AUSTRALIA – DISSIDENT FIRST NATIONS GROUP BLOCKS ACCESS TO ADANI COALMINE

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25 august 2020

Access to Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in Queensland blocked by traditional owners

Miner holds title but minority group of Wangan and Jagalingou owners block dirt access road, saying they have ‘re-established control’ of land

Ben Smee, The Guardian, August 25, 2020

Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners who oppose Adani’s Carmichael coalmine say they have “re-established tribal control” of their lands in central Queensland, and have blocked workers from reaching the mine construction site.

Last year, the Queensland government extinguished native title over 1,385 hectares of W&J country, granting the controversial miner freehold title.

On Monday, a minority group of W&J people opposed to the mine development blocked the dirt access road to the remote mine site, which is about 400km from the Queensland coast.

“We, the original Wangan and Jagalingou people, believe that it is our inalienable right given to us by our ancestors, to oppose the compulsory acquisition of all our lands and waters within our borders,” Adrian Burragubba, a W&J elder, said.
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“As tribal warriors we will fight to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Today we are re-establishing tribal control of our homelands.”

Police were at the site on Monday, but had not yet attempted to move the group of protesters. Video supplied by the group showed trucks turning around at the roadblock.

It is understood police resources were being sent from Bowen and Mackay on Monday afternoon.

Adani has previously made legal moves to prevent Burragubba, who has been the face of the W&J opposition to the Carmichael project, from returning to a ceremonial camp site.

The elder said Adani’s project interfered with traditional law and customs.

“We will restrict Adani Australia and contractors free movement within Wangan and Jagalingou lands,” he said.

“These restrictions will not apply to the general public or local farming families.

“We do not acknowledge the Queensland government’s illegal land grab. We do not acknowledge any sham Adani agreements that were created without free, prior and informed consent of the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

“We demand an end to the destruction of our unceded territory. We demand Adani Australia abandon their Carmichael mine project immediately. We want them out, we want them to pack up and leave our tribal lands.”

Legal experts say the native title situation at the Adani site highlights significant problems with the regime, which gives traditional owners few rights to block a development.

Under the native title system First Nations people can only obtain royalties or compensation for their land if they sign a land-use agreement with the proponent. If an agreement is not reached, the native title tribunal then makes a decision and rarely rejects mining leases.

In the case of Adani’s Carmichael mine, seven of 12 native title applicants endorsed a land-use agreement with the company. Five native title applicants opposed any deal, and unsuccessfully fought against it in the courts.

An Adani spokeswoman said in a statement that people at the camp site “do not represent the W&J native title claimants”.

“In 2016 the W&J people voted 294 to 1 in favour of a [land use agreement] which endorsed the Carmichael project.”

The spokeswoman said works at the site were continuing “despite this attempted interruption”.

“Police officers have had to drive for an hour to reach the activists’ camp, at a time when community resources are already stretched managing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are dedicated to working in partnership with all our traditional owners, including the Wangan and Jagalingou people, guided by the … land use agreements.”

Construction of the Carmichael mine and its associated rail line began last year. The company says it plans to export its first shipment of coal next year.


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