MAC: Mines and Communities

Groote Resources faces legal action over Aboriginal land

Published by MAC on 2010-11-16
Source: Brisbane Times, ABC News

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Groote Resources faces legal action over Aboriginal land

By Lindsay Murdoch

Brisbane Times

8 November 2010

Darwin - ABORIGINAL traditional owners are planning legal action to stop the West Australian-based explorer Groote Resources exploring and mining undersea for manganese near Groote Eylandt, off Arnhem Land.

Tony Wurramarrba, the chairman of the Anindilyakwa Land Council, which represents Aborigines in the area, said yesterday there was "complete opposition by everyone who has a traditional relationship with this country to any proposal to mine the seas around Groote Eylandt".

Groote Island mine
Groote Eylandt, off Arnhem Land, is unfriendly territory
- for miners. Photo: Andrew Meares

Groote Resources, the former sleepy uranium explorer Western Uranium, has moved to gatecrash BHP Billiton's stranglehold on highly profitable manganese mining on Groote Eylandt, 630 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

Manganese is a key raw material used in steel.

The land council last week sent a letter to the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, calling on the government to block Groote Resources' proposal which they said were the responsibility of traditional owners.

"Any thought that the seabeds could be disturbed by a mining company is frightening and the impact on culture would be devastating," the council told Mr Henderson.

"In addition to its impact on culture, we cannot understand how your government could envisage that the environmental impact of open-cut mining on the sea floor could be justified.

"It would totally destroy the habitat including pristine coral reefs, seagrass beds and fish habitat."

The traditional owners decided to take legal action against Groote Resources after it cancelled a meeting with them on October 28.

The Groote Resources executive director, Simon Noon, told the council in a letter dated October 26 the company had appointed two consultants on environmental, cultural and community issues, and proposed a meeting later this month.

"I advise that Groote Resources wishes to engage with and understand the views and concerns of traditional owners prior to finalising its decision making in relation to exploration activities," Mr Noon said.

The NT Resources Minister, Kon Vatskalis, told the traditional owners earlier this month the issuing of an exploration licence to Groote Resources would not necessarily result in mining activity.

"No explorations that cause a substantial disturbance are authorised until appropriate cultural and environmental considerations are assessed and addressed," he said.

The Northern Land Council lashed out at Groote Resources in August, warning in a statement that there was "no place for cowboys" in Arnhem Land.

Traditional owners fight sacred area exploration

By Eleni Roussos

ABC News

4 November 2010

Traditional owners on Groote Eylandt say a war on their culture will be waged if the Northern Territory Government allows a sacred area to be mined.

Perth-based company Groote Resources has been granted exploration licences for a shallow marine area between Groote Eylandt and the Territory mainland.

The company wants to search for manganese under the seabed but traditional owners are opposed to the plan, saying the area is culturally and spiritually important.

Grant Burgoyne, a spokesman for the traditional owners, says the company pulled out of a meeting last week.

He says the fight is not over.

"Some white advisers suggest if there's interference with the songlines or if they were obliterated, it would be like blowing up a mosque or a church or a temple," he said.

"But in fact it's beyond that.

"It means the end of their culture.

"I guess a rough analogy would be killing God, if you like, from their particular point of view."

A delegation from the Anindilyakwa Land Council will raise the traditional owners' concerns at a meeting with the Chief Minister today.

"They'll be telling the Chief Minister that the people here are frightened," Mr Burgoyne said.

The ABC has attempted to call Groote Resources for comment.

Minister urges a rethink on Groote mining plan

Lindsay Murdoch

Sydney Morning Herald

16 November 2010

INDIGENOUS Health Minister Warren Snowdon has called on manganese hopeful Groote Resources to reconsider its radical plan to mine the seabed near Groote Eylandt for the key steel-making raw material.

In an unusual intervention for a federal minister, Mr Snowdon said there was ''vehement'' resistance to the plan among the Warnindilyakwa, the indigenous people of Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

''I have been involved with the Groote Eylandt community for more than 30 years and I have never seen the people there so angry and worried about the consequences of mining activity, and how it will impact on their community, culture and environment,'' said Mr Snowdon, who is the federal member for Lingiari, the vast outback electorate that includes Groote Eylandt.

He said the marine environment of the area was ''far too precious'' for undersea open-cut mining operations.

Mr Snowdon's comments follow a plunge in Groote Resources shares on threats by the traditional owners to take legal action to block its plans.

Traditional owners were upset that Groote executives failed to show up to a meeting to discuss the plans with them on the island late last month.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Snowdon praised BHP's GEMCO, which operates a highly profitable manganese mine on Groote Eylandt.

He said future development of the area needed to be sustainable and at the pace and direction of the Warnindilyakwa people.

''It is clear to the Groote Eylandt community that the best result is for Groote Resources to forgo their plans.''

Groote Resources executive director Simon Noon told the traditional owners in a letter dated October 26 that the company ''wishes to engage with and understand the views and concerns of traditional owners prior to finalising its decision-making in relation to exploration activities''.

Marine mining plan hits a snag

Paul Toohey

Northern Territory News

16 November 2010

THE plan to strip mine the seabed between Groote Eylandt and Arnhem Land appears to be hitting heavy weather, with federal member Warren Snowdon joining traditional owners in condemning the proposal.

Mr Snowdon has told Perth-based Groote Resources Ltd to abandon its exploration plans, saying traditional owners already had one big mine on their island and that was enough.

The mining company has hit back, telling Mr Snowdon to keep out of Territory Government business.

The NT Government has met and acknowledged concerns of traditional owners but has made no comment on whether it favours the plan to explore and possibly mine across 1723sq km in the shallows of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The area is thought to be world-class for manganese although seabed strip mining is seen as destructive on marine environments and is difficult to rehabilitate.
Your Say

"You may find that the TO's will get strong support from the Northern Prawn Fishery. Groote is a key area in both the breeding and harvesting of prawns."

Traditional owners say mining would not only destroy the seabed but have unknowable impact on eight significant song lines relating to reincarnation beliefs that criss-cross the tenements.

Groote traditional owner Nancy Lalara said the emergence of Mr Snowdon was crucial. "Snowdon's support is significant," she said. "It's important for us."

A spokesperson for Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the exploration licences were a matter for the Territory, not his department. But the company was angry that a federal minister had intervened.

Mr Snowdon, who is Minister for Indigenous Health, appeared to take the matter into his federal portfolio by stating he was concerned the mine could impact on the health and well-being of elderly and ill islanders.

Groote Resources CEO Simon Noon was not available yesterday but a spokesman said the company was "extremely disappointed" Mr Snowdon had sought no briefing from them, nor considered how his statement might affect the company's stakeholders.

Groote Resources has yet to begin exploration, which would involve test drilling. The Northern Territory Government has told the company to submit a management plan for approval prior to exploration commencing.

Groote Resources says it remains committed to exploration.

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