As the last living member of the Djok clan, shy 36-year-old Jeffrey Lee controls the fate of Koongarra in Australia. The beautiful stretch of land just happens to be rich in highly coveted uranium. French energy giant Areva wants to extract 14,000 tons of uranium from the site worth more than $5 billion.
"There's been a lot of pressure on me, and for a very long time I didn't want to talk or think about Koongarra," Lee said.
Many people couldn’t understand why Lee is seeking to have the land incorporated into the World Heritage-listed national park, when he could sell it for billions instead! Such a mind-blowing amount of money would give him a life of complete luxury—far more opulent than anything afforded by his job as a humble park ranger.
But he says that it is more important to him to see the land is incorporated into a park where "it will be protected and safe forever".
Lee also has more personal reasons for refusing to let his ancestral land be mined. He believes the land is sacred and not meant to be disturbed. As the last of his clan, he feels a responsibility to his kinfolk who are buried beneath the peaceful landscapes.
"This is my country. Look, it's beautiful and I fear somebody will disturb it…there are sacred sites, there are burial sites and there are other special places out there which are my responsibility to look after."
Lee, a ranger in Kakadu, said incorporating Koongarra into the park is the best way to ensure that the ecologically sensitive land remains safe in the future.
"Being part of the park will ensure that the traditional laws, customs, sites, bush tucker, trees, plants and water stay the same as when they were passed on to me by my father and great-grandfather.”
As far as rejecting all that money, Lee doesn’t seem too concerned. He says that wealth holds no value.
“I’m not interested in white people offering me this or that…it doesn’t mean a thing.”
Posted by Rebecca Sato
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