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DARPA’s New Space Program Stirs Worldwide Concern

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 8:25am in

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News, mining

On the same day that Joe Biden obtained the Electoral College majority needed to become president of the United States, a metallic asteroid roughly half the size of New York City made its closest approach to earth. Far from indulging in apocalyptic visions of cosmic destruction, mining company executives like Bob Goldstein of US Nuclear Corp. were seeing dollar signs. Somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000 quadrillion of them in fact.

Goldstein and others in the resource extraction industry have been salivating over these otherworldly mineral prizes ever since Barack Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act into law, which grants U.S. citizens the right to own resources mined in space. The bill, introduced and co-sponsored exclusively by Republican Congressmen, was passed by a unanimous vote in 2015.

Praised as a “landmark for American leadership in space exploration” by Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), the Space Act of 2015, as it is also known, has elicited all manner of effusive reactions from private sector space industry giants like Planetary Resources, which had already struck a deal with Bechtel Corporation in 2013 to mine asteroids. Planetary co-founder Eric Anderson declared that the legislation was nothing less than a “major step toward humanity becoming a multiplanetary species.”

Despite the Neil Armstrong-esque displays by both private and public sector players, the recent inclusion of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) into the conversation has many on the international space policy side of the equation worried.

 

NOM4D

The Novel Orbital and Moon Manufacturing, Materials and Mass-efficient Design (NOM4D) program announced by DARPA on February 5 “seeks to pioneer technologies for adaptive, off-earth manufacturing to produce large space and lunar structures,” according to the agency’s press release.

The language used to describe the program has sparked heated debate over whether or not NOM4D will violate Article IV of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty (OST), which prohibits the “establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications” anywhere on the lunar surface or cislunar orbit (between the earth and the moon).

Chris Johnson, legal counsel of the Secure World Foundation – a private foundation that promotes space sustainability – clarified some of the ambiguity surrounding the debate in an email to Breaking Defense, stating that “If DARPA (or its contractors) are conducting activities on the Moon which are temporarily peaceful in nature, […] this is still a MILITARY activity, and therefore pretty clearly prohibited.”

NOM4D program director manager Bill Carter dismisses such concerns, claiming to be “slightly baffled” by the controversy, asserting that the project is “a materials science program. We’re going to be doing stuff on the ground — we actually don’t have any plans to launch anything.”

Carter, a materials scientist, elaborated about the areas of focus and highlighted the program’s interest in “the capabilities of materials that I extract from regolith as they apply to things [like] reflective surfaces and so forth,” which “could be important for Earth observation or situation awareness, all those things.”

The validity of Carter’s arguments notwithstanding, his mention of regolith in particular buttresses Johnson’s concerns. The “dust-like material that covers the lunar surface” is considered a prime resource for the eventual construction of moon bases. Something of a generic term used to describe the layer of “clays, silicates, various minerals, groundwater, and organic molecules” that form on the surface of solid rock, lunar regolith, by contrast, has its own unique composition.

As Johnson says, while “it may be possible for someone to offer a tortured argument as to how this is not explicitly illegal — either through de-linking the activity from the US military through intermediaries, or separating activities from the lunar surface and surrounding deep space, or painting the military activity as peaceful in nature,” he “would not be buying it.”

 

The Opposition

Carter goes on to differentiate the activity DARPA will be engaging in from other space exploration initiatives which he believes exclude the program from the questions of policy it is being confronted with. According to him, the “big difference” consists of DARPA’s centering its effort around “robotic capabilities” as opposed to NASA’s “human exploration and associated capabilities.” But, this also runs into problematic territory when taking the DoD’s own position into consideration.

In his confirmation testimony, Biden’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, extolled Obama’s “third offset” strategy, which explicitly cites robotics as one of the innovations to be fast-tracked through the public and private sector in order to secure the nation’s technological edge in response to China and other threats. Austin assured lawmakers that he would maintain a “laserlike focus” on countering the Chinese military threat and building “space-based platforms,” while “repeatedly” stating that his department will consider space a war-fighting domain.

