Media release: Juukan Gorge report singles out Glencore’s McArthur River Mine for poor engagement with Traditional Owners, calls for compensation
The Federal Parliament’s Northern Australia Committee has today tabled the final report of its Inquiry into the destruction of sacred sites at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
One of the main findings of the inquiry is that the destruction that occurred at Juukan Gorge is not unique or one-off but is part of a nation-wide pattern of disregard of Indigenous sacred sites.
The report discusses at length the Northern Territory’s McArthur River Mine, operated by Glencore, near Borroloola, as a case study from another jurisdiction of a government and mining company riding roughshod over the rights and interests of Traditional Owners. The report notes that:
Gurdanji, Garrwa, Yanyuwa and Marra peoples, state that in the history of the mine, the owners have never properly communicated with them. They were not consulted about the development of the mine or informed of activities that may impact heritage. They have also not had the opportunity to give Free Prior and Informed Consent as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement was never negotiated. Traditional owners also claim that they have not been provided with access to the mine area to visit sacred sites.
The McArthur River, a site of major spiritual significance due to its association with the Rainbow Sepert Dreaming, was diverted by Glencore in 2008 to make way for an expansion of the mine.
The McArthur River Project Agreement Ratification Act is singled out by the report as an example of an Act that has “devastating consequences for traditional owners as rights to protect cultural heritage are intentionally disrupted and prevented”.
The report goes on to call upon governments and companies such as Glencore to “recompense traditional owners for injustices that have occurred”.
Garrwa elder Jack Green is quoted in the report as saying that
“Glencore throw down scraps like this while they destroy our sacred sites and contaminate our land and water, while the government watches. There’s no way we should be played off like this. We want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us. They have to know how their governments work with mining companies to do us over and destroy our land.”
Kirsty Howey, co-director of the Environment Centre NT, states that “the report today reveals findings that echo what Traditional Owners have been saying for decades. The Territory Government has consistently sided with the interests of mining companies over those of the traditional owners of the land. What is needed now is stronger regulatory mechanisms, such as Commonwealth oversight of the mine, and revamped mining laws, to prevent further cultural and environmental destruction at McArthur River.”
For further comment, contact Kirsty Howey, 0488 928 811