“We will continue to resist Adani’s coal mine, practice our culture, and assert our human rights as the First Nations people of this country. We are not going away: this is our land and we have Human Rights,” Adrian Burragubba, Senior Elder and spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou Nagana Yarrbayn Cultural Custodians, said on December 29.
Wangan and Jagalingou people have been conducting the cultural ceremony Waddananggu for more than 120 days on their country, where Adani has been given a mining lease.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou Cultural Custodians assert that we are the original ethnic people, currently in occupation of land on Moray Downs leasehold area, manifesting our cultural and religious practices protected under the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019,” Burragubba said.
“The Indigenous Land Use Agreement, that Adani purports to have, became invalid this week by way of the Federal Court ruling removing the Native Title Party’s ability to approve the mining project.
“Without the approval from the Original Custodians, Adani is in violation of International Human Rights by segregating our people.”
Burragubba said Adani’s draining of groundwater threatens to dry up the Doongmabulla Springs, “a site that has sustained our people and all life in our country for millennia”.
The Traditional Owners wrote to Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon about Adani’s breaches relating to water on the mine site, but she has refused to investigate.
“We need a full investigation into Adani’s extraction and management of water on the Carmichael mine site," Burragubba said. "Adani must tell us where it plans to get the vast quantities of water for the Carmichael mine, and what impacts this will have on sacred sites like the Doongmabulla Springs.”
Burragubba criticised Adani for bulldozing and blowing up a site this month containing the highest concentration of artifacts ever found on Adani’s vast mining lease.
“The site was an ancient stone tool making area that our people utilised for thousands of years. Every day that Adani keeps digging this mine, it is destroying thousands of years of our old people’s history without our consent. This cannot continue and is why we continue to resist and assert our human and cultural rights to defend our country.”
Just six weeks after the Glasgow United Nations climate summit (COP26), where the world agreed to phase down coal, Australia is allowing the world’s biggest new coal basin, the Galilee Basin in Queensland, to open.
The first exports of coal from the Carmichael mine are “being assembled” at Adani’s coal port in Bowen, the North Queensland Export Terminal.
Adani wants the mine to be Australia’s biggest, but has faced 10 years of opposition from Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners as well as climate campaigners.
Joseph Sikulu, 350.org Pacific coordinator, who attended COP26, said the Adani mine and governments “are throwing a wrecking ball at global efforts to protect the Pacific from the impacts of climate change”.
“We cannot afford for Adani’s mine to expand to 60 million tonnes per year. We will fight to keep every single tonne of coal in the ground where it belongs.”
Julien Vincent, executive director of Market Forces, said that, given the climate emergency, keeping every tonne of coal in the ground counts. “We’re so close to denying Adani a critical source of finance it needs to be able to keep running the Carmichael mine: insurance. More than 100 companies have walked away from this disastrous project so far. If we keep pushing, we can stop it, permanently.”
Great Barrier Reef campaign manager at the Australian Marine Conservation Society Dr Lissa Schindler said the first coal transport shows how little Adani and the federal government care about the UN global agreement to phase down coal to tackle the climate crisis.
“The science shows every fraction of a degree of warming we avoid helps our reef, the livelihoods of those in the tourism industry, and the marine wildlife that depend on a healthy reef.”
Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland Professor John Quiggin said the fight to stop Adani’s Carmichael mine “is part of a larger struggle” to prevent the extraction of the massive coal deposits under the Galilee Basin. “If fully extracted, the 27 billion tonnes of coal in the Basin would generate several years’ worth of emissions for the entire world".
He said although Adani has begun to export coal, the broader struggle has had some big successes. “Adani has had to scale its project back because no bank in the world is willing to finance it because of concerns about climate change.
“Other coal projects in the Galilee Basin have been abandoned or put on hold. With the end of most financing for new coal mines and coal-fired power stations, it seems unlikely that any of these will proceed.”
However, Quiggin said big threats remain as Adani has not abandoned expanding its mine to extract its approved volume of 60 million tonnes of coal a year.