Aborigines support NT seabed mining; want ban scrapped

An Indigenous group from Arnhem Land has approached Northern Manganese to explore the seabed for minerals and metals.

An Indigenous group from Arnhem Land has approached Northern Manganese to explore the seabed for minerals and metals.

The miner has signed an agreement with the Baniyala Group in the Northern Territory to explore the Gulf of Carpentaria for minerals, according to the ABC.

It comes after the miner faced serious opposition to its seabed exploration from an Indigenous group on Groote Eylandt, which neighbours the Baniyala Group.

Earlier this year there was a spike in the number of applications for seabed mining and exploration, and the Northern Land Council met with the traditional land owners of Groote Eylandt to learn of their worries over seabed mining.

The land owners, the Anindilyakwa Land Council, said operations between the island and mainland threaten sacred sites, with NLC head Kim Hill adding that there is a lack of research regarding the method.

"It is an international concern and it is a concern for all Australians," Hill stated.

"Importantly, it is a concern for traditional owners."

The two groups formed a confederation to stop Northern Manganese's proposal.

NLC chairman Wali Wunungmurra explained that it was critical the groups band together.

"Cultural integrity is paramount to both land councils and protecting the songlines, dreamings and traditional values of our TOs (traditional owners) will always come before anything else," Wunungmurra said.

Seabed mining is a contentious issue, and has seen issues arise over its potential impact on the environment and of sovereignty regarding ownership of seabed minerals.

Following the initial opposition to seabed mining, the Northern Territory Government banned all seabed mining until at least 2015.

The moratorium now means that any applications for seabed mining will not be granted for another three years, during which an assessment on the impact of underwater mining will be carried out.

Despite this Northern has still managed to sign a co-operation agreement with the indigenous group.

"If by working together Northern and (the group) can overcome the Moratorium then Northern will seek to negotiate with the Northern Land Council access to Aboriginal land and land and water the subject of native title rights and interests," the miner stated.

Northern's managing director Lloyd Jones said "it was important to recognise the significance offered by this community group in terms of working together to start a project from the ground up with ongoing community engagement".

Jones told the ABC: "Just so you understand, I didn't have to chase these people they actually came to us, knocked on the front door, phone calls, so I was pretty surprised and quite frankly I'm pretty pleased to be working with them."


Image: Natulius Minerals

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