A Queensland man set up camp next to one of Australia’s largest coal mines, and then complained about the noise and dust. But despite these agitations, Coedie McAvoy is so committed to staying there he's changed his licence to this new address.
Why? It’s where his ancestors have lived for thousands of years.
It’s been two years since Mr McAvoy moved next to Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, in Queensland's North Galilee Basin. And this has angered the mine’s operator who has tried in vain to move him on, claiming he’s set up an unlawful “protest camp”. It also disputes his claims about noise and dust.
“If Mr McAvoy is unsatisfied with being on a mine site he can leave,” a spokesperson for the company told Yahoo.
While Adani wants him gone, police permit him to stay. Mr McAvoy argues he needs to be there as an Indigenous man to perform a cultural fire ceremony.
He believes he has more of a right to be there than Adani, and argues the Queensland government extinguished native title at the site and handed it to the Indian-owned mining company.
“For two years we have been asserting our human rights and reclaiming our traditional land from Adani’s coal mine,” Mr McAvoy said last week.
Adani says protests 'undermine' Indigenous rights
Conservation groups actively campaign against Adani's coal mine as there is clear scientific evidence fossil fuels are the main driver of the climate crisis. While people from many backgrounds, including activists, visit Mr McAvoy's camp, he maintains its purpose is for cultural activity and not to oppose fossil fuels.
But Adani’s Australian arm which has been renamed Bravus, argues the camp is actually part of a “dishonest tactic” by “global anti-fossil fuel activist groups” who want the nation’s coal exports stopped.
The company has engaged with other Wangan and Jagalingou people since 2010, and it has accused activist groups of promoting activities that “undermine” their “right to self-determination” and called on them to stop.
“These anti-fossil fuel activist groups use Mr Coedie McAvoy, a frequent visitor to the protest camp, to marginalise and silence the voices of the majority of Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners, who overwhelmingly support the mine and are working with us under legally binding agreements that protect their rights and respect their cultural heritage,” a Bravus spokesperson said.
Legal letter complains about dust and noise at Adani site
Adani's reference to the majority of Traditional Owners stems back to 2016 when the Wangan and Jagalingou almost backed creating the mine. But the integrity of the 294 to 1 result is contested by many within the community — the most vocal are Mr McAvoy and his father Adrian Burragubba. The later was bankrupted during a court battle with Adani to stop the mine.
In a letter to Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Linard and the Queensland Department of Environment (DES), lawyers for Mr Buragubba accused the government of failing to enforce the laws protecting the lands and waters of their traditional homelands from dust and noise. He maintains the rights of his people are protected under the Queensland Human Rights Act.
“For 60,000 years our ancestors have been able to go to that land and get water, and to have ceremony, and to practise their culture, and connect with the land. And then this guy just gets a mining lease and starts mining. He’s been mining there for two years, Mr Burragubba told Yahoo News Australia.
Mr Burragubba said the only place where water is traditionally available in Wangan and Jagalingou lands is the Doongambulla Springs, 11k from the mine.
His concerns that this water could be impacted by the mine have been supported by hydrogeology experts who have expressed concern the mine could pose a “significant threat”.
Authorities considering Burragubba letter
Because regulatory decisions are undertaken independently of Minister Linard, her office directed questions about Mr Burragubba's legal letter to DES.
Responding to questions from Yahoo on Friday, DES issued a statement saying it has a "robust compliance program" and that it takes "appropriate enforcement action when necessary".
"The department is aware of allegations of contraventions of Bravus’ environmental authority relating to noise and dust emissions on its mining lease," it said.
"The department is finalising its consideration of these issues and will respond to correspondence recently received."
Love Australia's weird and wonderful environment? Get our new weekly newsletter showcasing the week’s best stories.