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Article

21 Sep 2020

Author:
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.

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

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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.

[...]

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