Glencore Mine Expansion in Northern Territories Blocked by Aboriginal Lawsuit

📸 Borroloola Clan Vs Glencore by Lock the Gate Alliance

📸 Borroloola Clan Vs Glencore by Lock the Gate Alliance

Glencore was given a permit to build a dredging waste dump site to serve the McArthur River Mine lead and zinc extraction operation in Australia’s Northern Territories. The regional government was sued by members of the Yanyuwa and Yanyuwa-Mara community (who hold Aboriginal title to the site) for failing to consult them. The High Court of Australia ruled in the community’s favor in February 2024.

“These Traditional Owners never gave up. They kept fighting. The NLC [Northern Land Council] hopes that this decision will prompt the mining company to reconsider its approach. We want to see the company engage proactively and in good faith with the Native Title holders ... to obtain their free prior and informed consent.” – Joe Martin Jard, Northern Land Council chief executive.

McArthur River Mine

Mount Isa Mines, a subsidiary of Switzerland-based mining giant Glencore, extracts lead and zinc from the McArthur River Mine in the Northern Territories of Australia. Gudanji elder Josephine Green and Garawa elder Jack Green, who live in the nearby town of Borroloola, have attempted to stop the mine after multiple devastating environmental catastrophes through the courts but failed.

“McArthur River [is] important to all Aboriginal people. There's a culture, there's a sacred site around the mine itself. You destroy the water, you destroy the land, there'll be nothing for you or your kids in future.” – Garrawa elder Jack Green, resident of Borroloola. 

New Waste Dump

Mining ore from McArthur River is taken by train to Bing Bong port, 120 kilometers away. There the ore is put on barges to be transferred to export ships. The barges must cross a shallow channel that has to be dredged regularly. The current site for the dredge waste is almost full so Glencore applied for a permit to expand it on land for which Aboriginal communities have legal title.

Native Title Act

In Australia, Aboriginal peoples have the right to be consulted on mining on all lands to which they have titles, even if they don’t own the land. This right does not extend to infrastructure activities. Glencore, which owns the land for the dump site, argued that since no mining was taking place, they were not required to consult with title holders.


Three Native title holders: Mr. Friday, David Harvey and Thomas Simon, together with the Northern Land Council (which represent the Aboriginal peoples of the region), sued the government of the Northern Territories arguing that the permit violated their legal rights to be consulted over land use.


In February 2024, the High Court of Australia, which is the top court in the country, ruled unanimously that since the proposed dump area is associated with mining, the Aboriginal landowners had the right to be notified and consulted. The court also ruled that the community had the right to object and to have that objection heard by an independent body. 

Company Response

“McArthur River Mine continues to be engaged in discussions with the traditional owners and with the Northern Land Council in relation to the land which is the subject of the decision of the High Court and other matters.” – Mark Furlotte, general manager of Glencore's McArthur River Mine.

📸 Borroloola Clan Vs Glencore by Lock the Gate Alliance

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