Australia: court rules for mineral cartel, against aboriginal rights

Traditional Aboriginal land-users from Borroloola, near Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria, are demanding compensation for land taken by the expansion of Xstrata’s McArthur River zinc mine in the Northern Territory. A federal court June 13 rejected an appeal by traditional residents to halt the expansion of the mine, which involves redirecting five kilometers of the river. Justice John Mansfield decided former environment minister Ian Campbell was not in error when he approved the expansion. Indigenous land user Harry Lancen says sacred sites are being destroyed by the mine’s operation.

Current federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said in a statement that the court’s decision is clear and he will ensure environmental requirements for the mine are observed. Territorial legislator Malarndirri McCarthy, an indigenous Yanyuwa woman, wants Garrett to intervene and overturn the approval.

Northern Land Council chief executive Kim Hill said: “Other Aboriginal groups throughout the Northern Territory are saying this whole process is flawed in a sense of ‘where is our justice as traditional owners of this land?’ You’ve got a number of legislations which recognise traditional owners, and yet all the time we put our hand up to protect our sites and our rights to our land the Government just strokes it with a pen.”

X-strata says it is happy with the court decision and says it will now be “business as usual.” (Australian Broadcasting Corp., June 13)

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