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Federal government rejects bid to halt Perdaman's Burrup fertiliser plant

Giovanni Torre -

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has rejected a call to stop a $4.5 billion fertiliser plant in WA's North West over Aboriginal heritage concerns.

Opponents of the proposed plant applied to the Federal government last month to halt the project, but Ms Plibersek announced on Tuesday she would not prevent the plant from going ahead.

Ms Plibersek said the plan was supported by the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, which she said represented the views of most Traditional Owners in the area, and that the MAC had made agreements with Perdaman on the cultural treatment of the sites at risk.

While the Section 9 application for a temporary halt on works was rejected, a Section 10 application for a long-term declaration on the matter is still under consideration.

Mardudhunera women Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec, who made the emergency application, said Ms Plibersek had not done her homework.

"The minister refers to a handful of sites but the documents provided to her by Perdaman mention up to twenty sites that will be impacted by this proposal," they said.

"The minister suggests the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation is legally constituted to speak for traditional custodians but its own members and elders say they are gagged and cannot oppose or object to projects.

"The minister wrongly suggests that the Murujuga Circle of Elders unanimously approved the Perdaman project but Elders repeatedly expressed opposition to relocating rock art."

National Indigenous Times has contacted the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation for comment.

Ms Plibersek said she had met with all parties affected by her decision in the Pilbara last week.

"After visiting the sites and meeting with stakeholders, I recognise MAC and their Circle of Elders as the most representative organisation on cultural knowledge for the five Traditional Owner groups in the region," she said.

A spokesperson for the West Australian government said Perdaman's plant would diversify Western Australia's economy and create local jobs.

"The project has received all appropriate environmental and heritage approvals in WA, including support from the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation," they said.

"We have backed this project also because it develops our manufacturing capabilities and because of its commitment to working closely with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation."

Federal Greens resources spokesperson Dorinda Cox said moving rock art would destroy it.

"This is Juukan 2.0. We cannot continue to allow projects to go ahead that wreck the climate and destroy cultural heritage," she said.

"Murujuga and the Burrup Peninsula are due for World Heritage listing next year, we need this fast-tracked to protect the ancestral rock art, stories and turtle dreaming, unique to the area."


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   Giovanni Torre   

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