Aboriginal Involvement in New Mining Ventures

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 4
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1993
When a major mineral find has been announced the general perception is that a battle between Aborigines and the mining company involved will inevitably occur.It is a fact that many miners in the past have not had a good relationship with Aborigines because of their indifferent attitudes towards them. They saw no common future and went their particular way. However, attitudes have changed significantly since Noonkanbah and both miners and Aborigines are seeking common ground in order to achieve mutual benefits from the establishment of a mine on or near Aboriginal land. There are many obstacles that both miners and Aborigines need to overcome inordertofindthiscommongroundtoachieveawin/win situation. The obstacles can be found in entrenched ideas and practices which need overhauling, not the least of which emanate from government policy and requirements.Without going into specifics, the Noonkanbah incident during the 1970's where Aborigines and their supporters confronted miners who were ordered by the Western Australian governmentto drill on Aboriginal land, polarized Aborigines and miners. Since this incident, many Aborigines, particularly those in the cities, have had the attitude that mining and Aboriginal culture are in direct conflict. Aboriginal opinion is generally shaped in the larger cities through mass media coverage of the opinions of urban Aborigines and their supporters. Through no fault of their own, these Aborigines were removedfromthe land of their ancestors and have notlived atraditional Aboriginal life-style for a number of generations and most have little knowledge of, nor have had involvement in, traditional Aboriginal lore and culture. For the most part these people live in awestern life-style and few still know their language. They generally have high profiles, often giving viewpoints that are wrongly considered "Aboriginal" and supposedly representing all Aborigines. This group is very different with their thought processes and values from those Aborigines who live on their own traditional lands with a traditional life-style, and practise their age old ceremonies. Their tribal values are based in their relationship with the land, expressed through complex religious ceremonial rites of song, dance and legend. Today this group is very much diminished in numbers but nevertheless in the region of the Gulf of Carpentaria there is a high proportion ofpeople who practise their lore, speak their own languages and pass on traditions to their children. It is well documented in the history of Australia that Aborigines have been decimated in numbers and whole tribes have been wiped out. Certainly in this region the experience has been no different.
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