Top End traditional owners fear land rights will be dismantled in push to develop the north (AUDIO) ABC Radio PM Sara Everingham reported this story on Thursday, December 11, 2014 MARK COLVIN: The Northern Land Council says it’s deeply concerned that the push to develop Northern Australia could dismantle hard-fought Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory.
A COAG taskforce met today in Canberra to nut out the detail of its review of Indigenous land administration as part of the white paper on developing Northern Australia.
Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.
SARA EVERINGHAM: In Kakadu National Park, about 80 traditional owners from across the Top End have spent the week in talks as part of the Northern Land Council’s full council meeting………………
The Northern Land Council doesn’t know what the review will look at but suspects it will explore greater use of 99 year leases on Aboriginal land.
The council also says it’s been informed by the Federal Government it will revisit an amendment to the Northern Territory Land Rights Act which would devolve powers of the land councils to smaller Indigenous corporations.
The deputy Land Council chairman John Daly says traditional owners must be consulted.
JOHN DALY: We’ve got a Prime Minister for Indigenous Australia and they put out press releases prior to them winning the elections that they would have no reviews, no amendments to the Land Rights Act and things like that, Native Title, without the consent of traditional owners and the land councils. ……http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s4147070.htm?site=indigenous&topic=latest
Federal govt watering down Aboriginal land rights, betrayal by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion
Northern Land Council accuses Senator Nigel Scullion of breaking election promise on land rights, ABC News By the National Reporting Team’s Kate Wild 11 Dec 14 Australia’s largest Aboriginal land council has accused Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Nigel Scullion of breaking a promise that the Coalition, if it won government, would not review or amend the Land Rights Act.
Holding a copy of Senator Scullion’s press release, titled No changes to NT Land Rights and dated August 14, 2013, Northern Land Council (NLC) deputy chairman John Daly accused the Minister of proposing a review of land rights legislation without the consent of traditional owners.
“Prior to him getting in as the Minister, this here says he wasn’t going to do any reviews or anything like that without the consent of traditional owners and the land council,” he said.
Really there isn’t, and hasn’t been, any conversation with Aboriginal people about the future of the Land Rights Act.Joe Morrison, NLC chief executive
“And this is just another broken promise from this government.”
The comments were made today at a full council meeting that Senator Scullion did not attend………..
NLC’s questions are ‘pressing for the nation’
NLC chief executive Joe Morrison said council members wanted to put questions to the Minister they believed were “pressing for the nation”.
These included Federal Government plans to water down the Land Rights Act, pressure on Aboriginal towns to sign 99 year leases, and the Federal Government’s use of Aboriginal money earned from mining royalties, he said.…………. Continue reading
Traditional owners target Minerals Council HERALD SUN, NEDA VANOVAC AAP DECEMBER 04, 2014 ABORIGINAL traditional owners have heckled government and mining industry representatives at a Minerals Council summit, calling for an end to mining on their lands. ABOUT 30 traditional owners and family members drove to Darwin from Maningrida, with some driving all night to make the 1400km from Borroloola by morning.
Conrad Rory, a Yanyula and Garrawa man from Borroloola, told AAP the MacArthur River Mine near his community was having a detrimental impact on the tidal river. The mine’s independent monitor reported last year that 90 per cent of fish caught downstream of the mine exceeded maximum permitted concentrations of metals and isotopes as outlined by the national food standards guidelines.
“What we’re really hoping to accomplish is shutting down the mine,” Mr Rory said. “Since they diverted the river it’s been flowing really slow, the colour’s changed, we’ve found dead fish and crabs.”
Jackie Green, an elder from Borroloola, was critical of mine operators he saw as plundering Aboriginal land and then moving on………. Mr Green accused the government of separating families to obtain consent for mining on Aboriginal land.”They grab one Aboriginal person and take him aside and chuck a chocolate across his table and he eats that and other Aboriginal people don’t know what’s going on.”Five police cars were sent to monitor the small protest, and the doors to Darwin’s convention centre were locked.Media were barred from attending sessions with industry leaders such as Andrea Sutton, CEO of Energy Resources of Australia, and Sam Strohmayr, general manager of Glencore……… http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/traditional-owners-target-minerals-council/story-fni0xqi4-1227144612565
For the Mirrar Aboriginal people, a new era may be opening up, if ERA’s Ranger uranium mine finally closes
Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, 29 Nov 14 Peter Ker Resources reporter “……..place facing an uncertain future. Jabiru is a town in limbo. Four decades after arriving, uranium miner Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) will decide soon whether it will continue digging here. There is a chance it will choose not to, which will bring down the curtain on perhaps nation’s most controversial mine, Ranger.
