MAC: Mines and Communities

Adani coal project criticised by United Nations

Published by MAC on 2019-01-25
Source: ABC, Australian Mining

But Carmichael is proceeding regardless

Indian mega-miner, Adani, has been told by the UN that it's Carmichael project in Australia shoiuld be halted, until it gains the fully informed prior consent (FPIC) of Aboriginal owners.

The Australian government is tasked with ensuring that proper legal measures are taken by the company  to this end.

However, the Federal Resources Minister belligerently defends the project, accusing the UN of failing to comprehend a legal system "it clearly does not understand" .

Meanwhile, Adani has proceeded to build infrastructure for Carmichael, despite not obtaining environmental approval from the Queensland state government.

The United Nations has asked the Australian Government to consider suspending the Adani project in central Queensland until it gains the support of a group of traditional owners who are fighting the miner in court.


25 January 2019

Key points:

- UN suggests Australia put Adani project on ice until all traditional
owners give consent.
- It says the project could violate an international convention on
Indigenous rights.
- Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan says UN should respect
Australian law.

A UN committee raised concerns that the Queensland coal project may violate
Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial
discrimination if it goes ahead, giving Australia until April to formally

Meanwhile, a public interest legal fund backed by former corruption fighter
Tony Fitzgerald has stepped in with financial backing for a federal court
challenge to Adani by its opponents within the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J)

The Grata Fund, which boasts the former federal court judge as a patron,
agreed to pay a court-ordered $50,000 bond so W&J representatives can
appeal a court ruling upholding a contentious land access deal secured by
the miner.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last month
wrote to Australia's UN ambassador to raise concerns that consultation on
Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) "might not have been conducted
in good faith".

These allegations "notably" included that members of the W&J native title
claim group were excluded, and the committee was concerned the project
"does not enjoy free, prior and informed consent of all (W&J)

UN should 'respect the Australian legal system'

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the UN should "respect the
Australian legal system" instead of trying to direct Australia on matters
it "clearly does not understand".

UN committee chair Noureddine Amir in a letter told Australia's UN
ambassador Sally Mansfield the committee was concerned ILUAs could lead to
the "extinction of Indigenous peoples' land titles" in Australia.

Mr Amir said it was "particularly concerned" by 2017 changes to native
title laws to recognise ILUAs not signed by all native title claimants,
"which appears to be in contradiction" with an earlier landmark Federal
Court ruling.

"Accordingly, the committee is concerned that, if the above allegations are
corroborated, the realisation of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project
would infringe the rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, rights that
are protected under the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination," Mr Amir said.

The committee gave Australia until April 8 to outline steps taken to ensure
proper consent "in accordance with Indigenous peoples' own decision-making

It asked Australia to "consider suspending" the Adani project until consent
was given by "all Indigenous peoples, including the Wangan and Jagalingou
family council".

It invited Australia to seek expert advice from the UN experts on
Indigenous rights and to "facilitate dialogue" between the W&J and Adani.

Australia risking its reputation, legal expert says

Martin Wagner, a managing attorney with US-based legal outfit Earth
Justice, who has advocated for the W&J to the UN, said writing to Australia
was "not a step the committee takes lightly".

"I would hope that in being called out in this way, by an international
institution that is an expert in international human rights, that Australia
would take that seriously," Mr Wagner said.

"It wouldn't take more at this point than putting a halt on activities to
slow down and to ensure that the representatives, as selected by the Wangan
and Jagalingou, are the ones who are making the decisions, who are
receiving the information to allow them to either consent or not to this

Mr Wagner said both Australia and Adani risked their reputations by "moving
forward with a project that international human rights institutions are
calling out for concern about human rights violations".

Senator Canavan said the question of Adani's consent from traditional
owners had been tested in Australian courts.

"The UN should respect the Australian legal system and its processes, and
this particular committee should not try to direct our actions in matters
which it clearly does not understand," he said.

"The Federal Court found that none of the grounds of the challenge by the
mine opponents had any merit — the UN committee's letter does not even
mention these facts."

'Legitimate legal questions' needs to be resolved

Grata Fund executive director Isabelle Reinecke said the outfit had
approached the W&J and agreed to pay the bond.

"People shouldn't have to choose between fighting for the rights of their
community and bankruptcy," said Ms Reinecke, who is a former legal director
at activist group GetUp.

