Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) chief executive Benedict Scambary has told the Australian parliamentary inquiry about the concerning impact of Glencore’s expansion at the McArthur River lead-zinc mine in the Northern Territory.
Glencore last year received an approval from the Northern Territory Minister for Mining and Industry Nicole Manison to continue operating at McArthur River.
This includes the permission to redesign its waste rock dump to store rock types that were not previously accounted for, increasing the dump’s height from 80 metres to 140 metres.
Scambary, speaking at the inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction of sacred Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia, said that its growing size would approach an Indigenous sacred site, Barramundi Dreaming, behind the mine.
“By our estimations, the work associated with the waste rock pile will come within 35 metres of the boundary of that site,” Scambary said.
“This year the scale of the mine expansion raises some quite serious questions about the ongoing maintenance and protection of sacred sites on the lease, and also access for custodians to those places into the future.”
Glencore responded to the comments, stating that it had no intention of physically interfering with or damaging any culturally significant sites on its mining lease at McArthur River.
“We take our obligations to protect sacred sites on our mining lease very seriously and we are meeting these obligations,” the company stated.
“MRM will continue to engage with AAPA to ensure we have the necessary approvals for any future mining plans.”
Glencore produced 279,300 tonnes of zinc in concentrates, 54,900 tonnes of lead in concentrates and 1.6 million ounces of silver in concentrates at the McArthur River mine last year.
The mine is around 970 kilometres south-east of Darwin in the Gulf of Carpentaria.