Built on the faultlines of environmental and indigenous land rights policy, Ranger is at a defining moment. It has provided fuel to nuclear power stations of the world but the end of its working life is in doubt.
The end of mining at Ranger would be cause for celebration for some. Continue reading
Uranium mining in Kakadu at a crucial point, SMH, Peter Ker, Resources Reporter, 29 Nov 14 “….. As fate would have it, ERA could barely have picked a worse time to evaluate a new uranium development.
Most Australian uranium miners haven’t made a profit since. ERA has received just $US46 ($54) a pound for its product during most of this year. That is 12 per cent below the price it received in 2009.
Commodity prices are not the only threat to the project going ahead. A series of events over the past year have shaken investors’ confidence.
A tank failure in December last year spewed toxic substances around the Ranger site and prompted a six-month shutdown. Despite official surveys suggesting none of the substances escaped into Kakadu, a fierce debate ensued over the mine’s social licence to operate in such a delicate and difficult location.
The exploration results for the project have also fuelled concerns, with some analysts expressing alarm at the quality of some sections of the underground geology and cases of unstable rock formations.
At the same time ERA’s 68 per cent shareholder, Rio Tinto, is aggressively cutting back capital spending on new projects.
With Rio focused on boosting dividends rather than building large numbers of new mines, many doubt it will be willing to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars that would be required to go ahead with a new underground mine at Ranger.
When the geological concerns were reported to the market in July, Credit Suisse published the most pessimistic research note on the project to date.
“We believe the results of the Deeps resource drilling are poor,” the note said.
“Ranger Deeps either adds value or there is close to none, and risks are increasing towards the latter. If ERA announces at the end of this year that Ranger Deeps is not viable, then the share price should collapse to very low levels.”……..
JP Morgan analysts said the weak uranium prices, combined with the 2021 expiry of the mining lease, put ERA in a difficult position.
“We believe the project likely needs prices of $US50 per pound to $US60 per pound over the life of the project,” they wrote. ……..
ERA chief Andrea Sutton said the geological results had been consistent with expectations, and sufficiently good for the company to conduct less drilling than planned.
The spot uranium price enjoyed a small surge in early November, and while the longevity of that rise is unclear, Sutton said the company was confident the price would rebound in the medium term……….http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/uranium-mining-in-kakadu-at-a-crucial-point-20141128-11vmr3.html
The Dog Catcher of Jabiru, About Place Journal, Margaret Spence 24 Nov 14 “……….Uranium was discovered in Kakadu in 1953 and for the next decade much of the ore was bought by British and American governments for the development of atomic weapons. If the Aborigines knew of the potential fate of their ancestral earth, their objections were overruled.
But the nineteen seventies were a period of change for civil rights, and Aboriginal people campaigned to have their lands returned to them. In stages, the Australian Federal Government acquired title to the tracts of land that had been taken over the years by private, non-Aboriginal settlers. The land was returned to Traditional Owners under the newly established Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territory) and most of it was leased to the Commonwealth to become the joint managed Kakadu National Park.
Three areas were excised from the National Park due to the presence of significant uranium deposits. While this land was granted to Traditional Owners as Aboriginal Land, the legal right to veto mining projects which the new laws provided was explicitly removed in the case of Ranger uranium mine and mining commenced there in 1981 against the clear opposition of the Mirarr Traditional Owners……… Continue reading
Muckaty landowners say nuclear dump fight is ‘back to square one’ http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2014/nov/13/muckaty-landowners-say-nuclear-dump-fight-is-back-to-square-one Helen Davidson in Darwin The owners feel the only way to protect the station is for it to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council The proposal of a second site for nuclear dumping at Muckaty Station sends the fight “back to square one,” traditional landowners say. They feel the only way to protect the area is to be within the borders of the neighbouring Central Land Council, which decided not to make a nomination last week due to local opposition.
Last week the case for a storage facility on Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory was reopened when one of the clan groups proposed a second parcel of land, just months after a bitter seven-year dispute appeared to have ended.
The Northern Land Council (NLC) had abandoned its nomination to the federal government to store low and intermediate radioactive waste in the area north of Tennant Creek as part of a settlement reached outside the federal court. It is now considering the new proposal.
