Anti-nuclear pilgrims reach Japan

IssueJune - August 2004
News by Alice Hunt

The International Peace Pilgrimage has arrived in Japan, signalling the final leg of the eight-month journey across Australia and Japan in protest at nuclear weaponry and uranium mining.

The hikers have trekked more than 2273 km since 10 December, from the uranium mining site at Roxby Downs, South Australia, through Port Augusta, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra, Australia's capital.

Along the way, the pilgrims visited people affected by the nuclear weapons industry. 124 people representing 12 countries joined the walk. Seven pilgrims completed the entire distance.

In Canberra, members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a site advocating aboriginal rights for over 30 years, greeted the walkers with the Sacred Fire for Peace and Justice on 28 March.

Much of Australian mining takes place “in sacred Arrabunna lands in south Australia,” said an Aboriginal Tent Embassy spokesperson. “The uranium mine is desecrating lake Eyre.”

The marchers' arrival marked the “opportunity for the anti-nuclear movement to get involved with the aboriginal land rights movement,” the spokesperson said.

The pilgrims issued a statement to the Australian government, inviting members to “recognise the devastation that has been caused and invest time and money into supporting non-nuclear solutions for the future”. The march ends on 9 August in Hiroshima, Japan, on the 61st anniversary of the atomic detonation.

Uranium mining operations at Roxby Downs, Australia, began in 1980. Olympic Dam is owned by WMC (Western Mining Corporation) Ltd. The Ranger mine in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory has been in the media spotlight recently after reports that uranium-contaminated water leaked from the site on 24 March. After a temporary suspension of activity, the mine resumed activity on 6 April.

Australia is one of the world's largest uranium suppliers, with an estimated 26-28% of the world's reserves and exporting between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of ore per year.