Letter // Submission regarding Australia’s failure to protect the Wangan and Jagalingou People’s rights to culture from the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine

WJ letterhead 1


2 October 2015

Ms. Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights
c/o OHCHR‐UNOG, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais Wilson 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Re: Submission regarding Australia’s failure to protect the Wangan and Jagalingou People’s rights to culture from the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine

Dear Special Rapporteur Shaheed:

We, the indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou people, write to you in urgent and worrying times as our traditional lands, connection to country and cultural identity are under imminent threat of irreversible destruction from the proposed development of the massive Carmichael Coal Mine by a private company, Adani Mining, with the support of the Australian government. Attached to this letter is a detailed submission for your reference. Although the attached submission is directed to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as you will see from section III of the submission it is also relevant to your mandate because of the impacts to our cultural identify from the proposed coal mine. We have also sent this submission to the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises because of the bad faith actions Adani Mining has taken towards our people.

The Carmichael Coal Mine would be located in our ancestral homelands in central‐western Queensland, Australia. The sheer scale of the Carmichael Mine is difficult to conceive: it will be one of the largest coal mines in the world, covering a vast swathe of our land and causing extensive disturbance and devastation. It is simply not possible to build a mine consisting of six open‐cut pits, five underground mines, a coal handling and processing plant, rail infrastructure, and all other necessary associated infrastructure without causing massive alteration of the environment and significant environmental harm. If the Carmichael Mine proceeds, it would tear the heart out of our country, our culture and our people. It would permanently destroy vast swathes of our traditional lands and waters, including a complex of springs that we hold sacred as the starting point of our life and through which our dreaming totem, the Mundunjudra (also known as the Rainbow Serpent) travelled to form the shape of the land. We exist as people of our land and waters, and all things on and in them – plants and animals – have special meaning to us and tell us who we are. Our land and waters are our culture and our identity. If they are destroyed, we will become nothing. We have never consented to the development of the mine, and we never will.

International law recognizes our fundamental and universal rights to continue enjoying our culture as we have done for thousands of years, and to pass it on to our future generations. The use and enjoyment of our traditional lands and all things on them – which are our cultural goods and services –

are vital to our cultural identities and survival, and must be accessible and available to us if we are to continue to realise and enjoy our right to culture. If the Carmichael Mine proceeds, the extensive land disturbance and destruction would destroy our culture and prevent us from passing it on to our children. We would be unable to maintain and strengthen our relationship with our traditional lands.

By promoting and facilitating the development of this mine, the Australian and Queensland governments are failing to protect and respect our right to maintain and strengthen our spiritual relationship with our ancestral lands, and are failing to ensure the availability of our cultural goods and services – our lands and waters.

For these reasons, which are described in more detail in the attached submission, we respectfully request that you investigate the issues set out in this letter and call on the Australian government to ensure the protection of our human rights. We believe that an expression of concern from your mandate along with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises would help convince the Australian and Queensland governments to reassess their approvals of the mine in light of its effect on our human rights, and would also help dissuade potential investors from supporting this disastrous mine and the resulting destruction of our culture and lands.


Adrian Burragubba
Wangan and Jagalingou authorised spokesperson info@wanganjagalingou.com.au
+61 417 607 053

Cc (via electronic mail):

Murrawah Johnson
Wangan and Jagalingou authorised spokesperson info@wanganjagalingou.com.au
+61 439 919 891

Ms. Victoria Tauli‐Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples


Letter to SR cultural rights concerning the Wangan and Jagalingou People, 2 Oct 2015


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  1. NOTE:

1.1 The Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate, propose to build the AUD$16.5bn Carmichael coal mine and rail project, one of the largest in the world, on our land – land that our people have held sacred for as long as anyone can remember. The mine will have a footprint of over 28,000 hectares, seven times the size of Sydney Harbour. The project will also include rail infrastructure to the coast, where a new port will be established, risking damage to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

1.2 The mine will tear out the heart of our country, permanently destroying our ancestral homelands, as well as sites and species we have held sacred for generations. This threatens the survival of our culture, and our ability to pass that culture onto our future generations.

