Groote Resources faces legal action over Aboriginal land

Date of publication: 
8 November 2010

Darwin – ABORIGINAL traditional owners are planning legal action to stop the West Australian-based explorer Groote Resources exploring and mining undersea for manganese near Groote Eylandt, off Arnhem Land.

Tony Wurramarrba, the chairman of the Anindilyakwa Land Council, which represents Aborigines in the area, said yesterday there was “complete opposition by everyone who has a traditional relationship with this country to any proposal to mine the seas around Groote Eylandt”.

Groote Resources, the former sleepy uranium explorer Western Uranium, has moved to gatecrash BHP Billiton’s stranglehold on highly profitable manganese mining on Groote Eylandt, 630 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

Manganese is a key raw material used in steel.

The land council last week sent a letter to the Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, calling on the government to block Groote Resources’ proposal which they said were the responsibility of traditional owners.

“Any thought that the seabeds could be disturbed by a mining company is frightening and the impact on culture would be devastating,” the council told Mr Henderson.

“In addition to its impact on culture, we cannot understand how your government could envisage that the environmental impact of open-cut mining on the sea floor could be justified.

“It would totally destroy the habitat including pristine coral reefs, seagrass beds and fish habitat.”

The traditional owners decided to take legal action against Groote Resources after it cancelled a meeting with them on October 28.

The Groote Resources executive director, Simon Noon, told the council in a letter dated October 26 the company had appointed two consultants on environmental, cultural and community issues, and proposed a meeting later this month.

“I advise that Groote Resources wishes to engage with and understand the views and concerns of traditional owners prior to finalising its decision making in relation to exploration activities,” Mr Noon said.

The NT Resources Minister, Kon Vatskalis, told the traditional owners earlier this month the issuing of an exploration licence to Groote Resources would not necessarily result in mining activity.

“No explorations that cause a substantial disturbance are authorised until appropriate cultural and environmental considerations are assessed and addressed,” he said.

The Northern Land Council lashed out at Groote Resources in August, warning in a statement that there was “no place for cowboys” in Arnhem Land.