After the Northern Territory passed the world’s first law protecting indigenous sacred sites, communities started creating Indigenous Protected Areas to safeguard land, tradition, and the rights of future generations. But mining companies continue to win out over Aboriginal claims.
The foreign-owned Xstrata Corporation feeds Asia’s growing demand for zinc and lead. The government approved a massive open pit mine in the floodplain of the winding McArthur River, but the river was in the way. Xstrata’s solution? Move the McArthur River.
The river is sacred to native people as a pathway created during the Dreamtime by the Rainbow Serpent, a powerful spirit that enforces traditional law. Aboriginal people protested, prayed, and successfully sued to stop the company—only to have legislation overturn their victory.
With both government permission and subsidies, Xstrata diverted the river to make way for the vast mine. A narrow wall separates the unnatural turquoise color of the tailings waste ponds from the diverted river. Floods during tropical monsoons are a huge concern to downstream communities, already disturbed by fish kills, dying mangroves and warnings from scientists to limit consumption of seafood.
NAILSMA takes a connected and strategic approach to the management of lands and seas in northern Australia. It combines the strengths of Indigenous knowledge with contemporary science to produce cultural, environmental and economic benefits for Indigenous people.