In the Northern Territory, contamination of water caused by resource extraction is linked historically to the inappropriate disposal of waste products, chemicals and heavy metals produced during the mining process.
Some of the worst instances of mining-related contamination have included: Glencore’s McArthur River Mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where lead has been found in town drinking water and local fish stocks; the Todd River Gold Mine tailings dam spill; the Montara offshore Oil Spill in the Arafura Sea; and Redbank Copper Mine, a stretch of bright blue oxidized copper contaminant stretching for 40 kilometres across the Northern Territory and Queensland borders.
Contamination can also be caused by runoff from farming irrigation chemicals and chemicals utilised by other institutions, such as the widespread PFAS contamination (a fire-fighting chemical) leaked from RAAF Base Tindal which has caused significant human health concerns in the townships of Katherine and Batchelor. Contamination is able to spread beyond the boundaries of immediate impact leaking into surface and groundwater, affecting wildlife and marine life through bioaccumulation in the food chain and vegetation.
Niall Barrington maps some of the worst instances of contamination, resting the blame for these disasters solely in the hands of the Territory and Federal Governments. Lee Harrop merges art and science, utilising the visual data and geological core samples of the mineral extraction industry to draw attention to water drilling exploration practices. Maicie Lalara repurposes ghost nets dumped in the oceans surrounding her home of Groote Eylandt to create a new breed of pollution-adapted monster. Tarzan JungleQueen draws correlations between the processes of extraction and the bodily assault on the Earth as our mother figure. Ruby Alderton provides a recollection of how her childhood at Yirrkala was shaped through the community’s interaction with its water systems and how dumping has denied to subsequent generations the richness of learning and growing she experienced.