Fireside Chats: With the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (B.U.M.P)

BUMP in action. Photo: Claire Anderson.

BUMP in action. Photo: Claire Anderson.


Ever since humanity dropped the atomic bomb- illustrating its dangerous potential- we have been nonetheless fascinated- and to some repulsed by it. When the threat of nuclear annihilation receded, humanity was then immediately challenged by the spectre of global warming, one to which we are yet to solve (assuming that we do at all).

Often conversations about environment boil down to energy. After all electricity is something we use- and by use- literally dependent on it. Coal, gas and other fosil fuels fuel our energy-reliant society (especially in the age of BitCoin), and the constant expansion for new sources inevitably results in the trampling of natural resources, to which some segment of our population disapproves.

Nuclear power has often been billed as an energy efficient, environmentally friendly replacement for the smog-inducing coal power plants. But the use of nuclear power always presents the spectre of the deadly fallout, that thankfully, rarely ensues. For some, however, it is a price too high to pay, and groups like Ban Uranium Mining Permanently dedicate day, night and twilight to fight.

So here I am, Clayton Lin, part-time arts reviewer, writer of miscellaneous topics and occasional player of card games, gets out of his typical medieval-history filled box, to chat to Olivia from B.U.M.P about the glowing, smoldering issue at hand.


C: As someone who is a more of a hermit than in the know, explain to the uninitiated who B.U.M.P is and what they fight for?

O: BUMP (Ban Uranium Mining Permanently) is a grass roots collective of volunteers working out of Fremantle. BUMP has been at it for nearly ten years and was previously called FANG (Fremantle Anti Nuclear Group).

We are a pretty diverse group of people with a range of different skills and expertise, but at its core BUMP is driven by some incredible individuals who have dedicated most of their lives to the anti-colonialism and anti-nuclear struggle. I think BUMP strives mostly to be an accomplice to the Aboriginal people who are opposing the brutal and permanent dispossession that is Uranium mining.

Where most people get involved is through one of BUMPs biggest and longest running projects which is the Walkatjurra Walkabout, now going in to its eighth year. Walkatjurra Walkabout is a month long walk in the northern goldfields that takes place every year, usually at the beginning of August. Every day the walkers travel on foot through country, from camp to camp, connecting with the land and learning about the strong history of resistance to uranium mining in WA. Internationally there is a powerful legacy of walking for country and the Walkatjurra walkers get to be a part of that.

Definitely check it out ~

C: On to the topic at hand- whilst I did some of my own cursory research regarding the Yeelirrie mine site and its contentious approval- but the populace at large who may not have heard of this story- explain to us what is at stake here and why the public should care about the issue.

O: Yeelirrie is an incredible place in the northern goldfields of WA. Yeelirrie is within Tjiwarl Native Title lands and means ‘place of death’ in the local language. The uranium deposit at Yeelirrie is the largest known deposit in Western Australia and Traditional Owners have fought to stop it for over 40 Years.

A Canadian mining company called Cameco wants to create a 9kmlong open pit mine and uranium processing plant at Yeelirrie. Not only will it destroy this sacred area but mining and processing will use an estimated 8.7 million litres of ground water a day. This project is estimated to generate 36 million tonnes of radioactive mine waste to be stored in open pits. The Environmental Protection Authority has officially warned that that this project would lead to the extinction of several species of subterranean fauna.

The proposal threatens important cultural heritage sites that are part of the Seven Sisters Dreaming song line.

For me it is important to know that the history of the uranium industry in Australia is a history of racism. Aboriginal people face the destruction of their land by this industry and its radioactive legacy. Uranium mining functions as a violent and oppressive perpetuation of colonialism in this country.

And it doesn’t end here in Australia. Everyone is stressing out at the threat of nuclear warfare, well where does that threat begin? Uranium mined in Australia fueled the disaster at Fukashima. It was Australian uranium in those reactors.

Not to mention that mining and processing uranium is a very carbon intensive process, and not the solution to climate change that people are being sold.

This is an amazingly multi-faceted campaign, with many people fulfilling different important roles; from people who are passionate about policy making and international campaigning to the people who attend, play music and cook food at grass roots events like The Nukecracker.

When lands are threatened right in our back yard in the city, its hard to ignore and essential to act. We need to remember that there are fights happening on the stolen lands of people living in the Goldfields and the Pilbara, and all over Australia, all the time. Wanti uranium – leave it in the ground.

C: The controversy regarding the approval and the long drawn out legal battle for both sides, but more so for the Band Uranium Mining Permanently. To this end, your organization has decided to hold a fundraiser at Mojo’s called Nukecracker (whoever came up with this name needs to be given a pay rise or an extra lump sum on top) to help raise money to continue the fight. Again, for those who aren’t aware of this story- can you tell us about the legal battle in the courts, and what are you hoping to achieve through it?

O: Three Tjiwarl native title holders and Conservation council of Western Australia with the EDO (Environmental Defenders Office) have taken Cameco and the State to court over the approval of the Yeelirrie uranium mine by the Liberal Government just weeks before the election this year. The EPA had recommended that it not be approved as it would lead to the extinction of several species of subterranean Fauna.

This court case will set precedent for all of Western Australians and their right to have a fair and environmentally conscious approval process for development projects. Ministers should not be able to sign off on the extinction of a species.

BUMP seeks to support the Tjiwarl native title holders in their continued struggle against this project. Part of this is by helping raise funds for this court case, which is entirely crowd-funded. The Nukecracker will be a party celebrating the efforts and strength of everyone who has been involved and all money raised will go towards the court costs. 2017 has been a massive year and we need to celebrate all the hard work that has gone in to keeping WA nuclear free.

It is important to note that this mine is currently not economically feasible. The company has stated that they need a $55- $60 a pound for uranium, to break even, current prices are $24 a pound.

Uranium is a dirty and toxic industry and there is no current plan on how to clean up the mess this mine will make, especially if Cameco goes bankrupt, like almost all uranium companies are currently doing due to the instability and undesirability of uranium as a global product.

You can donate or read more about the court case and Yeelirrie at our Chuffed account

C: Non-topical and closing question- Whenever I do interview, I make it a tradition to ask about their most favourite breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in addition to any other hobbies / fun stuff you do outside your activism?

O: I guess I prefer to be eating whatever Id be eating when I’m the bush. Which I means I eat a lot of watermelon when I’m in the city. At the moment I love boxing, trail running and playing music.


Andrew Ryan