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Concerns continue around federally-funded Kimberley mine project

Giovanni Torre -

More concerns have been raised regarding a Kimberley mine project which Traditional Owners and others say threatens heritage values, will cause environmental harm, and brings no real benefit to the Native Title holders of the site.

The Thunderbird project, operated by Kimberley Mineral Sands, has come under fire over a major diesel spill at the site, the social and environmental impact of the project, and a misleading statement issued by the company claiming the Kimberley Land Council had consented to section 18 approvals for land clearing and other works.

Traditional Owners also raised concerns over the lack of benefit to the Native Title holders of the land on which Thunderbird operates, and protested outside Kimberley Mineral Sands office in Broome recently.

Last month, the company announced its CEO would be stepping down.

On Saturday WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti partially suspended section 18 approvals for the site after Traditional Owners alerted him to a sacred object in the area.

Yansteel, a co-owner of Kimberley Mineral Sands, is a subsidiary of major Chinese company Tangshan Yanshan Iron & Steel Co Ltd.

In late July, WA Senator Jordon Steele-John raised concerns about the security implications of the mine's products potentially being supplied to Chinese government or military recipients.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, which provided funding for the Thunderbird project, told National Indigenous Times it "is aware of the concerns raised by Traditional Owners about the NAIF-financed Kimberley Mineral Sands" Thunderbird project.

"It is the expectation of NAIF that projects we support will have tangible benefits to the local communities and demonstrate an actual contribution to Indigenous engagement outcomes in participation, procurement, and employment. All projects financed by NAIF are required to have an Indigenous Engagement Strategy," a spokesperson said.

"KMS is required to follow all applicable environmental, Aboriginal Heritage and other laws and regulations overseen by the relevant local, state, and federal regulatory authority. We encourage anyone with concerns relating to any environmental and Aboriginal Heritage matters to contact the appropriate regulatory authority.

"In terms of a reported diesel spill on site, NAIF is aware of the reports, and we understand that the proponent is taking the required steps to manage the incident and engage with the community.

"We will continue to engage with KMS, Traditional Owners and the relevant Government departments and agencies to ensure all applicable environmental, Aboriginal Heritage and other laws and regulations are met."

NAIF did not comment on KMS's misleading statement regarding the Kimberley Land Council.

Dr Buti told National Indigenous Times that it is "critically important all land users engage with the relevant Traditional Owners and seek the right approvals for any activities that may impact Aboriginal cultural heritage".

"I understood that an agreement is in place between Kimberley Mineral Sands and the Joombarn-buru Aboriginal Corporation," he said.

"I strongly encourage both parties to collaborate in the spirit of that agreement."

A spokesperson for Rosetta Sahanna MLC, Member for the Mining and Pastoral region, told National Indigenous Times she had met with representatives from Kimberley Mineral Sands "regarding their commitment to engaging with the Joombarn-buru Traditional Owners".

"Ms Sahanna continues to encourage Kimberley Mineral Sands to engage with Traditional Owners and to also continue to inform State Government representatives of their operations and engagement strategies," she said.

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