Aboriginal group fights to stop $16bn Carmichael coalmine, Australia’s largest

Aboriginal group fights to stop $16bn Carmichael coalmine, Australia’s largest

Wangan and Jagalingou elder Adrian Burragubba: ‘We don’t need this coal; we don’t need their money ... We’re going to make every effort to stop this mining company from destroying our land.’ Link to video Indian firm Adani has appealed to the native title tribunal to bypass the traditional owners’ rejection of the Queensland mine An Aboriginal group in central Queensland is attempting to prevent Australia’s largest mine from being established on its ancestral land, in what is shaping up to be an unprecedented test of the country’s native title laws. Representatives for the Wangan and Jagalingou people have formally rejected an Indigenous land use agreement that would see Indian mining firm Adani develop its huge $16bn Carmichael mine in the coal-rich Galilee basin region.

However, Adani has turned to the national native title tribunal to override this objection, which would allow the state government to issue a lease for the mine.



Wangan and Jagalingou elder Adrian Burragubba has written to the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to uphold what he sees as the clan’s native title rights, warning that the mine would “tear the heart out of our country”.



Burragubba told Guardian Australia that a deal to consent to the mine was rejected at a Wangan and Jagalingou meeting in October, prompting Adani to turn to the tribunal.


“We don’t consent to this large coalmine on our homelands, we have made it very clear to Adani that no means no,” he said. “The mine will destroy the natural environment, it will damage our laws and customs beyond repair and further dispossess our people.


“If the Queensland government succumbs to pressure from companies like Adani, there’s no hope for Aboriginal people. All our rights will be overridden.”


The Carmichael mine will be one of the largest in the world, covering more than 200 sq km and extracting 297 billion litres of water from local aquifers.


Burragubba said the proposed area for the mine includes the habitats of animals such as emus and echidnas as well as certain trees, all of which are considered totemic beings by the Wangan and Jagalingou people. The associated damming of the Belyando river is also of huge concern, he said.


“That river is important for dreaming because it travels through the heart of the country, the waterways relate to the rainbow serpent and our totems in the trees,” Burragubba said.


“If we lose that connection to land, there will be nothing left. We will be annihilated. We exist as people from that land. That’s all we are, we can only identify from what is there.”


The Wangan and Jagalingou people lodged an application for native title recognition in July 2004, for an area covering around 30,000 sq km of central Queensland. While the application is still under review, mining companies are still required to negotiate with the group to agree on land use. A decision from the native title tribunal is expected soon.


Queensland lawyer Stephen Keim, who is not acting in the case, said the complete rejection of the mine was the first of its kind and sets up a “significant event in the history of native title”.


“This is the first case with such a strong impasse, where the native title party has said ‘well we don’t want to negotiate compensation, we don’t want the action to go ahead,’” he said. “The native title act doesn’t give the right of veto, you’ve just got to keep working until you get an agreement.


“This situation does allow the arbitration process to say no, so perhaps for the first time we’ll see that happen. The impression has been that the arbiter has always seen mining as very important, but maybe this is the one.


“The native title act was a great compromise, it gave a lot to both sides. This case raises the issue of whether not giving Indigenous parties the right of veto was the correct compromise. Australia as a whole has to make its mind up on that.”


Keim said the situation the traditional owners find themselves in is seemingly at odds with the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which calls for indigenous people to have “free, prior and informed consent” to any major action that affects them. Australia endorsed the declaration in 2009.


“If you have a native title party which says ‘I don’t consent’ that seems by definition to amount to an absence of free and informed consent,” he said. “We have to ask whether anything less than giving a veto complies with the UN declaration. That’s a test for us as a nation.”


The Carmichael mine has become a target for environmental campaigners over its impact upon the local environment as well as its ramifications for climate change.                    




Adani’s own environmental impact statement estimates the mine will release more than 200m tonnes of carbon dioxide over its 60-year life, with the 60m tonnes of coal produced a year giving off a further 130m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year when burned.


The project is currently being challenged in the courts, with the Mackay Conservation Group claiming that federal environment minister Greg Hunt failed to properly consider Adani’s questionable environmental record in India when he approved the mine.                                 


A number of high-profile banks, including Citi, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays, have ruled out funding the expansion of the Abbot Point port, which will be used to export coal from the Carmichael mine. A 300km rail line will connect the mine and the port.


A spokeswoman for Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines said the Wangan and Jagalingou people’s native title claim was currently stalled as it overlapped some of the same land subject to another native title claim lodged by the Bidjara people.
“The department has not been a party to any negotiations for an Indigenous land use agreement between the Wangan Jagalingou people and other parties over mining in the Galilee Basin, including the Carmichael mine project,” she said.


Burragubba is one of three named applicants in the Wangan and Jagalingou people’s tribunal case. However, Adani has said he is an “individual who is not authorised to speak on behalf of W&J, whilst purporting to do so”.


“Adani is aware of at least one instance where the authorised majority of the W&J applicant instructed that the native title tribunal should disregard an individual statement of one of its group because there had been a unanimous decision not to make a submission on two of Adani’s mining lease applications,” an Adani spokesman said.


“A part of the process established at law is a structured framework to ensure clarity and openness of process and timelines, including with reference to the national native title tribunal. Adani continues to negotiate with the W&J’s authorised representatives towards terms acceptable to all parties.”

