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FMG Damaging Sacred Sites


MARK COLVIN: An Indigenous group from the Pilbara has gone to Canberra with its claim that the Fortescue Metals Group is destroying sacred sites. The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation says Andrew Forrest’s ore company has desecrated an ochre quarry and destroyed part of a creek where stones are gathered for initiation ceremonies.
It’s called on the Federal Environment Minister to invoke emergency powers and protect sacred sites. The mining company has rejected the Aboriginal corporation’s claims, and described them as “offensive”.
David Weber reports.
DAVID WEBER: The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation says it wants the Federal Environment Minister to protect what it calls “living heritage”. The corporation’s chief executive, Michael Woodley says the creek where sacred stones are found is important to maintaining culture.
MICHAEL WOODLEY: This particular area that sits on Yindjibarndi country, relates to the ceremony that we practice back home. If we don’t protect these sites and no one in this house cares to help us, then we can see our heritage wiped from the face of this earth forever.
DAVID WEBER: In a statement, the Environment Minister Tony Burke has said the application needs to go through a process under law. Mr Burke also says it will take some time to consider the matters raised and he’s offered a similar meeting with Fortescue.
But Michael Woodley says time is running out.
MICHAEL WOODLEY: We told him we would like to have a timeline in terms of when he would get back to us. We did raise that issue to him and said look it’s very concerning to us that while you sit on it and go through this process, that might take anywhere from four to five weeks, there are heritage being destroyed as we speak.
DAVID WEBER: An archaeologist contracted by FMG has claimed that she was pressured to alter surveys and reports. The company has said it only called for the correction of unqualified commentary, and in any case, both the original and new reports were submitted to the Department of Indigenous Affairs. The company has said it would cooperate with any investigation.
Michael Woodley says he spoke about the broader issue with Mr Burke today.
MICHAEL WOODLEY: We’ve touched on the overall situation that there are concerns from archaeologists and anthropologists in submitting reports, that some of them lacked the proper details for the ACMC (Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee) or the Department of Indigenous Affairs to make a proper decision about the sites.

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Serious questions for FMG

Mining mogul Twiggy Forrest and the Fortescue Metals Group are no strangers to issues Indigenous. Whether fighting native title battles to build mines in the nation’s west, to promoting the employment of Indigenous people Twiggy has always had a lot to say.

“I know that Aboriginal people have every bit the ability any of us in this room have, and I know for sure they work as hard and when they come on board and join your company they will add value to your business,” Mr Forrest said in 2010

Earning Billions, Paying Peanuts and still complaining!

With companies who deal in Billions of dollars adding value is both in finding cheap resources that can be sold at inflated prices in the International market and by finding bargain basement labour that can dig it out of the ground for you. In the Indigenous community FMG has now found both. Buying resources from traditional land owners for peanuts (because any more would be welfare) and then selling them on for billions. Now today the ABC reports that FMG have found the answer to the labour side of the equation. Why pay people a few hundred thousand a year to fly in and fly out of your mine site when you can pay Indigenous “trainees” 50 bux and a day, not provide them accommodation or the ability to fly home.

Maybe the ABC has it wrong, maybe the workers denied a chance to speak on camera by their supervisor would give a glowing report of FMG, working in the mines on the cheap and sleeping rough. Or maybe they weren’t allowed to speak because their answers would be something we don’t want to hear? That there are Aboriginal men, working hard in the mines, trying to further their education and in return being paid much much less than their white counter parts.

Whatever the case, the WA and Federal Government must get to the bottom of it. And in the context of great pushes by mining companies such as FMG to grab traditional lands for their own benefit this must be done now!

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