One of the traditional owners, Dianne Stokes, told Guardian Australia the new proposal takes the fight “back to square one.” Continue reading
Central Land Council rules out nuclear dump in Tanami region of Central Australia, ABC News 6 Nov 14 By Xavier La Canna The Central Land Council has ruled out the possibility of a nuclear waste dump being built over a large part of central Australia due to opposition from some traditional owners.
Traditional owners in the Tanami region were considering nominating land to become a dump, but at a meeting this week delegates heard of opposition to the move from traditional owners and affected communities, the CLC said.
Federal Government Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has said there has to be unanimous support for the move for a site to be successful.
“The delegates heard that the CLC has received formal correspondence and public statements from the traditional owners and residents of affected communities who are opposed to a nuclear waste dump in the area,” the CLC said.
Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal – CLC director David Ross
“Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s requirement of a site ‘free from dispute’ cannot therefore be met,” it said. The CLC, a statutory body tasked with a duty to consult traditional owners and other Aboriginal people about any proposals, covers an area of about 776,000 square kilometres, with the Tanami region a sizeable part of that.
The entire Tanami is 178,000 square kilometres.
The CLC also dealt a blow to Federal Government hopes of finding a new site to build a nuclear waste dump, saying the nomination process was unfair and would have seen Aboriginal groups make a decision without enough information.
“The process enshrined in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 expects traditional owners to volunteer a site without knowing all the information,” a statement from CLC director David Ross read.
“Yet once a site is nominated they cannot change their mind when they find out the full story.
“Given that a nuclear waste dump is forever it’s just not fair to ask people to make this decision without a comprehensive proposal.”……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/nuclear-dump-ruled-out-over-tanami-region-in-central-australia/5875202
Scientists working together with indigenous land-managers have reduced Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by half a million tonnes. IMPROVING FIRE MANAGEMENT in the tropical savannah of northern Australia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes over the past year.
By reintroducing traditional fire knowledge and practices, local land managers have benefited through the sale of carbon credits, as well as helping the environment.
“Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from savannah burning represent about three per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” said the CSIRO’s Dr Garry Cook at the 2014 annual conference of the Ecological Society of Australia in Alice Springs in September.
“Since European settlement, fires in the north have increased in size and severity. This has threatened biodiversity as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Australia’s tropical savannah landscape is enormous — it covers an area of some 1.9 million square kilometres, or about one quarter of the entire continent. The landscape is mainly forests and woodlands consisting of wide fields of grass with scattered eucalypt trees.
The savannah stretches from Rockhampton on the Queensland coast up to the tip of Cape York and across to the Kimberley region of Western Australia on the Indian Ocean.
Frequent fires are a characteristic of the landscape, and the vast majority are deliberately lit without any authorisation. Tens of thousands of square kilometres burn every year during the northern dry season.
Many local Aboriginal communities have retained their traditional fire knowledge, and these communities hold deep aspirations to fulfil long-held cultural obligations regarding country. Dr Cook said the Commonwealth’s Carbon Farming Initiative provided the impetus to restore traditional fire management practices on aboriginal homelands, combining modern environmental and fire science with traditional mosaic burning practices.
“In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the methodology, land managers need to burn early in the dry season to protect the landscape from the more intense fires that would otherwise occur later in the dry season,” he said.
“Early dry-season fires are generally low in intensity; they trickle through the landscape and burn only some of the fuel, creating a network of burnt firebreaks. These stop the late dry-season fires sweeping through large areas and releasing large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide.
“Most savannahs burn on average once in every two to four years, in the late dry season, and it’s these fires that produce between three and four per cent of Australia’s accountable greenhouse emissions. The methodology helps reduce these emissions by using low-intensity, patchy early dry-season fires to reduce the overall fire frequency and proportion of late dry-season fires, which tend to be much larger and more intense,” Dr Cook said.
The savannah burning methodology for reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions was developed by a team from CSIRO, the Charles Darwin University’s Centre for Bushfire Research, the Northern Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, and Aboriginal landowners and rangers in northern Australia.
Dr Cook said, “It’s lovely to see science being applied to improve land management in that part of the world: we’re talking very remote country, very limited resources for land management, and very sparse populations. It’s had a great impact.”
Northern Territory and national environment groups have pledged to fight a proposal for a new underground uranium mine within the boundaries of Kakadu National Park, arguing the proponent Energy Resources of Australia has failed to supply key details that would allow NT and federal environment ministers to make an informed assessment of the project’s economic risks.
