Traditional Owners and an environmental group are taking the NT Government to the Supreme Court over McArthur River Mine.
The action concerns the government’s decision to slash the environmental bond for the Glencore-owned zinc operation by almost $120 million.
The Environmental Defenders Office, which will act on their behalf, said Borroloola residents Jack Green and Josephine Davey Green had filed judicial review proceedings challenging the November 2020 decision.
They are joined in the litigation by the Environment Centre NT.
Environment Centre NT co-director Kirsty Howey said the Supreme Court action was about ensuring the Territory had enough money to rehabilitate the region after mining ceased in 2038.
“The public has a right to know how Glencore expects to clean up after themselves and manage the 1000-year toxic legacy this mine will leave behind,” Ms Howey said.
“The regulation of this mine is a national scandal. The risks are escalating every year, and the mine and the Northern Territory Government simply can’t keep pace with what’s unfolding.”
Reducing bond ‘doesn’t make any sense’
Mr Green, a Garawa elder and Traditional Owner, said the original $520 million bond was already insufficient to protect the McArthur River and the local area from the impact of the mine, and the decision to reduce it “doesn’t make any sense”.
“We don’t trust the mine to clean up the mess properly. We need the bond to protect the river and our country if something goes wrong,” he said.
The announcement of the court action comes just days the release of a report, compiled by UNSW Sydney’s Global Water Institute and the Environmental Centre of the NT, slamming the mine’s environmental record.
In response to that release, Glencore said McArthur River Mine was committed to operating a safe, responsible and environmentally sustainable mining operation.
“Our current Mining Management Plan was approved after an extensive environmental approval process, with the independent Environment Protection Authority finding that the McArthur River is healthy, water quality is good and fish are safe to eat,” a company spokeswoman said.
“We operate under stringent conditions set down through Northern Territory and Federal legislation as well as conditions of Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority certificates, designed to protect sacred sites.
“Our operations are further subject to oversight by the Independent Monitor. “