Back­ing for $300m Au­rukun port plan

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GEOFF CHAM­BERS

Cape York in­dige­nous lead­ers are back­ing a $300m Au­rukun port pro­posal — a multi-in­dus­try fa­cil­ity for bulk ore and live ex­ports — and have called on gov­ern­ments to lift the “black shadow” from the north Queens­land com­mu­nity af­ter years of “un­de­liv­ered promises”.

Pri­vate re­source com­pany Au­rum Pa­cific has launched a scop­ing study into the port de­vel­op­ment af­ter se­cur­ing an in­dige­nous land-us­age agree­ment with the Ngan Aak-Kunch Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion and Cape York Land Council.

The Bris­bane-based firm, which has in­ter­ests in lo­cal and over­seas mines, in­clud­ing baux­ite op­er­a­tions in the Solomon Is­lands, has been backed by Cape York lead­ers in­clud­ing NAK chair Bar­bara Bandi­cootcha, CYLC chair Richie Ah Mat and Noel Pear­son.

A key el­e­ment of the agree­ment struck with in­dige­nous groups, which in­cludes ex­clu­sive baux­ite min­ing rights un­der the ILUA, was a com­mit­ment to in­ject up to $50m an­nu­ally into the Au­rukun com­mu­nity.

Au­rum Pa­cific manag­ing di­rec­tor Scott Dodd said the site was unique. “We be­lieve Au­rukun is one of the last re­main­ing sites of its kind for baux­ite ex­trac­tion in Aus­tralia,” he said.

Cape York in­dige­nous lead­ers are back­ing a $300m Au­rukun port pro­posal — a multi-in­dus­try fa­cil­ity for bulk ore and live ex­ports — and have called on gov­ern­ments to lift the “black shadow” from the north Queens­land com­mu­nity af­ter years of “un­de­liv­ered promises”.

Pri­vate re­source com­pany Au­rum Pa­cific has launched a scop­ing study into the port de­vel­op­ment, which would be ca­pa­ble of han­dling 12 mil­lion tonnes of baux­ite a year, af­ter se­cur­ing an in­dige­nous land-us­age agree­ment with the Ngan Aak-Kunch Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion and Cape York Land Council.

The Bris­bane-based firm, which has in­ter­ests in lo­cal and over­seas mines, in­clud­ing baux­ite op­er­a­tions in the Solomon Is­lands, has been backed by Cape York lead­ers in­clud­ing NAK chair Bar­bara Bandi­cootcha, CYLC chair Richie Ah Mat and Noel Pear­son.

A key el­e­ment of the agree­ment struck with in­dige­nous groups, which in­cludes ex­clu­sive baux­ite min­ing rights un­der the ILUA, was a com­mit­ment to in­ject up to $50m an­nu­ally into the Au­rukun com­mu­nity.

Au­rum Pa­cific manag­ing di­rec­tor Scott Dodd said the Au­rukun site was unique as it had a “large sup­ply of high-qual­ity baux­ite right near deep­wa­ter ac­cess that is ready for de­vel­op­ment”.

“We be­lieve Au­rukun is one of the last re­main­ing sites of its kind for baux­ite ex­trac­tion in Aus­tralia,” he said.

Mr Dodd, who wants at least 60 per cent of the work­force at the pro­posed mine and port to be sourced from lo­cal in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, said Au­rukun was also “strate­gi­cally lo­cated for cat­tle ex­port­ing” sup­ported by new stock­yards.

Mr Ah Mat said it was time for all lev­els of gov­ern­ment to “take the next step” and de­liver jobs and eco­nomic stim­u­lus to the re­gion.

“It will take bore­dom out of the com­mu­nity. Jobs and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment are crit­i­cal. Au­rukun could be a driv­ing force for ex­port of not only baux­ite but also agri­cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties, through live­stock,” Mr Ah Mat told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

“For too long, Au­rukun has been like a black shadow be­cause of the promises people say to them but never de­liver.”

Mr Ah Mat said gov­ern­ments and the council should be “clap­ping their hands in glee to make sure this project hap­pens”. He said if the po­ten­tial in­jec­tion of $50m into the com­mu­nity didn’t sup­port pos­i­tive out­comes, “some­thing is def­i­nitely wrong”.

“I hope it doesn’t take too long for the de­vel­op­ment to hap­pen. It could change the face of Au­rukun. Words are cheap … the gov­ern­ments and council have just got to take the next step,” he said.

Ms Bandi­cootcha, who signed the ILUA with Au­rum Pa­cific be­fore Christ­mas, said the project would be driven from a “grass­roots level”.

“This project will cre­ate jobs and that’s the big­gest is­sue we have in com­mu­nity in re­la­tion to em­ploy­ment,” Ms Bandi­cootcha told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

Ms Bandi­cootcha said there was “frus­tra­tion” in the com­mu­nity af­ter pre­vi­ous pro­pos­als had fallen over, which had in­creased “ex­pec­ta­tions” but not de­liv­ered for Au­rukun.

“It has been very frus­trat­ing. The ex­pec­ta­tion of the people, it gets so high. It’s some­thing we’ve heard so many times. There are so many op­por­tu­ni­ties here with the Wik lands,” she said.

“And it doesn’t have to be min­ing all the time. There are other op­por­tu­ni­ties with the em­ploy­ment side that will cre­ate jobs. Not ev­ery­one wants to be a miner.”

Ms Bandi­cootcha said the prospect of up to $50m be­ing pumped into lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties would go “a long way”, adding her mes­sage to gov­ern­ments was “this is what we want”.

“It will do the things we’ve al­ways sat around the table and spoke of as a com­mu­nity as the Wik na­tion. It pro­vides a start for our people to ac­tu­ally do some­thing with our­selves and for our people and our coun­try, be­cause we al­ways have people talk­ing about hand­outs.”

Mr Pear­son said the project would be a “game changer” for the Wik people and Au­rukun.

“This com­mu­nity is the vic­tim of a long history of de­ci­sions be­ing made by gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies, with­out the com­mu­nity and tra­di­tional own­ers first hav­ing the say over the de­vel­op­ment of their lands,” Mr Pear­son said.

“The young people need jobs. They need a fu­ture … where they can live pro­duc­tive lives.”

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