This week Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) held their AGM in Adelaide. Representatives from the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) tried to address the AGM to tell shareholders about the impact of FMGs’ operations in their Country. This request was denied. Instead, YAC members and supporters handed out a statement to as many shareholders as they could.
The statement, which is at http://yindjibarndi.org.au/yindjibarndi/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Yindjibarndi-message-to-FMG-investors.pdf draws attention to the human and environmental cost of the Solomon project, and in particular FMG’s tactics in its “negotiations” with traditional owners. Deep divisions have arisen within the community, there are concerns about the desecration of sacred sites and over the past few months footage and commentary has been published which raises serious questions about FMG’s operations.
Of great concern is FMG’s involvement in efforts to remove traditional owners as applicants off the Yindjibarndi Native Title claim. All of those who face this threat are vocal opponents of the FMG operations in their country.
Another issue is FMG’s insistence that royalty payments are “welfare”. The Australian reported this week that Chief executive of FMG, Nev Power, told the meeting the company would not change its approach to dealing with indigenous groups in its project areas.
“Our strategy at Fortescue and our policy has been and always will be to develop independence in the indigenous communities where we work by providing genuine jobs, training and support, not through welfare,” Mr Power said.
Let’s be clear – royalty payments are not welfare. Neither are jobs and training royalty payments or welfare. People work and get paid for that work – that is how a job works. Why are people having to trade their right to a job for royalties? FMG does not have the right to make judgements about how communities will spend their royalties. They are being paternalistic in making these statements – this approach undermines self-determination and community development.
Four Corners (ABC) recently covered this story recently and can be watched on iview http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2011/07/18/3270263.htm
For further information have a look at the Yindjibarndi website at http://yindjibarndi.org.au/