WHEN WE SAY NO, WE MEAN NO: Wangan & Jagalingou People fight mega-mine to protect land and culture

By Natalie Lowrey. 22/07/2016

In late 2014 the Wangan & Jagalingou People, the Traditional Owners and Native Title Applicants of a vast area of land in the Galilee Basin in central-western Queensland, Australia, came together to say no to Indian mining giant Adani’s proposed Carmichael Coal Mine. Concerned about the irreparable damage the mega-mine will cause to their people, culture, ancestral lands, and the environment the Wangan & Jagalingou refuse to consent to the development despite Australian legislation, state and national governments and a large corporation being stacked against them.

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(Overlooking the Oasis Doongmabulla Springs, Wangan and Jagalingou country. Source: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/gallery)

 “If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land. The scale of this mine means it would have devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage. It would pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate important springs systems. It would potentially wipe out threatened and endangered species. It would literally leave a huge black hole, monumental in proportions, where there were once our homelands. These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.”

– Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners Statement[1]

With the support of the Queensland Government the original proposal for Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine was set to extract 60 million tonnes of coal per annum for 150 years. The project was subsequently reduced to a 60-year lifetime with an estimated total production of 2.3 billion tonnes of thermal coal making the proposed coal mine one of the largest in the world. Exports from the mine, if it were to go ahead, would be via a new export terminal at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Furthermore, the mining and burning of this amount of coal would generate and estimated 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.[2]

In March 2015, the Wangan and Jagalingou People formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) proposed by Adani for the granting of the lease for the Carmichael Coal mega-mine. Further to the formal rejection the Wangan and Jagalingou People presented the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament with a Defence of Country Declaration stating that their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), endorsed by Australian in 2009, were not being recognised or enforced, particularly their right to free, prior and informed consent to any major action that affects them. In response, Adani applied to the National Native Title Tribunal for determination of a granting of the mining lease under the Native Title Act (1993). On 8 April 2015 the Tribunal determined that the mine could proceed. This highlighted the ongoing failure of Native Title processes in protecting Traditional Owners right to veto and say NO to the wholesale destruction of their land and culture, instead favouring the Australian settler colonial ideology that mining is in the ‘national interest’.

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(Wangan & Jagalingou Spokesperson and Traditional Owner, Murrawah Maroochy handing over the Wangan & Jagalingou Defence of Country Declaration to Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, Peter Wellington outside Queensland Parliament in March, 2015. Source: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/gallery)

“We could lose our identity. We’re going to make every effort to stop this mining company from destroying our land … We don’t need this coal. We don’t need them. We need them to leave our land alone. We need to protect that land.”

– Adrian Burragubba, Wangan & Jagalingou Spokesperson & Traditional Owner[3]

Not deterred, the Wangan & Jagalingou appealed the determination and are legally challenging the Native Title regime in Australia for failing to protect Traditional Owners’ right to withhold consent. With the Australian and Queensland governments failure to protect and respect their rights to maintain and strengthen their spiritual relationship with their ancestral lands, the Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners have escalated a multi-pronged campaign to fight for country, taking it to parliament, the media, and internationally.

In July 2015 Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners took their message to the board rooms of the worlds biggest banks to tell them that they do not consent to Adani’s mine on their lands. Twelve major banks have now ruled out investing in the Carmichael Coal mine and all or part of the Galilee coal supply chain. This was followed in October with a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, regarding Australia’s failure to protect the Wangan and Jagalingou People’s rights to culture from the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine.

“The Wangan and Jagalongou of the Galilee Basin are prepared to fight this to the end and take it to the highest court possible. We have not given our consent. We will not give our consent. We will continue to fight this to the end”

– Murrawah Maroochy, Wangan & Jagalingou Spokesperson & Traditional[4]

Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners know that the impacts of such a large scale extractive project would not just impact their lands, waters and culture but those of neighbouring Traditional Owners, other landholders in the region and have impacts globally as Adani’s Carmichael Coal mine would unleash masses amounts of carbon into the atmosphere fueling further global warming and climate change. Connecting their struggles with First Nations peoples in North America who are fighting to protect land and culture the Wangan & Jagalingou People’s fight is growing in Australia and internationally. By standing firmly against predatory mining their knowledge, agency and resistance exposes the profound need to move away from an extractive economy and towards alternatives to the ‘development’ and ‘progress’ paradigm. Alternatives that protect biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples knowledge of caring and living with the land, something the Wangan & Jagalingou People have done for tens of thousands of years.

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(Adrian Burragubba (centre) and Murrawah Maroochy (third from left) with other Wangan & Jagalingou Traditional Owners protesting against the proposed mine outside Queensland Parliament in March, 2015. Source: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/gallery)

“If the State and Adani want their leases to take effect, they will have to forcefully take our rights away in the full view of the world. Will will not consent. We will stand strong together. When we say no we mean no”.

– Adrian Burragubba, Wangan & Jagalingou Spokesperson & Traditional Owner[5]



Natalie Lowrey has been campaigning against large-scale mining and impacts on Indigenous and local communities in Australia and internationally for over a decade. She is currently working for the Deep Sea Mining campaign

This blog was created to celebrate the Global Day Against Mega Mining, July 22nd 2016.




CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/

CAMPAIGN VIDEOS: Adani – No still means no | Stop Adani Destroying Our Land and Culture | Wangan and Jagalingou World Banks Tour June

PETITION:  Stop Adani Destroying Our Land and Culture




[1] ‘Stop Adani destroying our land and culture, Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners statement, http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/our-fight/

[2] Joint Report to the Land Court of Queensland on “Climate Change – Emissions”, Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani) v Land Services of Coast and Country Inc & Ors, 22nd December 2014, http://envlaw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/carmichael14.pdf

[3] ‘Adani – No still means no’, Wangan & Jagalingou Family Council campaign video, 20 March 2016, http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/video-no-means-no/

[4] Wangan & Jagalingou Family Council facebook page video post , 1 July 2015, https://www.facebook.com/WanganandJagalingou/videos/1129432533738589/

[5] ‘Traditional Owners take legal action on Adani’s Carmichael leases’, Media Release, 13 April 2016, http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/challenge/


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