Aussies still resisting Adani coal mine

While the Adani Group is celebrating its board’s ‘final nod’ to its Australian coal mine project, court proceedings on the indigenous owners’ title to the land are scheduled for trial in March 2018

Photo by Ramesh Dave/Mint via Getty Images
Photo by Ramesh Dave/Mint via Getty Images

Dhairya Maheshwari

“Our land is our source of life. It is our culture and law. It is the identity as a people,” says Adrian Burragubba, a member of the Wangan and Jagalingou indigenous community, the owners of the piece of land where business magnate Gautam Adani is hoping to build his Carmichael Coal Mine.

While Adani Enterprises Limited on Tuesday announced that the company board had given its “final go-ahead” to the $16.5 billion coal mine, the Australians who own the land say that the road ahead is not as smooth as Adani is making it appear for the sake of investors.

“They cannot proceed to build the critical infrastructure for the mine until the native title issue is resolved,” Adrian, who is also the spokesperson at the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, said in an emailed exchange with National Herald.

Native title recognises age-old claims that Indigenous Communities, or the native Australians, have over their lands. Any company (Adani Enterprises in this case) looking to acquire land has to seek permission from the “traditional owners of the land,” or the Indigenous peoples.

However, for Adani, that permission is yet to be given.

“The matter of native title rest on the fate of the ILUA (Indigenous Land Use Agreement) which is in the Federal Court and scheduled for trial in March 2018,” Adrian said. The community approached the court after the (Queensland) state government failed to heed their concerns and backed Adani instead.

“Adani has put forward an offer of compensation as part of a proposed ILUA (Indigenous Land Use Agreement). This has been rejected by the large number of traditional owners and families who make up the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council,” he said.

After the state government’s snub, the community approached the United Nations for intervention in October 2015. In its submission before the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Indigenous community has accused the Australian government of “failing to protect the human rights” of the people.

It was reported last week that Adani’s final nod to the project boosted the company’s share price by 8.63%. The company is already reported to have invested $3.3 billion in the project, despite facing stiff resistance from environmental groups and concerned landowners over the potential damage that the mine would cause to the biodiversity of the region, which lies next to the Great Barrier Reef, in itself designated a World Heritage Area.

Adrian said, “The mine would result in the destruction of the lands and waters and cultural heritage of the Wangan and Jagalingou, the indigenous traditional owners of the land and waters.”

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Published: 08 Jun 2017, 8:17 PM