Today's ceremony near Onslow to mark the start of construction of the Chevron-led $29 billion Wheatstone LNG project threatens to be overshadowed by a rift between the US giant and traditional owners.
As of last night, disgruntled elders of the Thalanyji people, who hold Native Title rights for the area around Onslow, were threatening to boycott this morning's ceremony at the Wheatstone location, Ashburton North industrial precinct.
It would rob the ceremony, which will be attended by senior executives from project partners Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Apache and Kufpec as well as Premier Colin Barnett, of a traditional welcome to country, which has become a feature of ground-breaking and milestone ceremonies to recognise the importance of traditional owners.
Unlike Woodside Petroleum, Chevron has said little about its dealings with traditional owners other than to flag this year that a wide-ranging access and compensation package had been agreed with the Thalanyji.
Chevron and partners approved Wheatstone's development two months ago.
Despite agreement on appropriate compensation, it is understood the latest row between Chevron and the Thalanyji revolves around a request for the oil and gas giant to fund and build a Keeping Place for cultural materials, as well as a clash over the invitation list for today's first-sod turning ceremony.
Some elders were invited but others apparently not, leading to a decision by the Thalanyji leadership to not attend at all unless grievances with Chevron could be resolved by this morning.A Chevron spokesman said it was "disappointed and regrets" that Thalanyji elders were planning not to attend.
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