NT mine says sorry as it pushes to expand

·2-min read

A resources company continues to push an expansion of its Northern Territory mine site even as it apologises for the distress caused to Aboriginal people.

Glencore's McArthur River Mine general manager Steven Rooney has acknowledged the lead and zinc mine continues to be a source of sadness and has had an impact on the country.

Mr Rooney apologised before a federal parliamentary committee on Tuesday while being grilled about the proposed expansion that would result in the removal of ancient rock tools.

The plan was to move the artefacts from the site to a safe keeping place traditional owners were happy with.

The NT Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority previously refused to approve the expansion over concerns about consultation.

Glencore appealed to the territory government and was negotiating with the Northern Land Council for an Indigenous land usage agreement.

"A keeping place is our first proposal," Mr Rooney said, adding there was another option to expand the waste rock pile in a different direction if necessary.

"We're currently working towards consent."

Glencore took on full ownership of the mine in 2012. The site became open cut in 2006, when the McArthur River was diverted.

"The mine has never destroyed sacred sites but we acknowledge that historical actions like the river diversion have clearly not met the the expectations of the Aboriginal community," Mr Rooney said.

A University of NSW study previously said waste rock at the mine had emitted sulphur dioxide plumes, while metal and acid also seeped into the river system.

It identified 22 Indigenous sacred sites potentially threatened by mining operations.

Tuesday's inquiry examined the fallout of Rio Tinto blowing up 46,000-year-old caves at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia's Pilbara region last year.

Among issues examined by the committee was the adequacy of state and territory heritage protections.

The Australian Archaeology Association said draft changes to WA's Aboriginal Heritage Act were not enough to prevent another Juukan Gorge-style disaster.

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