Ancient Sites, Sacred Snake Raise Risks for Australian Resources – by James Thornhill (Bloomberg News – July 29, 2021)

(Bloomberg) — Sacred sites, endangered sawfish and mythical rainbow serpents are the latest challenges confronting commodities powerhouse Australia as the nation’s top mining companies meet for their biggest annual conference.

Since the destruction last year by Rio Tinto Group of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelter at Juukan Gorge, the industry has been scrambling to deal with a backlash over heritage protection and environmental issues.

A national enquiry into the incident and new laws being drafted by the Western Australia government could have an impact on some A$18 billion ($13 billion) in projects planned by mining giants operating in the Pilbara, the nation’s iron-ore heartland, as well as other resources projects.

The industry, which gathers on Monday for the three-day Diggers and Dealers conference on the edge of a huge gold mine in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, is already facing the threat of increasing restrictions on emissions, as well as a political spat with China, its biggest buyer.

Now, Aboriginal communities are fighting for a stronger role to protect their culture from resources extraction and agriculture.

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