Energy Resources of Australia, majority owned by Rio Tinto, has submitted a Draft Environment Impact Assessment prior to finalising and releasing a pre-feasibility study that contains important project details, including economic data directly relevant to the company’s unproven capacity to rehabilitate the troubled mine site.
“ERA’s financial struggles are well known to investors who have fled the depressed uranium sector in droves since Fukushima,” said Lauren Mellor of the Environment Centre NT.
“The company has lost more than $400 million since the disaster, which was directly fuelled by Australian uranium, struck in 2011.
“With rehabilitation liabilities of more than $700 million – worth more than ERA’s market value – the company has warned the ASX it may not be able to fully fund future rehabilitation. Federal and NT assessors should demand all project data be made available for public scrutiny during the assessment process.”
ERA is required to end mining and mineral processing at the Ranger mine in January 2021 and the groups are concerned that the planned new underground operation, known as Ranger 3 Deeps, would complicate and delay the company’s mandated clean up and rehabilitation period.
“Ranger has been operating inside Kakadu for more than three decades and has experienced hundreds of leaks, spills and license breaches in that time, including a major radioactive spill last year that shut the plant for six months,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney.
“The mine is ageing, failing and is overdue for retirement. But instead of a planned and costed clean up and exit plan, ERA is pushing ahead with incomplete plans for a new underground mine, playing radioactive roulette at Ranger.”
“We will actively contest any new uranium mine in Kakadu because this company has a track record of broken pipes and broken promises.
“Federal and NT Environment Ministers responsible for assessment of the Ranger 3 Deeps project should require ERA to come clean about its plans and its projections and ensure all the missing project data is provided for public scrutiny.”
Editors’ Note: Dr Gavin Mudd, Senior Environmental Engineer at Monash University and a leading expert in uranium mining , legacy mines and groundwater impacts will address a public forum at 6pm on Wednesday 5 Nov at the Groove Café in Nightcliff to discuss the complex rehabilitation challenges facing ERA at the Ranger site. Dr Mudd is also available for comment and background briefings.
CONTACT: Dr Gavin Mudd, 0419 117 494. Lauren Mellor, ECNT, 0413 534 125 or Dave Sweeney, ACF, 0408 317 812
Indigenous people pay respects to Whitlam, the prime minister who cared about them November 5, 2014, SMH, Dan Harrison Health and Indigenous Affairs Correspondent “……..this week, some of the Gurindji men and women involved in that fight and their families travelled across the country to Sydney to pay their respects to that jangkarni marlaka (“big important man”), former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The group have travelled from Kalkaringi, 800 km south of Darwin, to honour the man who, in August 1975, poured desert soil through the hand of Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari to signify the return of more than 3000 square kilometres of Gurindji ancestral land.
“We are mates now,” Lingiari replied.
When news of Whitlam’s death reached Kalkaringi two weeks ago, the community gathered at the spot where the ceremony took place, sharing stories in honour of the man they now refer to respectfully as kulum Whitlam…… http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-people-pay-respects-to-whitlam-the-prime-minister-who-cared-about-them-20141104-11guaz.html#ixzz3IJiWV4RE
Abbott and Forrest’s assault on Indigenous land rights Independent Australia Land Rights News – Northern Edition 31 October 2014, The iconic 1976 Land Rights Act is under attack like never before under the Abbott Government, writes former Fraser Liberal Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ian Viner AO QC (via Northern Land Council – Northern Edition).
WITH the Commonwealth Government’s push for 99-year leases, the Forrest Review’s call for Aboriginal land to be privatised so as to be bought and sold, and attacks upon the Northern Land Council in particular over their defence of traditional ownership and their responsibilities under the Land Rights Act, the iconic 1976 Land Rights Act is under threat like never before.
The whole framework and security of traditional Aboriginal land, protected by theLand Rights Act, is in danger of being subverted by Governments, bureaucracies and people who have no real understanding or sympathy for traditional communal land ownership.
99-year town leases turn traditional ownership upside down.
In reality, they put the Commonwealth back into ownership and control of traditional Aboriginal land like it was before the Land Rights Act was passed as if Aboriginal land had returned to reserve status under Commonwealth control………..
The Forrest Review recommendations make it plain that the objective of Commonwealth land tenure reform policies in the Northern Territory should be to smash traditional ownership by making Aboriginal land “tradeable and fungible” as it says in Chapter 8. History tells us that land grabberswill quickly move in and Aboriginal land will be traded away forever and Aboriginal people left on the fringe once again.
