has been advocated by its traditional owners and many other bodies including IUCN for many years, so it is a very significant commitment.”
IUCN is the official technical advisory body to the World Heritage Committee on natural heritage.