The traditional owners of a Northern Territory pastoral lease that’s home to a massive mine want compensation for diminishing their native title rights and alleged damage to sacred sites.
The Gudanji, Yanyuwa and Yanyuwa-Marra peoples have taken their case to the Federal Court, claiming the Northern Territory government has frustrated their fight against the McArthur River Mine.
Gudanji man Casey Davey said sacred and significant sites had been damaged by mining operations.
“Our totem is right there where they dug up the dirt for the river diversion and the open cut,” he said on Thursday.
“We need to be paid back for that and for the damage to our sacred trees. It’s sad for us, what happened at the mine, especially what happened to our sites.”
The NT government and Mount Isa Mines Ltd penned The McArthur River Project deal in November 1992.
It enabled dirt to be broken at Glencore’s controversial McArthur River Mine and Bing Bong Port on the Gulf of Carpentaria about 750km east of Darwin.
The region’s traditional owners have fought to stop development at the site, including the move from underground to open-cut operations.
But despite success in the NT Supreme Court, the Territory government has repeatedly passed legislation approving more growth at the mine.
“Since the zinc, lead and silver deposit was first proposed to be mined, the native title holders have fought to protect their land, and culture” Northern Land Council chief executive Marion Scrymgour said.
“They have also tried to be heard about the social and environmental impacts of the proposed mine.
“But by and large, they have been ignored.”
The NLC lodged the Gudanji, Yanyuwa and Yanyuwa-Marra peoples’ Federal Court compensation claim for the effects of the McArthur River Project on their native title rights and interests.
In its assessment of the claim, it’s likely the court will measure the economic and cultural loss inflicted as a result of the McArthur River Project.
Gudanji man Reggie O’Riley hopes the next generation of his people will be able to live on their land at the 8,000 square kilometre station and be in control of their economic future.
“I really want to move back to McArthur River Station, for the kids and the next generation, for our future,” he said.
“We want to be able to look after our own country. We want to live on our own country and settle down. We don’t just want money. We want the land back.”