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Stop Adani destroying our land and cultureMy name is Adrian Burragubba, and I'm a proud Traditional Owner of Wangan and Jagalingou country in central Queensland. You might know the area better as the Galilee Basin, where Adani wants to build one of the biggest coal mines in the world.

My people have formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani to build the Carmichael coal mine on our land. I'm asking you and all people to join us in our fight.

We are gravely concerned about Adani and the Queensland Government's desperate attempts to open up the Carmichael mine on Wangan and Jagalingou country. Our traditional lands are an interconnected and living whole; a vital cultural landscape. It is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights.

If the Carmichael mine proceeds it will tear the heart out of our country. The scale of this mine means it would have devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage.

It will pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate important spring systems. It will potentially wipe out threatened and endangered species. It will literally leave a huge black hole of monumental proportions in our homelands. These effects are irreversible. Our land will be "disappeared".

I'm asking you to stand with my people as we fight Adani. Please sign our petition here: https://www.communityrun.org/p/stopadani

The direct impacts won't be limited to our lands – they would have cascading effects on the neighbouring lands and waters of other Traditional Owners and other landholders in the region. The mine would unleash a mass of carbon into the atmosphere and propel dangerous global warming.

At no time have we, the Wangan and Jagalingou people given our free, prior and informed consent to the Queensland Government or Adani for the development of the Carmichael mine. But only days after we rejected Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement, the company took aggressive legal action to override our decision.

Adani wants to release themselves from the obligation to secure our agreement to mine our land. If they are successful in their legal ploy, they will also be able to seek the compulsory acquisition of our Native Title on our traditional lands.

Adani is using its huge wealth and legal power against us while pretending to support our interests. We object in the strongest terms to their aggressive action to override us. We will not accept 'shut up money' so the mine can go ahead.

We know our battle is a hard one. It is not just the multi-billion dollar might of Adani that my people are up against. Both the former LNP Queensland Government and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved Adani's mine through the regulatory process.

As first peoples, we will defend our rights as traditional custodians, protect our ancestral land and cultural health, and maintain our interests in and on our country. We will protect our land for the benefit of our people, the wider Australian community, and all of us who will be affected by the consequences of global warming.

When we say No, we mean No. It's time Adani learned.

Thank you for listening to my story and hearing our call. Please join us: https://www.communityrun.org/p/stopadani

Adrian Burragubba, on behalf of the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

PS - CommunityRun is a site hosted by GetUp where anyone, like me, can start their own campaign. Your details haven't been shared with anyone else.

Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan and Jagalingou people talks to Queensland’s speaker Peter Wellington before presenting him with a declaration of defence of country in BrisbaneAdani says it is negotiating with Indigenous people over coalmine

Mining giant denies that Adrian Burragubba, who has rejected the Carmichael plan, speaks for the Wangan and Jagalingou people and says it is talking to 'authorised' representatives



Left:Adrian Burragubba of the Wangan and Jagalingou people talks to Queensland's Speaker Peter Wellington before presenting him with a declaration of defence of country in Brisbane on Thursday.


Australian Associated Press Thursday 26 March 2015 18.03 AEDT The Indian coal giant Adani has rejected claims Indigenous groups do not want a $16.5bn mine built on their traditional lands. On Thursday representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou people (W&J)presented a "declaration of defence of country" to the new Speaker of the Queensland parliament, Peter Wellington.


Adani's Carmichael mine in the state's Galilee basin will be linked to the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen, by a 300km rail line approved by the state government last year. About 100m tonnes of coal will pass along the railway every year if it goes ahead.


W&J spokesman Adrian Burragubba called on the new [Labor] premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to rule out compulsorily acquiring his people's land. He said the W&J people had rejected an Indigenous land use agreement with Adani.


"We will take no 'shut up' money," Burragubba said. "We will protect and defend our country and our connection to our lands." But Adani said Burragubba was not authorised to speak on behalf of W&J and the company was "dealing with all of the duly authorised representatives".


"Adani does not believe that the W&J don't want this mine, as the W&J have been and continue to be actively involved in negotiations around delivery of the mine on terms acceptable to the W&J," a spokesman said. "Adani respects the W&J's cultural heritage and can confirm it has been working closely with the W&J since 6 September 2011 under a cultural heritage management plan agreed with the W&J."


Burragubba said he was offended by the comments and spoke on behalf of the majority of W&J people. "I am from there - I'm from nowhere else," he said. "It's an insult to me, because what they're doing is undermining our decision-making process.


"The decision has been made - no means no."


The project also faces a legal challenge in Queensland's land and environment court next week, which will hear from environmentalists, ground and water experts, Indigenous representatives and economists.


The Department of Natural Resources and Mines said the W&J's native title claim overlapped with land that was subject to another claim lodged by the Bidjara people. This prevented the government from giving its consent to the W&J claim, it said. The W&J claim was lodged in 2004 - more than eight years before the Bidjara claim.


But late last year, the department told the W&J people their claim could not progress until the overlapping issue was resolved between the two groups. "If claimant groups cannot resolve the issues, the federal court of Australia will test the matters through a trial process," a spokesperson said. http://bit.ly/1FNwVyz