The nation’s largest miner, BHP, says Indigenous groups should have a greater say over projects endangering significant sites on their ancestral land following Rio Tinto’s destruction of 46,000-year-old rock shelters in Western Australia.
In a submission to a federal inquiry into the blasting of the Juukan Gorge site by rival Rio, BHP said heritage-protection laws covering mining operations in WA’s iron ore-rich Pilbara were weighted too far in favour of resources companies.
BHP said it supported enshrining traditional owner consultation requirements for disturbing land into new state laws, and the introduction of rights for traditional owners to appeal decisions after they are granted.
“Rights of appeal are not balanced,” the miner said. “A land user is able to seek review of a refusal to grant a land-use consent … and can seek a review of a declaration of an Aboriginal site as a protected area. However, the traditional owners do not have the same rights to seek review in the event that they wish to contest these decisions.”
This shortcoming has been raised as a focal point in the aftermath of the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters.