Arabunna elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott has invited participants at the Lizard Bites Back to visit his country today, to witness first hand the impacts of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine on the mound springs in the Lake Eyre region. The mound springs are integral to the desert ecosystem and sacred to the Arabunna people, and are threatened by the 37 million litres of water per day that the mine uses from the Great Artesian Basin, which feeds the mound springs.
The Lizard Bites Back has attracted over 300 people from around the country, converging near the mine gates for a weekend of direct action, workshops on nuclear issues, and music. After two days of workshops and marches to the gates of the mine, the last day of the convergence saw nearly one hundred activists block the main road to the mine for eighteen hours. Riot police were sent in at midnight. On their way, riot police approached base camp, in what appeared to be a simulated raid.
“They approached camp in formation at midnight, shouting at people to get out of their tents,” said Nectaria Calan, co-organiser of the Lizard Bites Back. “Then, for no apparent reason, they retreated. Trying to terrorise people at a non-violent protest camp was a low move, but in line with the police’s behaviour all weekend,” continued Ms Calan. “They have spent the weekend defecting cars and trying to deter people from attending the event by telling them that the public land we are camped on is owned by BHP Billiton. They have also prevented mine workers from visiting the camp. Although they have been lodged for the weekend by the company’s accommodation, they should remember that they do not actually work for BHP.”
“Despite the petty dishonesty of the police and the ongoing abuse of their powers, hundreds of people had the opportunity to sit on country and learn about the risks and impact of the nuclear industry, and disrupt the normal operations of a mine that will leave millions of tonnes of tailings that will remain radioactive for several hundred thousand years.”
“With South Australia facing two proposals for nuclear waste dumps, The Lizard Bites back has also aimed to raise awareness about the connections between uranium mining and nuclear waste,” said Ms Calan. “A responsible approach to managing nuclear waste would begin with stopping its production.”
Co-organiser Izzy Brown said, “Until we stop mining this metal that we have no idea how to dispose of safely, we will keep returning to remind BHP Billiton and the government that the intergenerational health and environmental impacts of this industry are more important than money.”
Many participants have called for another convergence next year.
“After this weekend, this is the most optimistic I’ve ever felt since Western Mining Corporation started digging up the old country. This industry is a house of cards,” said Uncle Kevin.
“This place has a long history of struggle, and we will continue to struggle to honour the sacrifices made by the elders that struggled before us, that may still be with us if this mine was not established. We need to say sorry to the old country and begin healing this land.”
Nectaria Calan 0432 388 665