Gomeroi people call on Environment Minister to stop destruction of sacred sites

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FULL STATEMENT BY WHITEHAVEN COAL- issued March 4, 2014Whitehaven has not 'restricted' Gomeroi elders from accessing the Maules Creek site. In fact, Whitehaven has sought to pursue a comprehensive and inclusive approach to the salvage program at Maules Creek. This has included the participation of 105 Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) in stage one salvage works, and the study and recovery, over the course of several months, of over 7000 Aboriginal artefacts, arising from the investigation and salvage of all 38 registered sites with the Application Area, over the course of several months. Any claims about the potential existence of a burial site have been, and will continue to be dealt with seriously by the company, and managed within the agreed Aboriginal Archeological and Cultural Management Plan for the site. A recent independent scientific assessment conducted by University of Queensland Cultural Heritage Unit anthropologists and archaeologists has confirmed that a suspected Aboriginal burial site at Maules Creek is not, in fact, a burial site. This independent assessment has been reviewed and endorsed by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Whitehaven continues to work closely with RAPs to ensure the salvage and protection of all heritage items within the project boundary.

The Gomeroi people today met with Environment Minister Greg Hunt. They are calling on the Federal government to stop Whitehaven Coal from bull dozing sacred Aboriginal sites in the Boggabri region of New South Wales. The elders are seeking to secure the protection for the sacred sites under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act. Emma Lancaster spoke with Dolly Talbott a Gomeroi elder and spokesperson, before the meeting in Canberra today.

UPDATE: Dolly Talbott informed The Wire after we went to air that Minister Hunt did not make any commitments about the future outcomes of the Maules Creek project or the Aboriginal sacred sites.

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