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Issue #1613      October 2, 2013

Fresh stoush looms over Burrup rock art

Traditional owners of Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula are gearing up for a fight with a company proposing to quarry the land underlying the area’s renowned Aboriginal rock carvings. The peninsula in WA’s Pilbara region contains an estimated one million rock carvings, known as petroglyphs, with some dating back to the last ice age.

Traditional owner Wilfred Hicks, left, with senior Elder Tim Douglas. (Photo: Koori Mail)

The peninsula is also at the epicentre of WA’s booming natural gas industry and hosts the giant Karratha Gas Plant, operated by Woodside Petroleum.

Burrup Materials proposes to quarry the underlying rocks to use in building a wharf for Woodside’s Pluto offshore gas project. Burrup traditional owner Wilfred Hicks reacted angrily to yet another move to remove rock carvings.

“We don’t want them rocks moved,” he said. “Those rocks been put there by the ancestors.

“They’re there for the life of our people because that is our Bible.”

Mr Hicks said there were plenty of other suitable quarry sites within an hour’s drive of the peninsula. Burrup Materials owner Kurt Mauritz said he had no intention of destroying rock art.

“Burrup Materials Pty Ltd and its owner hold in high regard the ecological and cultural values of the Burrup Peninsula,” he said. “Burrup Materials Pty Ltd will not submit any proposal that, if approved, would result in the destruction of petroglyphs, nor does the company have an expectation that any application for approval to mine that necessitates the destruction of rock art would be approved.”

Mr Hicks, who is spokesman for Wong-goo-tt-oo senior Elder Tim Douglas, says he was not consulted before the company applied for prospecting licences. Mr Mauritz said no consultation would take place unless he had the prospecting licences.

South Australian-based lawyer Mark Lawrence, who coordinates the Stand Up for the Burrup campaign, said protesters would blockade the site if the project went ahead.

“Supporters of world heritage around Australia are amazed that such an application could be entertained and have said that they are willing to drive to the Burrup and take direct action if necessary,” he said.

WA Greens MP Robin Chapple takes a dim view of the proposal.

“The Burrup has the largest concentration of rock art in the world, and is an extraordinary cultural landscape telling the story of ancient Aboriginal occupation over the past 30,000 years,” he said.

“Hamersley Iron (owned by Rio Tinto) was the former owner of the area now in question, but recently handed the lease back to the state government because of its heritage values, and to ensure that the rock art would never be mined.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Hidden agenda on university cuts confirmed

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