Land conflicts in Australia

Indigenous people are trying to defend themselves against mining giants (Press Release)

There is still no solution to the conflict over the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, Australia. Currently, members of the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou are blocking the access road to the mine, which is largely on their land. The aim of the blockade is to interrupt the construction work on the site and, thus, to try and force the Indian Adani Group, which operates the mine, to abandon the project.

"The Wangan and the Jagalingou never agreed to the project under the necessary conditions," stated Yvonne Bangert, expert on indigenous peoples at the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "The legal dispute with the coal giant has ruined them financially. Now, they are trying to defend their traditional land with other non-violent means." According to their statements, the protesters want to regain control over their territory in order to prevent its destruction.

In May, another mining giant, the iron ore company Rio Tinto, had blown up one of the country's oldest indigenous sites in Western Australia. According to archaeological research, the Juukan Gorge rock caves in the Pilbara region had been used by humans for at least 46,000 years. "Now, Rio Tinto has announced bonus cuts for three high-ranking officials," Bangert reports. "For the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and the Pinikura, however, the sacred caves are lost forever. Rio Tinto will make a lot of money from the approximately eight million tons of iron ore underneath, and all those in charge were allowed to keep their posts.

The government of Australia and the respective federal states had agreed to the transfer of the territories to the mining companies and also approved the blasting in Pilbara. "The real problem is Australia's 'Native Title' system, which systematically discriminates against indigenous communities," Bangert criticized. "If they agree to a project on their land, they can demand compensation or rent within certain limits. If they refuse to agree, the projects are usually approved anyway. Then, the indigenous communities who traditionally own the land go empty-handed. As long as problematic large-scale mining projects like this are forced upon Australia's indigenous peoples, there will be no solution to the conflicts.