Friday 2 August 2013

Mining company fined for desecrating sacred site in Australia's Northern Territory.

The mining company OM Manganese, a subsidiary of OM Holdings, has been fined $150 000 for damaging a site sacred to the Kunapa people of Australia's Northern Territory by magistrates in Darwin. The site, known as Two Women Sitting Down, which sat on an outcrop less than 10 m from the mine pit, was damaged by blasting at the Bootu Creek Manganese Mine on 21 July 2011, which caused part of the outcrop to collapse into the pit. 

The Two Women Sitting Down sacred site at Bootu Creek, before and after blasting in July 2011. Top image The Australian. Bottom image Treaty Republic.

The case was brought by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, which alleged that OM Manganese had been appraised of all sacred sites close to its operations and had agreed limits to its operations with representatives of the local community, but that it had later altered these boundaries unilaterally without any further consultation, a direct breach of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act, and that furthermore the company had failed to carry out proper geotechnical assessments prior to commencing blasting, a measure that might have averted the damage.

OM Manganese pleaded guilty to damaging the site but not guilty to desecration. The magistrates found the company guilty on both counts, fining it $120 000 of a possible $130 000 for the act of desecration and $30 000 of a potential $270 000 for the damage; a low fine was levied for damaging the site as the company pleaded guilty on this count.

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