1.3. We have not given our consent to the Adani Group or the state of Queensland for the development of the mine. Nor will we ever give consent, as we simply cannot consent to the destruction of our ancestral lands, cultural heritage and the environment. Nor can we allow a project that will contribute so substantially to the unfolding and direct effects of climate change that pose such great risks to all people. We formally rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement under Australia’s native title legislation that would have given our permission to the grant of mining leases for the mine.  And we are currently appealing a decision of the Australian Native Title Tribunal that mining leases could be issued for the mine on our land.

1.4 Under international law, including as reflected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we have the right to decide whether the Carmichael mine may be developed on our land. This is because harm caused by the mine is so significant that it will violate our rights to culture, physical and spiritual well-being, and self-determination – all of which are protected by international law.

1.5 Private entities, such as banks, have a responsibility to respect human rights that are protected under international law. They must also conform their behaviour to international human rights norms and ensure they do not ratify or contribute to any infringement of human rights.  This responsibility is clearly enumerated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

1.6 The Equator Principles, adopted by 80 financial institutions worldwide, also require that projects with adverse impacts on Indigenous peoples as significant as the impacts of the Carmichael mine must have their free, prior and informed consent. Any signatory bank to the Equator Principles that commits to funding Carmichael will be in direct breach of those principles.

1.7 The Carmichael mine project presents a significant financial risk, due to its high infrastructure requirements and transportation costs against a low thermal coal price.  The illegality of development of the mine in the absence of our consent also creates an uncertainty as to the viability of the mine project, which creates additional financial risk for any investors in the mine.


  1. ASK:

2.1 We request that Banks recognise and respect that the Wangan & Jagalingou do not consent to the development of the Carmichael mine on our traditional lands.

2.2. We request that Banks recognise that the determination of how our ancestral lands and waters are treated is a human right protected under international law.

2.3 We request that Bank honour the Equator Principles and commit to not fund the Carmichael coal mine project, or other proposed coal mines in the Galilee Basin.


  1. PROMISE: We will do whatever it takes to protect our sacred ancestral lands and waters, our rights and our interests, and to stop the financing of this mine and to see that the Carmichael mine does not go ahead.

Adrian Burragubba, senior representative of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council, for the Wangan and Jagalingou people. May 2015

MEDIA RELEASE – Adani’s Carmichael woes escalate: Traditional owners file Federal Court challenge, mount World Banks Tour to block finance

MEDIA RELEASE – Friday 29 May 2015

Adani’s Carmichael woes escalate: Traditional owners file Federal Court challenge, mount World Banks Tour to block finance

Brisbane, Australia: Indian giant Adani’s planned Carmichael coalmine in the northern state of Queensland has hit double trouble as Traditional Owners today announce a landmark Federal Court challenge, on the eve of their world tour to urge Wall St and European investment banks to shun the damaging project.

The Wangan and Jagalingou people, Indigenous Traditional Owners of central Queensland’s coal-rich Galilee Basin, have vowed to stop the AUD $16.5bn Carmichael mine – the biggest in Australian history and one of the world’s largest. If the mine goes ahead, the W&J’s vast traditional lands and their ancient connection to country would be “disappeared” forever.

W&J Traditional Owner and spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, “This is a very special day, on which we significantly step up our campaign to make sure Carmichael never gets built.

“First, we announce that we have filed an appeal and judicial review in the Federal Court of Australia. This court action challenges the decision of Australia’s National Native Title Tribunal that the Queensland government may issue mining leases for Carmichael. This challenge is unprecedented in the history of Native Title Tribunal decisions. If necessary, we will take our case all the way to the High Court”, Mr Burragubba said.

“But this disastrous mine needs billions of dollars of finance if it is to ever go ahead”, said Mr Burragubba. “We also announce today that in 48 hours, on Sunday 31 May, we will embark a world tour to hold high-level talks with investment banks on Wall St, in European finance capitals, and in Asia.

