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Issue #1711      November 18, 2015

Yawuru man battles coal seam gas

Yawuru man Micklo Corpus has been camping at Yulleroo, 70 kilometres east of Broome in the Kimberley, for 18 months, trying to stop coal seam gas mining on his country. Two weeks back, when he blocked Buru Energy trucks by sitting on the road, police issued Mr Corpus with a move-on notice.

Mr Corpus told the Koori Mail that he and other Yawuru people had grave concerns about the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – in which a mix of toxic chemicals is blasted into a coal seam to release gas.

“Last year the Yawuru had a meeting and 96 percent of our people out of 152 voted against fracking,” he said.

“But we also said if Buru wants to frack they should come and talk with us.”

Mr Corpus said he had received a letter from the WA government, telling him that he has to leave because he is camped on a stock route. The Yawuru people are currently considering filing a native-title claim over the stock route.

“There’s a dispute. Yawuru haven’t made any agreement on how to use the route. We’re sure it doesn’t extinguish our native title rights and I’m sure our native title rights are being suppressed,” he said.

The Yawuru people had their native title recognised over the area in 2006, but it doesn’t give the traditional owners the right to say “no” to mining on their land.

“The Government has a gun to our heads and is telling us we can’t say no. My response is that this is my country, we can say no, we can say yes, but we’ll do it without a gun held to our heads,” he said.

Mr Corpus said he had spoken with native title lawyers, who told him there is no veto to mining for native title holders under Australian law.

But he points out that Yawuru law predates Australian law by thousands of years and he doesn’t see why looking after country is trumped by mining interests.

“Responsibility”

“It’s the White man’s way and I understand that, but I don’t agree with it,” he said. “I am a traditional owner. This is my country. I have the right and responsibility under traditional law to look after my country.

“Under the Native Title Act we have the right to negotiate for an interest in what’s under the ground in our land. But we should be able to say no, and control that gate. We should be able to say who should come in and when. And if there is a catastrophic event, we should be able to lock that gate.

“The government gave approval to Buru, saying that there would be little impact on our country. But tampering with our water should be zero tolerance.

“It’s not our place as cultural people to pass on dirty water to our children. We were given clean water and we need to pass that on.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Sweet outcome

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