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21 Sep 2020

Jamie Lowe, The Guardian

Mining companies have operated with a free rein and few consequences for too long

21 September 2020


[...]Mining companies capitalise on this power imbalance and the deficiencies in legislation to push traditional owners into agreements they mightn’t otherwise sign.

[...] [T]he NTA does not require ‘free, prior and informed consent’, the human rights standard for Indigenous agreement-making. If a company wants to mine on a group’s land, and the group does not consent, the mining company can make an application to the National Native Title Tribunal, which almost always rules in industry’s favour.


State cultural heritage laws are also inadequate. [...]


There’s also the issue of resourcing. When traditional owners gain native title, they are legally obliged to form a corporate entity known as a ‘Prescribed Body Corporate’ (PBC), through which mining agreements are negotiated.

But here’s the catch: not only do PBCs have far more burdensome statutory requirements than other corporations, but 80% of them have no income whatsoever. [...] Now tell me how a PBC is meant to negotiate a mining deal on a level playing field with a billion-dollar, multinational corporation? [...]

[...] To any casual observer it would appear these laws are crafted to sanction and expedite the destruction of cultural sites, rather than allow traditional owners to self-determine.


More than 100 Aboriginal sacred sites – some dating before the ice age – could be destroyed by mining companies


We’re calling on the commonwealth to show some leadership and implement strong cultural heritage laws and more resourcing for PBCs. [...]

We’re also calling on the mining sector to support law reform and an independent, transparent review into agreement-making processes.