Digging the joys of Kakadu
Crikey intern Ben Hagemann writes:
Mining work is an interesting yet inconvenient way to see the country. I once received a phone call from a certain engineering firm, asking if I wanted to fly up to Darwin for a one-month shutdown in Kakadu. The pay was a bit less than what I’d become used to, but having never been to the Northern Territory I decided that it was a good opportunity to see the countryside.
NT is a beautiful place. In the tropics the greens are greener, the smells are brighter and fresher, and the air hangs thick enough to feel heavy on your shoulders. Stepping out onto the tarmac in Darwin, the air will actually hit you like a punch in the face. Get used to it: it doesn’t stop.
Meeting up with my crew in the baggage collection area, we all shook hands and remembered names and filed into a couple of rented four-wheel-drives. The day was hot, sunny and sticky, but I relished the change in climate. Strangely though, on our way to Kakadu it began to rain. Quite heavily. And it got heavier, so heavy in fact that we could no longer see out of the windscreen. For all I knew we might have been 20,000 leagues under the sea.
The driver, a crusty old alcoholic veteran of the industry, merely passed his beer over to one of his cohorts so he could put both hands on the wheel and concentrate on maintaining his speed of 140 km/h.
Unfortunately the rest of the crew seemed quite nonchalant, so I did my best to appear the same way. The rain was so deafening I don’t think he would have heard me anyway. Just as quickly as the rain had started, it disappeared from the road, and we continued on as if nothing had happened. I was unnerved, and accepted the lukewarm tinny when it was offered.
But it was all okay, as I would be protected in the township of Jabiru, where live the workers of the Ranger Uranium Mine. What’s that, I hear you say? Uranium mine? Yes indeedy: All that protesting back in the 90s was about preventing a SECOND mine from opening up. Jabiluka is the area adjacent to the north of the Ranger Uranium Mine, so it is hard to see how opening it up would cause any further damage to the region. The place is already rotten with radioactive swamps, and two-headed crocodiles.
Actually, the filtration ponds from the mine are quite picturesque, and will hardly give you radiation poisoning at all. The deformed crocodiles are chopped up for dog meat, so the media don’t find out (whoops!).
But seriously folks, it is a breathtaking part of the world. Everything is so unbelievably green that it feels like a dream, and everything has a deep resonance of the ancient world, of a time long forgotten. From high vantages around the mine, you can see the rocky outcrop of a mountain which local aborigines believe is the final resting place of the head of the Rainbow Serpent.
One of the local mine workers pointed it out for me, while we stood on the catwalks on top of a massive tank for washing uranium ore. He told me that the oral tradition of the local tribes had labelled the area a kind of badlands, where no tribe could reside for long before sickness and general bad juju would abound, killing off the young and the weak.
The natural conclusion to draw is that the ancient tribes discovered that if you spend too long by the Rainbow Serpent’s head, you’ll wind up with radiation poisoning. I asked the man, who had been at Ranger for several years, if he was concerned about his health? But he simply shrugged and said “I reckon, workin’ around here, I’ve gotta be immune to cancer by now.”
Page 1 of 2 | Next page
You must be logged in to post a comment.