Aboriginal opposition to mega-mine caves in – ‘We want a job, a car, a house like any Australian'

Irene White

 An indigenous group that has been fighting in the Federal Court to block  Adani's $16 billion (€11 bn) Carmichael mine in central Queensland is believed to have reversed its position, voting to support the massive project. Elders of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, who previously accused the green lobby of driving the fight to stop Australia's largest coalmine, told The Australian newspaper that a majority of the group had voted to back Adani.


Irene White, one of the 12 registered native title applicants of the  group, said the vote was a  reflection of widespread support for the mine and the potential jobs,  business opportunities and  training being offered by the Indian resource giant. The close vote - seven of the 12 applicants supported the mine - came a  week after a Federal Court judge described as "shambolic'' an appeal brought by the group challenging the National Native Title Tribunal's decision to grant Adani a mining licence.

That appeal, led by native title applicant, Adrian Burragubba, as a  representative of the indigenous group, has been adjourned for further submissions to be made.

Ms White was among elders who accused green activists of infiltrating the group last year, leading to a change in widespread support for the mine on the eve of an  agreement with Adani. It is hoped that negotiations will soon resume, and an indigenous land-use agreement will be signed with Adani within six months.

The turnaround is a major breakthrough for the energy giant, which plans to export up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year to fuel power stations across India. Adani  has been hit by a series of legal challenges by green groups to federal and state approvals of the mine, the proposed rail link and the Abbot Point port, delaying the project by several years.

 It is understood Mr Burragubba is challenging the legality of the vote, saying the meeting was not properly constituted. Ms White said the meeting had aired anger  among native title applicants who feared their people would never have the same opportunity for economic independence if the Carmichael mine didn't go ahead.

 "This is about a future for our people,'' she said. ”We want the opportunity to get a job, earn a living, buy a car and save up for a house just like any other Australians.
 We have heard the arguments about climate change, but that should not be our concern, that is for others.''

The energy giant had previously offered almost $1 million (€700,000) a year in payments and business assistance, as well as hundreds of jobs for Aborigines over the life of the project. Earlier this year it was revealed that weeks later Wotif founder Graeme Wood and former Greenpeace employee John Hepburn were involved in setting up a company, The Sunrise Project, to help the indigenous group fight Adani. Documents obtained by The Australian detail an offer of  a $325,000 (€225,000) payment over one year "to initiate a community development program and explore their alternatives to mining''. A heads of agreement between The Sunrise Project and a family council of the group, convened by Mr Burragubba, warned that assistance was contingent on continued opposition to the mine.

Adani’s record of environmental destruction and non-compliance with regulations* Date: 18 February 2014.


Previous coverage of this issue here on linksunten:

Help to fight government move to extinguish Aboriginal right to Barrier Reef land


A raft of new and ongoing threats to Aboriginal lives


We just took on the world


Aborigines to visit US and European banks to prevent funding of Australia’s biggest coalmine on their country


Aboriginal group fights to stop $16bn Carmichael coalmine, Australia’s largest 

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One of Australia's biggest native title mining agreements, said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, has been signed between BHP Billiton and the Banjima people of Western Australia's iron ore-rich Pilbara region.

The agreement covers 8,263 square kilometres of the Banjima's 10,000 square kilometres of land in the central Pilbara. It is understood to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars over its more than 100-year life. 

Banjima elder Slim Parker said the agreement protected certain sacred areas from mining and provides scope for jobs and training. 

He told the crowd gathered in Perth for the signing that the money would be used for a range of initiatives, including infrastructure projects to attract Banjima people back to living on the land.

"This agreement provides for the Banjima people to be able to take control of their destiny, their future and to be able to sustain themselves through their teachings of their language and their law and culture. To me, that is the core essence of this agreement."

Full story.

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"It's so serious we now think it is about almost equivalent to another Stolen Generation," "What will happen if we continue on this path is in about another 50 or 60 years we will have another person standing up in Parliament and apologising." 


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda,


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