A documentary about the dangers of uranium mining in Australia, with a particular emphasis on the risks of open cut mining and radioactive dust on workers and communities. After leading with an opening charting some of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, the film then focuses on uranium mining in South Australia at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine, near the township of Roxbury Downs.
The standard documentary style of a presenter driven narration with interviews, contemporary mining footage and overlays is structured around a recurring docu-drama element of a fictional family in Sydney considering a move to Roxbury Downs to take up a job in the uranium mine. Attracted by the high wages, the father of the family is enthusiastic about the move, however his son is seen investigating the risks of uranium mining on the internet and argues for the family to stay put. After first scoffing at his son’s objections, the film concludes with father announcing that they will not be moving.
Speaking to health professionals, the film explores the potential health risks of uranium mining to workers and nearby communities, as radioactive dust and gasses are released by open cut mining. These are risks associated with radon gas, radium, alpha radiation and radioactive tailings, which can cause changes in DNA and lead to cancer and birth defects. While workers are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, some discuss health and safety breaches, describing an environment in which production is considered more important than safety. Once workers leave the mine, there are no continuing health checks, prompting comparisons to asbestos and mesothelioma, which includes a short clip from Bernie Banton. The wider nuclear industry is also examined in terms of depleted uranium used by weapons manufacturers and deployed to theatres of war such as Iraq, which have resulted in cancers and birth defects. Large scale dust storms also threaten to dump radioactive dust on large Australian cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne.
Made with support of the QLD/NT branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
Author: J Bird, 2023