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9 Jul 2020

Michael Manikas, DLG Shape, The Fifth Estate

Australia: Rocky Hill coal mine case paves way for stronger legal protections for Aboriginal heritage

"Rocky Hill coal mine case paves way for stronger legal protections for Aboriginal heritage", 9 july 2019.

On February 8 this year, the NSW Land and Environment Court (Preston CJ) rejected the mining company Gloucester Resources Limited’s appeal to develop the Rocky Hill Coal mine...

This verdict in February received a lot of global media attention because his Honour dismissed the appeal partly because of the mine’s likely contribution to climate change.

The other lesser reported key factors included the failure by the company to adequately assess the social impacts of the mine on Aboriginal heritage...

The mining company’s EIS did deal with the social impact of the mine and touched upon some Aboriginal issues, although very lightly.

The EIS identified that potentially nine Aboriginal “sites” would be affected by the mine, but really gave little significance to these sites...The Cook family raised concerns that the mining company’s Heritage Assessment failed to meet the appropriate guidelines and requirements, and that the company had not undertaken proper and effective consultation...

His honour found that:

“…The project will adversely affect Aboriginal people of the area, by impacting their culture and Country...the consequence of the negative social impacts on Aboriginal people will be “major” and the likelihood of the negative social impacts is “likely”, resulting in an “extreme” social risk rating..."

It is clear from this decision that Aboriginal heritage must be taken seriously in future rulings on state significant developments.

This must also include genuine and effective consultation with relevant Aboriginal parties...