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Traditional owners shrug off Adani’s land use pact in Australia

Representatives of the traditional owners said there was no land use agreement reached between Adani and W&J

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Mumbai: Australia’s indigenous people Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J), traditional owners of the land proposed to host Adani Group’s $12-billion mining project in the Galilee basin of Queensland, on Saturday said that there was no land use agreement reached with Adani, that claimed securing such an agreement.

Representatives of W&J claim group, in a statement, has slammed a so-called meeting organised and funded by Indian giant Adani, which purports to be a gathering of the W&J people but was convened by the company to push a land use deal for its Carmichael mega-mine.

However, Adani claimed that W&J has voted to authorise an indigenous land use agreement (ILUA).

“The W&J people have voted overwhelmingly today at a properly convened, independently chaired meeting in accordance with established statutory process to deliver intergenerational opportunities to their communities and their children, and grandchildren. The meeting was the largest ever authorisation meeting of the W&J, with more than 300 attendees,” Adani Group said in a statement on Saturday.

“This was a sham meeting which has engineered a sham outcome. We will challenge Adani’s phoney land use deal in the Federal Court and properly discredit it,” said Adrian Burragubba, senior W&J traditional owner, native title applicant and spokesperson for the W&J Family Council.

“Not just once but three times W&J traditional owners have voted to reject Adani taking our lands and digging the Carmichael mine on our country. But right from the start foreign billionaire Adani’s company has been intent on getting what it wants, and used its power and money to divide our community,” Burragubba said.

On Wednesday, W&J had filed an interlocutory application in the Federal Court of Australia challenging the leases issued for the Adani Carmichael coal mine.

“Just last month the W&J claim group met of our own accord and said ‘no’ to Adani. We made it clear that Saturday’s meeting is not a legitimate meeting of the claim group and the resolution to approve Adani’s deal is not legitimate either,” Burragubba said.

Adani Enterprises Ltd on 3 April won mining leases for its Carmichael coal project in Australia, moving a step closer to starting work at the controversial mine. Adani secured three leases from the Queensland state government for the coal project, which would be the largest in Australia.

In February, the Adani Group secured the approval of the Queensland government for the Carmichael mine project in the state’s Galilee Basin, amid protests from environmental activists in Australia.

In December, Australia allowed expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in Queensland, which will enable shipping of the fuel from mines in the Galilee Basin, including Adani Group’s Carmichael mine.

The expansion, which will see 1.1 million cubic metres of material dredged near the Great Barrier Reef, was granted approval with 29 riders. The approval followed an Australian court spiking a green group’s attempt to block the Carmichael project, and recommending mining leases in October.

Adani in its statement on Saturday said today’s clear decision follows earlier determinations by traditional owners spanning the length of the company’s mine, rail and port projects – the Birriah, Juru and Jangga traditional owners – to work with Adani in building sustainable and ongoing partnerships that see the benefits of these projects are shared by all in the broader community.

“This decision by the W&J reflects a commitment to work with Adani to ensure that the W&J people benefit from the jobs and economic opportunities that will flow from the construction and operation of the mine at Carmichael- just as communities such as Clermont, Charters Towers, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Bowen will enjoy the benefits of Adani’s mine, rail and port projects from proceeding,” Adani said.

The company has worked positively and constructively with elected leaders within the W&J over several years to ensure that as the company’s mine at Carmichael not only proceeds, but proceeds with the benefits of the mine being realised by traditional owners at every stage of the project, the statement said.

Adani also added Saturday’s vote is an equally important milestone in Adani’s plan to build a long term future with each and every community spanning its projects, and ensuring they realise the benefits that flow from these projects proceeding.

Murrawah Johnson, a W&J Family Council spokesperson and native title applicant said: “Adani has consistently tried to fracture us for a mine that will never be built. But we will stand strong. We have told Adani, we have told the State Government that we do not accept their sham process, and we will fight it all the way through the courts.

“The company has lied about job creation, lied about the mine’s economic benefits and continues to try entice our people with coloured brochures full of empty promises. Adani, working closely with the Queensland government, has stitched up a dubious outcome,” Johnson.

Johnson said the Indian coal giant has worked to dupe us into signing away their rights by offering a measly compensation package, and money just to sign up their deal.

“True to form, Adani has bussed in large numbers of people, including non-members of our claim group who have no connection to the country which this dangerous mine is set to destroy. Many members of the claim group who last met in March refused to attend Adani’s meeting today,” she said.

Billionaire Gautam Adani-led Adani Group plans to start construction work at its Carmichael coal project in Australia in calendar year 2017 after securing certain second tier approvals.

Adani has plans to make additional announcements in the coming months after winning the approvals and resolving legal challenges.

“This is just the start in another chapter of our long but determined struggle to defeat this coal company and all those who would sell our ancestral land and heritage out from under us,” Burragubba said.

He said the future of people and culture, and of lands and waters and plants and animals, and sacred sites and stories that connect homelands together into spiritual home, cannot and will not be based on coal mining.

“Our fight is far from over. When we say no, we mean no,” Burragubba concluded.

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