Glencore to expand McArthur River despite sacred sites authority veto?Published by MAC on 2020-11-21
ï»¿Native title holders seek compensation from Northern Territory Government.
Who would have guessed Glencore would be the next mining major to step into the growing 'stoush' over destroying aboriginal sacred sites in Australia?
We should additionally demand justification by the NT EPA for its statement that, though "sacred sites could be damaged by the mine’s expansion", it approved the project because "the risk of further environmental damage would be higher if the miner left the site".
McArthur River Mine is located on one of the world's biggest zinc and lead deposits. Native title holders say they have been repeatedly ignored by the NT Government. The Aboriginal land council representing traditional owners in the Top End has filed a compensation claim against the Northern Territory Government over the effects of the McArthur River.
Native title holders seek compensation from Northern Territory Government over McArthur River Mine
The Aboriginal land council representing traditional owners in the Top End has filed a compensation claim against the Northern Territory Government over the effects of the McArthur River.
17 Decemer 2020
The Northern Land Council (NLC), on behalf of the Gudanji, Yanyuwa and Yanyuwa-Marra peoples, is suing the NT Government in the Federal Court for unspecified damages relating to the mine and a nearby port close to Borroloola, on the edge of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
"Since the zinc, lead and silver deposit was first proposed to be mined, the native title holders have sought to protect their land and culture and have sought to be heard in relation to the social and environmental impacts of the proposed mine," NLC chief executive Marion Scrymgour said in a statement.
"By and large, they have been ignored."
The McArthur River Project, which enabled the establishment of the mine and Bing Bong Port, was initiated in 1992, following an agreement between the NT Government and Mount Isa Mines.
Multiple legal battles
Ms Scrymgour said native title holders felt betrayed by both the NT and Federal Governments for repeatedly dismissing their concerns about the project.
In 2007, native title holders mounted a successful legal challenge to the NT Government's approval of a change in the mining method from underground to open cut.
But the NT Government immediately passed new legislation, allowing the project to go ahead.
Ms Scrymgour was the environment minister in the Northern Territory Labor government at the time.
However, she decided to miss the vote in Parliament on the McArthur River Mine legislation.
The following year, native title holders successfully challenged approvals made by the federal environment minister, but the minister granted a separate environmental approval, the NLC said.
Gudanji man Casey Davey said the McArthur River Mine had affected significant sites.
"Our totem is right there where they dug up the dirt for the river diversion and the open cut," he said in a statement issued by the NLC.
"We need to be paid back for that and for the damage to our sacred trees.
"It's sad for us, what happened at the mine, especially what happened to our sites."
'We want the land back'
Gudanji man Reggie O'Riley said future generations of his people needed to be appropriately compensated.
"We want to be able to look after our own country," he said.
"We want to live on our own country and settle down.
"We don't just want money. We want the land back."
The Northern Territory Government and the mine's owner, Glencore, have declined to comment on the case.
Last month, the NT Government approved a major expansion of the mine against the advice of its own sacred site authority, which said it had not cleared the work to go ahead.
The NT Government also reduced Glencore's environmental security bond from $519 million to $400 million.
Glencore had been waiting for final approval for its expansion plans since 2018, when the NT's Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recommended it go ahead on the basis that the risk of further environmental damage would be greater if the company left the site.
The risks include the burning of toxic chemicals in the mine's waste rock dump, which the ABC revealed in 2014 was sending plumes of sulphur dioxide across the Gulf country.
Glencore to expand McArthur River despite sacred sites authority veto
19 November 2020
Glencore has been given the green light to expand its McArthur River zinc mine in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT), against the advice of the state’s own sacred sites authority, which says it has not cleared the plan yet.
The state government’s approval would allow Glencore to double the size of the mine, extending McArthur River’s productive life until 2048. It also secures the jobs of about 1,100 employees and contractors, the state said.
As part of the permit, Glencore must comply with all relevant legislative requirements and conditions of authorization, including those relating to the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989.
Under NT law, companies must have permission from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) before they can alter or remove any sacred site.
The authority noted on Thursday it had previously rejected the company’s application for a certificate. It also requested more consultation with traditional owners, worried about potential damage to sacred and heritage sites.
AAPA said Glencore’s appeal against that decision was still with the state government and the announcement of the plan’s approval was concerning.
“It was very sad for us — we have given [Glencore] a lot of chances to work with us but they haven’t done it,” AAPA chairman Bobby Nunggamajbarr said in an emailed statement.
Glencore has waited for the expansion’s final approval since 2018. The NT’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) found then that sacred sites could be damaged by the mine’s expansion, but recommended its approval on the basis that the risk of further environmental damage would be higher if the miner left the site.
Operating since 1995, McArthur is one of the world’s largest zinc mines. Last year, it contributed more than A$550 million ($400m) to the local economy.
McArthur River produced 271,200 tonnes of zinc, 55,300 tonnes of lead and 1.67 million ounces of silver in 2019.
The mine lies in the Gulf region, the traditional home of the Yanyuwa, Gudanji, Mara and Garawa peoples. The remote pocket of northern Australia is far from the Northern Territory’s urban centres, but about an hour’s drive from the mine is the small, majority-Aboriginal town of Borroloola, which straddles the McArthur River.
Zinc prices climbed this week to an 18-month high after Vedanta suspended mining at its Gamsberg zinc mine in South Africa following an accident that trapped ten workers.