Traditional Owners take Qld gov’t to court over Adani’s coal mine

February 22, 2024
Traditional Owners outside court
Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodian's outside the Queensland Supreme Court. Photo: Wangan and Jagalingou — Standing Our Ground/Facebook

Adrian Burragubba, Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodian, has filed a case against the Queensland government in the Supreme Court to prevent the destruction of the Doongmabulla Springs. 

Burragubba said Traditional Owners have “identified threats of serious environmental harm to the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, the site of immense spiritual, cultural, and environmental value for us”.

“Our connection to Country depends on the conservation, maintenance, and protection of this significant sacred site.”

The W&J Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodians asked Queensland's Supreme Court to intervene after the government refused to suspend operations at the Adani/Bravus Carmichael coal mine.

They are arguing that the decision is inconsistent with the state’s Human Rights Act, which recognises the right of Indigenous people to  "conserve and protect the environment and productive capacity of their land, territories (and waters)".

The case will set an important precedent for human rights in Queensland.

W&J Cultural Custodians are using the same legal team that successfully fought Clive Palmer's Waratah coal mine proposal on human rights grounds.

“The W&J Cultural Custodians will seek an order from the Supreme Court to force the Government to protect Doongmabulla, safeguard cultural heritage and defend human rights,” a statement said.

W&J commissioned independent reports from Griffith University's head of civil and environmental engineering, Professor Matthew Currell, and Flinders University Professor Adrian Werner. 

They found that the Doongmabulla Springs are already contaminated with hydrocarbons from coal extraction and have undergone a subsequent decline in water volume.

Data from Adani/Bravus showed "hundreds of instances" where water quality or groundwater levels declined at a rate above approved thresholds after mining began at the site in 2020, the ABC reported.

A key condition of the project’s approval was that spring water levels not drop by more than 20 centimetres. Another condition was that water pollution must be prevented.

“The evidence shows that Adani is consistently breaching its environmental conditions without any effective regulatory intervention by the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation,” a statement said. 

"The mine is having an impact … it's an emergency that the government should do something about, placing an environmental protection order on the open-cut mine to find out where these contaminants are coming from," Burragubba told the ABC.

W&J wrote to Queensland environment minister Leanne Linard in November asking her to "urgently" halt mining until she was "satisfied with sufficient scientific certainty" that it posed no threat to the springs. Her department accepted the springs had "spiritual significance" but denied the environmental impacts.

“This is forced assimilation by the Government, which allows mining companies to hold sway over our lands and waters and is harmful to all humanity. We are the Traditional Knowledge holders exercising our cultural expression and practising the laws and customs of our Ancestors to protect the water dreaming of the Doongmabulla Springs.”


Traditional Owners at Doongmabulla Springs
Traditional Owners holding a ceremony at the sacred Doongmabull Springs. Photo: Wangan and Jagalingou — Standing Our Ground/Facebook

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