Mining town saved from closure by tourism masterplan

An Australian town created to support nearby uranium mining could survive planned closure thanks to a masterplan to turn it into a year-round tourism centre.

Landscape architects Enlocus have been working with NAAU, a Melbourne-based architecture firm, in the $446 million proposal to transform the Kakadu town of Jabiru which was slated for closure when mining leases run out in 2021.

The Northern Territory Government and Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation have revealed a plan to upgrade the tiny township inside the World Heritage-listed national park with a range of tourism and infrastructure projects.

These include a new World Heritage Interpretive Centre, education precinct, Bininj Resource Centre, Wellness Centre, eco recreation hub, and new accommodation including a five-star lodge and facilities for glamping.   

 Jabiru was set for closure in 2021. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

Jabiru was set for closure in 2021. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

The town of Jabiru was built in 1982 by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) in order to serve the nearby Ranger Uranium Mine. In 2013, Jabiru and its surrounding areas were formally returned to the Mirarr people, and as part of the Ranger Uranium Mine’s legislated closure in 2021, the mine is required to return the land to its original state. However, the purpose-built town does not want to close.

Enlocus and NAAU’s plan features a $57.7 million World Heritage Interpretation Centre, to be placed at the edge of the rehabilitated Jabiru lake, and a recreated wetland. A lake boardwalk and viewing platform is to be included, as well as integrated paths and lookouts. 

 Jabiru was built in 1982 to support nearby mining. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

Jabiru was built in 1982 to support nearby mining. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

Jabiru’s lake will be expanded to allow it to offer year-round activities, and its new buildings will reflect local building traditions, providing varying degrees of enclosure.

There is also a horticultural strategy to include local edible and medicinal plants, and thereby maintain the traditional working landscape of Jabiru in terms of food and culture.

 The masterplan sees the town transformed into a tourism centre. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

The masterplan sees the town transformed into a tourism centre. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

Perhaps most importantly, the plan embodies the local indigenous Mirarr people’s vision for the future of Jabiru.

The land rehabilitation is set to be completed by 2026.

 The land rehabilitation is set for completion by 2026. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.

The land rehabilitation is set for completion by 2026. Image credit - NAAU/Enlocus.