22 May 2023
Traditional Owners and Environment Centre NT appeal Supreme Court ruling on McArthur River Mine
Traditional Owners Josephine Davey and Jack Green and the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) are appealing the NT Supreme Court’s recent decision in relation to the McArthur River Mine, the state’s most toxic industrial site.
Ms Davey, Mr Green and ECNT had, through their lawyers, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), challenged the decision of the NT Mining and Industry Minister to reduce the security bond for the McArthur River Mine and approve its expansion without a planned closure plan.
Supreme Court Justice Judith Kelly heard evidence in February and on April 21 dismissed the appeal.
EDO has today on behalf of its clients asked the NT Court of Appeal to set aside Justice Kelly’s ruling and declare the minister’s original decisions to reduce the security bond and approve the mine expansion without a closure plan unlawful.
Jack Green, a Garawa man and one of the senior Elders in Borroloola, said: “We’ve been fighting too long since the old people were around and we’re still fighting today. A lot of people were sad about the court’s decision, especially the Traditional Owners of the McArthur River Mine. They want to keep protecting their country. This decision makes it hard for them and pulls them down. It makes us more sad because there are a lot of sacred sites around the mine we are worried about that are part of our law and culture.”
Josephine Davey, a Gudanji woman and native title holder of the McArthur River Mine site said: “I feel so sad and worried about my children and grandchildren and the future for my kids. That’s my gangu country (my grandfather’s country) and guginya country (grandfather’s sister’s country) and I’d like them to know that is our home for our children. We would like to go back there to take our children and show them and tell them about the old people. Right now we can’t because of restrictions for the mine site. We want them to listen about how to protect our land and our home.”
ECNT Director Dr Kirsty Howey said: “We can’t let this dangerous precedent remain unchallenged. Legacy mines are damaging lands and waterways around the country, and it’s crucial that governments ensure the cost of rehabilitating mines is properly placed on the companies who inflict the damage.
“The court's decision last month poses unacceptable risks to local communities impacted by mining, and to taxpayers who are frequently left to foot the bill for mine site rehabilitation.
“Glencore’s McArthur River Mine is one of the most polluting mines in Australia, and has been plagued by a series of escalating incidents including a combusting waste rock dump, poisoned cattle and fish, and acid mine drainage. On the mine’s own assessment, it will require some form of monitoring for 1000 years. The mine’s security bond should reflect that.
“We are proud to be standing with Jack, Josie, and the community from Borroloola against this destructive mine.”
EDO NT Managing Lawyer Elanor Feng said: “The court’s decision last month potentially exposes communities and nature in the Northern Territory to an unacceptable level of risk from the toxic legacy of mines.
“The money the government requires companies to provide for environmental rehabilitation must be adequate for the task. The bond the NT Government set for the McArthur River Mine is clearly not.
“Security bonds must be sufficient to cover the full rehabilitation of the land after mine closure. If not, these costs will be borne by local communities and NT taxpayers.
“The court’s ruling that the Minister could approve an expansion of the mine without an end-of-life closure plan is serious and if left unchallenged could set a dangerous precedent.”
The Grata Fund fund has provided financial backing to remove the barriers of adverse costs against Jack and Josie and ECNT so they can have their case heard. The Grata Fund supports people and communities to hold powerful government and corporate leaders to account and achieve systemic change through the courts.
EDO | James Tremain | 0419 262 254
ECNT | Dave Krantz | 0429 671 803