“We will communicate to the banks that we do not consent to Carmichael, and the reasons we cannot allow this mine to go ahead. We will remind them that any bank that funds Carmichael will be breaching important human rights principles to which they are signatory; principles requiring that projects that affect Indigenous Owners have their consent. We’ll urge them to honour their obligations and commit to ruling out funding,” said Mr Burragubba.

While in North America, the W&J will also meet with First Nations Traditional Owners opposing massive fossil fuel projects, including the tar sands projects in Alberta, Canada.

W&J Traditional Owner and spokesperson Murrawah Johnson said, “This tour is an incredible opportunity to meet with, learn from and form alliances with other Traditional Owners internationally. By building solidarity across the globe we can strengthen and draw inspiration for our individual battles to protect land, culture and way of life from destructive mining. We look forward to sharing stories and insights with our brothers and sisters in North America”.

Ms Johnson said, “State and Federal governments have trampled our rights and interests and approved the mine. Adani tried to divide and conquer after we rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement and refused their ‘shut-up’ money. Australia’s Native Title Tribunal has also dispossessed us, saying the mining leases may go ahead.

“We won’t take it. We will do whatever is necessary to stand up for Country. We will ensure that Adani and its friends in government and finance understand that when we say no, we mean no”, said Ms Johnson. “Our legal challenge and World Banks Tour are key to that plan.”

Mr Burragubba said, “We won’t rest until this disastrous project is thrown on the scrapheap of history. Our culture will live strong and thrive into the future as it has from time immemorial.”

— ENDS —


Media contacts

Australia: Alison Orme 0423 332 104 / Annemarie Jonson 0428 278 880

International: James Lorenz +61 400 376 021.


Video of Adrian Burragubba speaking on W&J country here.

Images from original W&J campaign launch March 2015 inc. of spokespeople Adrian Burragubba and Murrawah Johnson, plus launch collateral here.

Images of Adrian Burragubba here and Murrawah Johnson here.

Bios of W&J spokespeople Adrian Burragubba here and Murrawah Johnson here.

Notice of Appeal here & Originating Application for Review to Federal Court here.

W&J Declaration to Banks here.

Briefing on Federal Court challenge here.

Backgrounder on Adani and Carmichael here.

W&J World Tour Itinerary [subject to change – to be advised]

[Australian media: opportunities for live crosses or recorded interviews from media events in key locations, including NYC, DC, London. Phone/ skype interviews available throughout. Media packages of images / footage will be released to media post-event throughout the tour.]

Mon June 1 – San Francisco – W&J spokespeople available for interview.

Tues 2 June

San Francisco – W&J will meet First Nations peoples. After 2pm – opportunity to interview W&J spokespeople and First Nations spokespeople re their historic meeting.

Wed 3 and Thurs 4 June

Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada – W&J will meet First Nations peoples opposing tar sands projects. Opportunity for interviews and filming on site in tar sands region; and to cover media event involving W&J with First Nations communities tbc.

Fri 5 to Sun 7 June

Travel to NYC and rest; interviews may be available by arrangement in NYC on weekend tbc.

Mon 8 June

NYC – Meetings with investment banks Goldman Sachs, Citi, Bank of America; late PM, media action, banks declaration, with music, dance and ceremony by Australian indigenous owners W&J outside BoA, midtown Manhattan, details tbc. W&J spokespeople available for interview.

Tues 9 June NYC – W&J spokespeople available for interview; PM travel to Washington DC.

Wed 10 June

Washington DC – Meetings with US Export Import Bank; media event tbc, possibly involving W&J together with First Nations peoples opposing coal expansion in Powder River Basin, Utah tbc. W&J spokespeople available for interview.

Thurs 11 June  – Travel to London.

Fri 12 June

London – meet Standard Chartered; public/media event outside bank. Details tbc. W&J spokespeople available for interview.

Sat 13 and Sun 14 June  – Rest and travel to Zurich. Interviews may be available by arrangement tbc.

Mon 15 June

Zurich – meet investment banks UBS and Credit Suisse. Media event outside bank tbc. W&J spokespeople available for interview.

Tues 16 June – Travel to Hong Kong.

Wed 17 June

HK – meetings with HSBC. Media event tbc. W&J spokespeople available for interview.