The Queensland government has extinguished native title over 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the proposed Adani coal mine in the Australian state’s Galilee Basin without any public announcement of the decision.
The decision could see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands.
Wangan and Jagalingou Council leader Adrian Burragubba, and a group of Aboriginal representatives, had been calling on the government to rule out transferring their land, arguing that they had never given their consent for Adani to occupy it.
In a meeting with government officials on Friday, seeking a halt on leases being issued for mine infrastructure, they learned that the state government had instead granted Adani exclusive possession freehold title over large swathes of the land on Thursday, including the area currently occupied for ceremonial purposes.
“We have been made trespassers on our own country,” Burragubba said. “Our ceremonial grounds, in place for a time of mourning for our lands as Adani begins its destructive processes, are now controlled by billionaire miner Adani.”
“With insider knowledge that the deal was already done, Adani had engaged Queensland police and threatened us with trespass,” he said.
To mine any land under a native title claim, a miner needs an indigenous land use agreement, essentially a contract that allows the state to extinguish native title.
Adani has an agreement over the land: five of the 12 native claimants have opposed it, but have lost successive legal challenges in court to prevent it. Seven of the native title claimants support the Adani mine.
Burragubba and a group of supporters set up camp on the land ahead of its legal transfer to Adani.
He said they will refuse to leave.
He said a notice received by the council said that the land “is to be handed over to Adani on 3 August 2019.”
The notice also says that “Adani will request the assistance of police to remove Mr Burragubba and his supporters from the camp.”
Burragubba said that his group would not abandon their protest nor quit their land.
“We will never consent to these decisions and will maintain our defense of country,” he said. “We will be on our homelands to care for our lands and waters, hold ceremonies and uphold the ancient, abiding law of the land.”
In a statement, Adani said it had worked closely with the traditional owners of the proposed mine’s site since 2011 “to ensure the customs and wishes of Indigenous people are respected and supported.”
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