Aboriginal owners of the remote and uninhabited Winchelsea Island off Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria have done a deal with the devil.
They’re close to embarking on their own mining venture, after Anindilyakwa Advancement Aboriginal Corporation teamed up with AUS China International Mining, to establish Winchelsea Mining.
The NT government has already green-lighted Winchelsea mining an exploration license for over 20sq km of Winchelsea Island. The Island is chockers with Manganese which is a mineral used mostly in the production of steel. They expect the final go-ahead from the NT government to commence drilling sometime this month.
Only recently New Australian Bulletin published an op-ed warning that Aboriginal attitudes to China would be crucial for Australia resisting a soft takeover by Beijing. Enough has been done already to compromise us, such as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews signing a memorandum of agreement on his state joining China’s imperialist Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Then, of course, is the leasing of Darwin Port to the Chinese-owned company Landbridge, which is aside from all the major agricultural, infrastructural and energy acquisitions.
Members of the Anindilyakwa Land Council met Chinese investor Dongfang Yu through the contentious operator of Darwin Port. Yu’s company Aus China International Mining is based in Pitt Street, Sydney. Yu, who was born in Shandong in 1955, is listed as a resident of a modest apartment block overlooking a Coles in Manly Vale. Not much else can be gleaned about Yu or his company, except for the fact that he means business. Yeah, okay, that was terrible, but you can’t blame us.
The meeting occurred in 2016 after the NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner organised a delegation for Lanbridge sponsored trip to China. This included Anindilyakwa Land Council chairman Tony Wurramarrba and chief executive, Mark Hewitt. Quicker than a Kung Fu chop to the neck, the NT boss fellas had arranged the whole thing, so any talk of ‘approval’ suggesting an independent assessment is a giggle.
The partnership between the AAAC and Yu is tilted to 60-40 given the Chinaman’s $7million investment and all the dosh he poured into covering the cost of exploration permits and other sundries. However, this is just phase-one of exploration and a second phase estimated at around $50m may be required in a year’s time. If all is well, they can begin exporting manganese ore in 2022.
For Australia, this is a worrying trend. We wish the Abos good luck in picking themselves up and getting off the grog and stuff. But this native title business is the thin end of the wedge. Right now, the rules of NT’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act only allows landholders to receive royalties. Moreover, they are in the queer-but-beaut position of having to apply to themselves for permission to mine their land. But very soon they might well be independent and that’s a worry because their council has about half-a-goon-soaked brain between them. They could be cutting deals with China up and down the country if this thing isn’t nixed. And that should unsettle everybody given the implications and nightmare scenarios.
The real question that needs asking of these remote communities is, what do you need money for? They never needed money before White man came along, and now it seems to occupy an unhealthy space in their otherwise simple lives. Plus, they haven’t got a clue how to respect it. The hitherto manganese-rich Groote Eylandt has pumped $80m into the pockets of the local community. But while they have one of the highest average incomes in the country they still live like, well, Abos.