Queensland authorities are refusing to investigate allegations that an Aboriginal cultural site was flattened by mining giant Adani.
Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people opposed to the construction of the Carmichael mine in Central Queensland's Galilee Basin, have provided photos they say show “dumped” piles of dirt containing artefacts.
A drone image shows the site “mid destruction” in October with the open-cut-mine visible in the background.
By November bulldozers can be seen working around the area, and a subsequent image reveals piles of excavated dirt alleged to have been transferred across to the nearby Red Hill site.
Native title applicants say these mounds contain cultural items.
W&J man Coedie McAvoy said conduct by Adani, now operating in Australia as Bravus Mining and Resources, was “disrespectful” and “disgusting”.
“It just makes me sick,” he told Yahoo News.
“It’s a display of the respect that a mining company has for our ancient possessions.
"They hold stories and they've thrown them on dump site."
Mr McAvoy is camped close to the site, engaging in cultural practices and is part of what Bravus argue is a "minority faction" opposing the Carmichael project.
The Indian owned mining company say it is working with members of the Clermont Belyando native title group to manage cultural aspects surrounding the mine.
Adani welcomes Queensland Government decision on cultural heritage site
Surveys conducted in 2018 found the area, named Zone 6 New Find 1, had the highest concentration of Indigenous artefacts within the Carmichael mine lease.
Hundreds of items were discovered at the ancient tool making site during surveys in 2018 and 2019.
Some native title applicants argue that relocating the artefacts to Red Hill is inappropriate as they contaminate the cultural significance of that area too, adding that it has also been earmarked for underground mining.
Bravus said it is managing the site “in an appropriate, legal and respectful way”.
In a joint statement with the Clermont Belyando native title group the company said it was “pleased” the government found it had complied with its obligations under their cultural heritage management plan.
The mining company said the Cultural Heritage Committee unanimously approved the works, and that any further construction at the site would be in line with the agreement.
Bravus was unable to confirm the extent of works at the site, or whether explosives had been used.
Government finds no evidence of harm to cultural heritage site
In October this year, lawyers for the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) representing seven registered native title applicants asked the Queensland Government to stop work at the site and investigate a potential breach of the Queensland Cultural Heritage Act.
A month later, the acting director of the state’s Cultural Heritage Unit, John Schiavo, advised he would be refusing the request.
"I do not consider that the information available to me is sufficient to warrant an investigation," he said in a letter dated November 30.
He added there was "no evidence of actual harm occurring to Aboriginal cultural heritage" at the site as a result of works by the mining company.
Acting Coordinator of the Clermont Belyando Native Title Applicants Irene Simpson said in a joint media release with Bravus that interference by the EDO was “offensive and paternalistic”.
“While we recognise Mr Codie McAvoy, his Family Council and followers do not agree with the Carmichael Project proceeding, the majority of the Clermont Belyando (formerly W&J) people do,” she said in a statement.
Ms Simpson is referring to a contentious vote in 2016, in which the W&J people voted 294 to one in favour of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani.
Indigenous man maintains Adani is destroying cultural heritage
Mr McAvoy's father and Nagana Yarrbayn senior elder Adrian Burragubba was one of the seven native title applicants represented by the EDO.
He has sought to stop the Carmichael project a number of times through the courts and has been bankrupted from the process.
Criticising the Queensland Government's decision not to investigate, he has accused them of allowing Bravus to destroy ancient Indigenous cultural heritage.
“Adani only plans to mine coal for 24 years, but is destroying ancient cultural sites that are thousands of years old,” he said.
“This is the price that Wangan and Jagalingou people are paying for Adani's coal: the permanent loss of our cultural heritage and destruction of cultural sites with thousands of artefacts made by our old people.”
The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships said they have considered the stop order requests and maintain all parties have been afforded natural justice in making its decision, as required under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003.
“The delegate has informed the relevant parties that there are no reasonable grounds to grant their requests to issue a stop order,’’ a departmental spokesman told Yahoo News.
“Additionally, the delegate has determined that there are no reasonable grounds to warrant investigation into the activities conducted by Bravus at the Carmichael Mine.”
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