Aboriginal Australians Lose Land Rights to Coal Mine
With no public announcement whatsoever, the Queensland government in Australia has done away with a native title of over 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the controversial new Adani coal mine.
The very first seven-inch single I bought when I was 12 years old was Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills,’ which begins with the line: “White man came across the sea. He brought us pain and misery. He killed our tribes killed our creed. He took our game for his own need.” While the words of this haunting song are being spoken from the perspective of a North American indigenous person, some Aboriginal Australians might be singing it today.
W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba and his group of Wangan and Jagalingou representatives are being made to swallow an exceptionally bitter pill, that their government have transferred their ancestral lands to a multi-billion dollar Indian mining giant, Adani, who will now proceed to rip up their sacred lands on an industrial scale, and make them trespassers in their own home.
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The Queensland government has transferred Wangan and Jagalingou ancestral lands to a multi-billion dollar Indian mining giant, Adani. (Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council)
Signed and Sealed
Without any public announcement of the business transaction, according to The Guardian, the proposed Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin could now see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters “forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands, including lands used for ceremonies.”
In a meeting with government officials Friday, indigenous leader Adrian Burragubba petitioned for a halt on the mining leases being issued, but he soon discovered that the state government had already granted Adani an exclusive possession freehold title over their traditional lands. And what really disturbs the Wangan and Jagalingou people is that the sacred lands in question are not deemed ‘historical’ sites even though they have been and are still used for ceremonial and ritual purposes.
Profit Vs Sacred
Legally, any mine opened on land under a native title claim needs an ‘Indigenous land use agreement’ which is a formal legal contract allowing the eradication of native titles. However, Burragubba told reporters that “We have been made trespassers on our own country” and that the sacred ceremonial grounds are being given to the mining company Adani to destroy. And, already having the deal signed and sealed with Adani “Queensland police threatened us with trespassing” on the lands that will form part of the Carmichael mine site, said Burragubba.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of this situation for Burragubba and his people to get to grips with is that rumors are saying the Adani mine would be “unviable” without $4.4 billion in governmental subsidies. Whether this is actually the case, or not, the indigenous community hold their own politicians as the aggressors more so than the multinational land-eating monster that is Adani.
W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba told reporters, “We have been made trespassers on our own country.” (Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council)
Aboriginal Davids Vs Goliath
Burragubba and a small group of supporters saw no other option but to set up camp on the controversial lands ahead of its legal transfer to Adani on August 3, and he said, “they will refuse to leave.”
According to an ABC News article, Senior Sergeant David Lucas said, “We are looking to resolve this issue allowing for cultural sensitivities and as such would like to speak to signatories of the ILUA [Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani] who may be able to assist us. What this means in layman’s terms is that they, the corporation, need help appealing to Mr. Burragubba, to get off ‘their’ lands.
Sergeant Lucas added that a notice received by the council said the land must be “handed over to Adani on 3 August 2019” and that “Adani will request the assistance of police to remove Mr Burragubba and his supporters from the camp”. However, Burragubba, whom Adani have managed to bankrupt over legal costs, said his group “will be on our homelands to care for our lands and waters, hold ceremonies and uphold the ancient, abiding law of the land.”
Whether legally or morally right or wrong in his position, Mr. Burragubba and his group have apparently not seen what can happen to protesters in 2019. This BBC article from April this year tells the story of “hundreds” of Extinction Rebellion protesters who had constructed a large pink boat in central London as a rallying point in their demonstrations.
The hundreds of passionate demonstrators fortified Oxford Circus and “blocked traffic”, which 24 year old Robin Ellis-Cockcroft told the BBC had created an “emotional disruption” at Heathrow. In this instance, over a week the hundreds of protestors caused no more than “emotional disruption” while the London Metropolitan police arrested “682 protesters” and killed the event outright.
In the harsh light of reality, Mr. Burragubba and his people will be removed next week, hopefully painlessly and quickly, for this folks is how the “corporate - political - police” spearhead manage such bumps along the road to satisfying shareholders. It’s just the way it is, the way we've made it.
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“The decision of the Queensland Government to approve Adani’s ground water management plan imperils our sacred Doongmabulla springs and the water essential to our lives” - Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council
Who Exactly are these Controversial Miners?
According to a recent article on Live Mint discussing Adani Group’s surging “611% profits” in the first business quarter of 2019, this Indian multinational conglomerate was founded by Gautam Adani in 1988. Starting out as a commodity trading business, it diversified into energy, agribusiness, real estate, financial services, aerospace and defense industries.
If were to heed even some of the information provided on StopAdani.com since starting their operations in Australia, Adani, have not only breached a pollution license “by 800%” allowing polluted, coal-laden water to “spew out of its Abbot Point coal terminal and into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area”, but they have also already started work “illegally" at the Carmichael mine site which they lied about, sparking an investigation by the Queensland Environment Department.
And if this isn’t all bad enough, with Queensland suffering from droughts, the government granted Adani a water license allowing them to take “unlimited groundwater” for 60 years, for free, risking “rivers, ancient springs, and aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) adjoining the mine” - which are essential during times of drought. And, finally, this new mine will suck out at least “270 billion liters of ground water” over the life of the mine.
With operations in 70 locations across 50 countries, the company has an annual revenue of over $13 billion and a spokesperson said the mining giant had, since 2011, worked closely with the traditional owners of the proposed mining site ensuring “the customs and wishes of Indigenous people are respected and supported”.
Furthermore, in 2016, “294 people” voted in favor of the Carmichael project with only one vote against it, and Burragubba legally lost his final appeal in August.
I will report back on this next week when the removal has taken place.
Top Image: Blockade of work on Adani Southern Galilee basin rail line. Credit: Takver / flickr
By Ashley Cowie