"In this case it is a legitimate legal question that needs to be resolved
by the court which goes to the heart of the Native Title process in
Australia and to the heart of corporate and government accountability to
the law in Australia.

"I think the significance of the United Nations raising the issue with
Australia really points to the public interest question that's at the heart
of this case."

Ms Reinecke said Grata's funds came from individual donations, and
decisions were made by a board including former Victorian judge Marcia
Neave and human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Adani registered its ILUA after an authorisation meeting which voted 294 to
1 in favour.

W&J opponents to Adani, who include Australia's first Indigenous senior
counsel Tony McAvoy, boycotted the meeting, which they claim was stacked
with outsiders.

They are appealing before the full Federal Court bench after Justice John
Reeves earlier found "no merit" to their challenge.

Adani's lawyers asked the court to order the "impecunious" challengers to
pay a $161,000 bond in case they lost, or have their appeal dismissed.

Justice Alan Robertson ordered $50,000 but found the challengers had a

Adani relying on a 'bogus agreement', traditional owner says

Adani is seeking to bankrupt one of the five Wangan and Jagalingou
challengers, Adrian Burragubba, over $600,000 in unpaid cost orders from
previous challenges

An Adani spokeswoman said the issues raised by the UN committee had
"received transparent consideration and assessment under Australian law and
before the Australian courts".

The spokeswoman said the company would "always respect Australian
legislation on native title".

"We will continue to engage with the traditional owners as identified on
the National Native Title and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Registers, as we
are legally bound to do under guidance of the Indigenous Land Use
Agreements and the Cultural Heritage Management Plans in place since
2014," she said.

The spokeswoman claimed Mr Burragubba had been "urged on by environmental
groups", including the "foreign-backed Sunrise Project that recently made a
$495,000 donation to GetUp".

She said it would donate any funds from Mr Burragubba to charity.

Adani donated almost $27,000 to the Liberal National Party in Queensland
last November.

Mr Burragubba claimed Adani was relying on a "bogus agreement".

"Their rent-a-crowd ILUA is not supported by the legitimate W&J Traditional
Owners from the Carmichael Belyando native title claim area," Mr Burragubba

"Adani will not stop us by trying to trying to silence our voice with their
awful bankruptcy tactic, which is intended to intimidate us."

 Adani’s road to Carmichael edges forward as work begins

Australian Mining

January 25 2019

Adani has launched roadworks for access to the Carmichael coal project in
Queensland despite delays in securing a key environmental approval from
the state government.

The Indian company, which has engaged a regional Queensland business for
development of the road, has started the works under legal approvals it
has already gained.

Adani, after declaring the Galilee Basin project 100 per cent financed in
late November 2018, expected to start construction of the mine and rail
development last month.

It has, however, been thwarted by the Queensland Government, which has not
granted an environmental management plan approval required for the
Carmichael development to progress.

But work has this week started on grid by passes, according to Adani,
which will allow larger machinery and equipment to be transported to site.

Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow said the works were
permitted under its current approvals and would also benefit future mines
in the Galilee Basin.

“The road upgrades are an important step to prepare for the construction
of the Carmichael project to ensure larger equipment can be transported to
site, and the infrastructure meets future demand for increased traffic,”
Dow said.

“We’re getting on with doing everything we can under our current
approvals. In terms of getting started on the mine, we have submitted our
remaining management plans.”

Dow said Adani had “certainty of process and timing at both the federal
and local government level” for approval of the management plans to get
started on Carmichael.

“…however the Queensland Government has to date been unwilling to commit,”
Dow said.

“We are simply seeking a fair go from the Queensland Government, as we are
committed and wanting to start delivering upon the 1500 direct jobs and
6750 supporting jobs that the Carmichael project will deliver for central
and northern Queensland.”

Adani’s updated development plan for the Carmichael development involves a
self-funded investment of $2 billion for a smaller mine than the company
had previously proposed.

The initial operation would have annual production of between 10–15
million tonnes of thermal coal.

Adani has appointed several contractors and suppliers for the development,
including two Wangan and Jagalingou certified businesses to deliver job
opportunities for Indigenous communities.

“We know there are thousands of jobseekers ready to work and it’s
frustrating when the Queensland Government continues to move the goal
posts and make changes at the 11th hour, to what should be standard
approval processes,” Dow said.


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