BHP puts heritage land approvals on hold

The South Flank site. Image: BHP

BHP will continue to consult Traditional Owners before starting mining activities at locations that have been approved by the Western Australia’s Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.

They have been approved under Section 18 of the Western Australian Government’s Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, which allows impacts being made to land that holds cultural heritage sites.

According to BHP, these approvals “do not include any of the exclusion zones called for by Traditional Owners”.

BHP hopes that starting with further consultation is a step to enhance its commitment to cultural heritage management.

“We recognise that what was lost at Juukan Gorge is not only the loss of a site of deep and unique living cultural heritage, but also a loss of trust, not just for the company involved, but with impacts for the entire resource industry,” BHP stated.

“BHP will not act on existing section 18 approvals from the WA Government without further extensive consultation with the Traditional Owners.

“In the case of the South Flank project, BHP and Banjima have set up a Heritage Advisory Council and will speak to other Traditional Owners to understand the best approach for them.”

BHP also denied any intention to limit the freedom of expression through its agreements with Traditional Owners.

“BHP has confirmed to Traditional Owners that it does not regard any term of its agreements with them as preventing them from making public statements about cultural heritage concerns,” the company stated.

“If any provision in BHP’s agreements can be regarded as having this effect, then BHP will not enforce that clause.”

As part of its consultation with Traditional Owners, the company will continue to factor new information into decisions relating to its land and land use, regardless of any government approvals that may permit it to operate.

“BHP confirmed with Traditional Owners, that if BHP becomes aware of new information that materially changes the significance of a heritage site, it will not undertake any activity that would disturb that site without agreement with the Traditional Owners,” BHP stated.

These announcements follow the demands of BHP shareholders to discuss the company’s cultural heritage protection at its annual general meeting in October.

BHP shareholders recommended that the company adopt an annually reviewed moratorium on undertaking activities that would disturb or impact cultural heritage sites in Australia; a commitment to non-enforcement of any provisions that prevent Traditional Owners from speaking publicly about cultural heritage; and disclose its expectations regarding lobbying on cultural heritage issues by industry associations it is a member of.

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