The real objective of Commonwealth policy should be to put the Aboriginal people in control of their own destiny for the next 99 years. Keeping Aboriginal land firmly under Aboriginal control is the only way for that to happen.
Northern Territory Aboriginal people should learn from Maori history in New Zealand………http://www.independentaustralia.net/australia/australia-display/abbott-and-forrests-assault-on-indigenous-land-rights,7052
$200m sought to rehabilitate former Rum Jungle uranium mine, ABC News 31 Oct 14 By Joanna Crothers The Department of Mines and Energy is seeking $200 million from the Federal Government to rehabilitate the former Rum Jungle mine site.
Attempts to rehabilitate the site, Australia’s first uranium mine, stem back to the 1970s.
Scientists from the Department of Mines and Energy (DoE) have been drilling at the site over the past three weeks and analysing rock samples.It is estimated that five million cubic metres of rock will need to be relocated or re-buried in two of the mine’s deepest pits.
The process is likely to take three years and cost millions, scientists say…….Uranium and copper were mined at the site from the 1950s until the site closed in 1971. Waste rock at the site was buried but it started releasing acid and metals into the nearby East Finniss River. Ms Laurencont said the rocks were larger and more oxidised than was thought.
Last year the Federal Government allocated $14 million for developing a rehabilitation plan, in addition to $8 million already spent on a preliminary plan.
Acidic drainage has plagued the site since it closed and the Finniss River is a significant fishing sport for Indigenous people and Territory anglers.
The recreational reserve now known as the Rum Jungle South Recreation Reserve was shut from 2010 until 2012 by the Northern Territory Government where some low-level radiation was detected.
The Department will present its plan of rehabilitation to the Treasury in March next year.Other plans to rehabilitate include cleaning up other areas of the site and reintroducing vegetation onto the site. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-31/mines-department-seeking-200m-to-fix-former-rum-jungle-mine/5858764
“Our current Government is putting out a Green Paper called ‘The New Frontier’which includes Western Australia, Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, and they’re talking about the economic viability of the new frontier,” Lee said.
“What that translates to, is mining, taking of land, and when you start removing people from their land, then you can’t close the gap because you’re once again denying people their human rights.”
Aunty Pat, said communities need home bases, where a sense of belonging can be achieved, and children educated in the old ways to provide a path to the future where the loss their ancestor’s suffered can be replaced with traditional culture.
“We need to have a place where we can deal with a holistic approach of taking a family on a property and do the healing process,” Aunty Pat said.
“It will not take three months or six months, it could take a whole year and on this property we should have trained qualified people who will deal with the children and have some form of a mini school for the children to learn how to read and write the old way.”
Ms Vanessa Lee, said it’s crucial for our government and our country to try to understand how the land is important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“I don’t think people understand the whole importance of land to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it’s not just land rights, it’s a sense of spirituality,” Lee said.
“Everything comes from the earth and goes back to the earth, and that’s where you’ve got the Dreaming happening.”
Mr James said there’s evidence that what these organizations are doing out there is helping and making a difference, but they need continual support……..http://thestringer.com.au/forgotten-children-of-the-promised-land-the-fight-to-save-rural-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-communities-8944#.VE6TiiLF8nk
for the traditional owners to have any confidence in the capacity of ERA and the regulators to manage Ranger the recommendations of the report must be acted on “swiftly and completely”.
Uranium miner ERA ‘did not meet expected standards’, new report over Kakadu acid spill says By James Dunlevie ABC News 24 Oct 14 A report has criticised standards at a Kakadu uranium mine, but local Aboriginal people say the investigation process had broken down and they had not been told the report was being released.
The investigation looked into the circumstances surrounding the incident at the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Ranger uranium mine in the national park, where 1,400 cubic metres of acidic slurry was spilt out of a collapsed tank about 1:00am on December 7, 2013.
The report found “at the time of the tank failure ERA’s management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet expected standards”. In a joint statement announcing the release of the report, Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane and his Territory counterpart, Willem Westra Van Holte, thanked the members of the Ranger Incident Taskforce for their efforts “in particular, the contributions by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council”.
It’s just absurd that you would establish a taskforce to investigate … over a nearly 12-month period and then release the report and not have any dialogue with any taskforce members.Justin O’Brien, CEO Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation