One of the world’s biggest uranium producers has found a significant deposit in a remote tropical Australian mountain range near sandstone galleries holding some of the oldest and most spectacular rock art on the planet.
After years of drilling, Canadian-based mining company Cameco has reported the find in the Wellington Range, where the thousands of Aboriginal artworks adorning cliffs and caves include a painting of the extinct dog-like creature, the thylacine, made in a style that is at least 15,000 years old.
“The importance of this art site is that it’s like a library,” Ronald Lamilami, a traditional Aboriginal landowner in western Arnhem Land and a custodian for the art, told The Global Mail, which on Friday published a detailed feature and map of the rock-art sites at risk nationwide. Lamilami said he fears if mining goes ahead, the works of his ancestors will be damaged.
The newly found uranium deposits could support a nuclear boom in India and China. But, the ancient “Aboriginal rock art” might not be spared.
Where once there was trenchant opposition to expanding uranium mining in Australia – which has the largest known reserves in the world – the present Labor government has softened its stance, as the resources boom feeding China’s voracious appetite for energy powers the Australian economy.
When the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, worked through a uranium deal with India late last year, Toronto-based Cameco noted her nation could benefit from a nuclear boom in India and in China.
The company has reportedly been trying to strike a deposit in Australia as rich as that of the Athabasca Basin in its home country, which supplies about one-fifth of the world’s uranium.
This video presentation of Australian rock art by archeologist and rock art specialist Wayne Brennan was included with this report: