Mine fire threatening Aboriginal heritage sites

Indigenous groups say backburning operations at ERA’s Ranger mine are at risk of torching ancient rock art sites.

Ranger began backburning operations, which it said it had permission to carry out, as part of a weed management process, the ABC reports.

It is understood that there was no fire ban in place when the burn-off began, and normal wind conditions. 

However an hour into the burn the wind picked up speed from 16km per hour, tripling to 54 kilometres an hour and swiftly changing direction from east-south-east to north-west.

The sudden gusts reignited embers onthe west side of the burn area, carrying them over containment lines and outside of the mine area.

According to Parks Australia the controlled backburning operation escaped the site and entered the adjacent national park on Thursday, and has continued burning since then. Gunjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) chief Justin O’Brien said the fire is now threatening major cultural sites.

"We're talking hundreds of galleries and thousands of images probably," O”Brien told the ABC.

"This is also one of the most important cultural sites within the region. It's quite serious."

A spokesperson added: “Mirarr traditional owners are angry that this has been allowed to happen on their lands."

"ERA's failure to contain this fire demonstrates that nature does not discriminate between a uranium mining lease and a world heritage listed national park.”

GAC stated that the fire had been lit too late in the season.

An ERA spokesperson has stated that it is holding an investigation into the fire, although there has been no word as yet on the progress of the investigation.

However "ERA is currently committed to funding aerial water bombing operations to extinguish the fire," an ERA spokesperson told Australian Mining.


Image: ABC

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