Australia: Extractive companies’ projects threaten to destroy Aboriginal heritage sites
Recently, there has been a spate of mining companies destroying or planning to destroy sacred sites for mining. The laws that recognise Aboriginal title to land across Australia often impose conditions on ownership, hampering Aboriginal people’s ability to challenge the actions of extractives companies that threaten sites with cultural, historic, and spiritual significance. For example, under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act, the traditional owners are unable to lodge objections or prevent their sacred sites from being damaged.
May and June 2020 have seen threats to Aboriginal sacred sites from three of the largest extractives companies in Australia: BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals. Rio Tinto blasted a 46,000-year old Aboriginal site to expand an iron ore mine, whilst upto 150 heritage sites may be under threat from possible new mining projects by BHP and Fortescue Metals.