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19 February 2007
There is a large mine upstream on the banks of the McArthur River. And there are now plans to change the type of mine on the river.
MELINDA JAMES: The sea and its bounty are the lifeblood of the Yanyuwa or saltwater people. Their country stretches from the coastal area just North of Borroloola to these Islands known as the Sir Edward Pellew group near the mouth of the McArthur River. Most Yanyuwa people now live in and around the town of Borroloola.
Johnny Johnston and his extended family live on Vanderlin Island, the biggest in the Sir Edward Pellew group.
His uncle Steve Johnston is afraid that his family's way of life is under threat.
STEVE JOHNSTON: And if you're going to start polluting the river and the sea out here it won't be the same as what it used to be.
MELINDA JAMES: At the heart of Steve Johnston's concern is the McArthur River Mine. He says even though the mine is about a hundred kilometres inland, in times of flood, currents carry fresh river water right out to the islands.
STEVE JOHNSTON: The fresh water is here now and when the river is really in flood, it flows right out past Cape Vanderlin and I'd say about 20 kilometres out from here you'd probably be able to drink it.
MELINDA JAMES: Steve Johnston's convinced that dugong, turtle, crab and prawn populations are in decline due to lead contamination.
The McArthur River Mine sits on one of the largest lead and zinc deposits in the world.
After 10 years of operation, the mine is now planning to convert from underground to open-cut mining.
The 66 million dollar project involves re-channelling a five and a half kilometre section of the McArthur River, to access the rich zinc deposit directly under the waterway.
The conversion is crucial to the mine's future and would extend its life by at least 25 years.
STEVE JOHNSTON: I don't agree with the mine going ahead and the changing of the river and if we get these big record floods which I expect in the next 10 years anyway it'll wipe out just about everything, probably take the bund wall and everything else.
BRIAN HEARNE: We understand the concerns from a lot of the local people, there's a bit of misinformation about as well which certainly doesn't help our cause, but I think we can allay most of the concerns by talking to the people and going and ensuring that they understand exactly what we're doing, to get rid of some of the misinformation.
MELINDA JAMES: The mining company says it has been commissioning scientific studies of the area's marine environment since 1992.
Results from those tests done by Charles Darwin University show no evidence of water pollution from either the mine or shipping activity at Bing Bong Port.
DAVE PARRY: Over the years we've looked at the quality of the sea water, the sediments, the sea grasses, which are a major concern of course because they're eaten by dugongs and turtle and also oysters and over that time we haven't found any indication of impact from the mining operation.
MELINDA JAMES: Approving the mine's plan now rests with the territory government and Minister Marion Scrymgour is currently examining an environmental impact statement.
Here, a bounty means something given in large amounts. The sea’s bounty refers to all the things they get from the sea.
Lifeblood means the most important thing in their lives or the thing that keeps them alive.
If land stretches from one place to another, it means it runs from, or it covers that amount of land.
Sir Edward Pellew
Sir Edward Pellew was an admiral in the British army. Matthew Flinders, a British explorer who sailed around the coast of Australia, named these islands after him. And the name has stayed. Of course, the Yanyuwa people have their own names for these islands as well.
The McArthur River is in the Northern Territory and flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Follow the link below to listen to the ways we pronounce the word spelled l-i-v-e (live).
more information: live
Notice the use of the possessive apostrophe. In the story there are four other uses of the possessive apostrophe. See if you can find them. If you want to know more about using the possessive apostrophe, follow the link to our language library below.
more information: possessive apostrophe
Notice that the contracted form of you are is spelled with an apostrophe. Follow the link to our language library to find out more.
more information: your & you're
Dugongs, or sea cows, are large sea mammals. Their scientific name is Dugong dugon
Notice that the possessive its does not have an apostrophe. See if you can find another example of its in the story. And follow the link below to our kllanguage library if you want to know more about using its and it's.
more information: its & it's
Example: It's impossible to wipe out all the rabbits in Australia.
For more meanings of the phrasal verb wipe out, follow the link below to our language library.
more information: wipe out