DARPA’s program “is particularly tone deaf”, according to Jessica West, a senior researcher at Canada’s Project Ploughshares and the Space Security Index project. She worries that the agency’s project undermines the efforts of other international space organizations seeking to build a cooperative framework “to guide civil activities on the Moon,” pointing out that “blurring of civil, military, and commercial capabilities and intentions in space is exactly what the U.S. accuses other countries such as China of doing.”

Other policy experts are warning that a “brewing space mining war” between the U.S., China, and Russia could lead to an unwinnable conflict that could indeed spell Armageddon for our own relatively tiny planet. As Roscosmos’ deputy general director for international cooperation, Sergey Saveliev stated on the occasion of Donald Trump’s executive order to support mining on the moon, “history knows examples of a country starting to seize territories for its own benefit – everyone remembers the outcome.”

Feature photo | This illustration made available by NASA in April 2020 depicts Artemis astronauts on the Moon. NASA via AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post DARPA’s New Space Program Stirs Worldwide Concern appeared first on MintPress News.

Biden’s Faux Revolution: “Green Energy” Slated to Become World’s New Oil Industry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/01/2021 - 5:33am in

Just before leaving office, Donald Trump asserted his executive privilege to deliver significant concessions to the mining industry, which culminated in the gift of sacred Apache territory to a foreign mining conglomerate covered earlier this month by MintPress. It also led to the irreversible loosening of industry regulations and greater access to federal lands.

In October 2020, the now-former president tapped into his trademark populist rhetoric to declare a “national emergency” for the U.S. mining industry and signed an executive order seeking to curtail China’s outsized control over the supply chain of rare-earth and critical minerals. That order directs the Department of the Interior to “use its authorities under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to fund mineral processing that protects our national security.” Contrary to popular belief, Biden has every intention to continue pressuring China on matters of trade and technology, and, according to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the administration will be “evaluating” the tariffs imposed by Trump and is “committed to stopping China’s economic abuses.”

The directives in the executive action, which also include making more funding available for resource extraction projects and cutting down on red tape for the industry, place Deb Heeland, Biden’s nominee to head the agency, in an awkward position if confirmed. Heeland will become the first Native American to hold a cabinet-level position in the federal government, only to hand more power to the same corporations her brethren have been fighting for decades.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration is poised to forge ahead with Trump’s dictates, despite its much-ballyhooed reentry into the Paris accords on day one. The moral bankruptcy of the climate change industrial complex is laid bare as it marches on to the “green economy” by the unprecedented expansion in mineral extraction that is on the horizon. As the next man up on the political merry-go-round of the permanent state, Joe Biden’s messaging will be geared towards the more liberal segments of the American population, but his policies will differ little from the status quo. While publicly slamming oil drilling in the United States and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline (just one of the hundreds of pipelines already crisscrossing the country), he nonetheless promises to bring 500,000 charging stations to U.S. cities and towns as he reassures mining companies behind closed doors that he will not interfere with domestic production of metals.

The market has already recognized the trend with a 20% surge in the price of cobalt this year and the launch of a new rare-earth minerals exchange in Ganzhou, China on December 31 of last year. Cobalt, a ‘critical’ raw material, is used in conjunction with rare-earth minerals to make our most ubiquitous consumer electronics – from cell phones to laptops. It is also a vital component in electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing; a sector that is set to explode in the next decade as the “green” deals that aim to reduce carbon emissions and move towards so-called renewable energy comes online.

 

Fake horizon

The vast majority of the world’s cobalt supply is mined using child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the increasing demand for the mineral has sprouted “artisanal” mining practices that exploit children. This sinister reality underscores the true costs of our modern-day technology and exposes the hypocrisy of the likes of Elon Musk, famously the CEO of one of the largest electric vehicle companies in the world, who recently offered a $100 million prize for the development of carbon capture technology – considered a “slick” scheme and wishful thinking designed to convince consumers that “climate-warming emissions can be stored underground”.

Our iPhones, laptops, or that $70,000 fully-equipped Tesla are far from the end of the story, however. An important driver of Biden’s incoming “green revolution” is the defense industry, which is in the throes of shifting to AI-driven technologies, a massive emitter of carbon dioxide, as well as other cyber, wind, and solar technologies ­– all of which require enormous supplies of rare-earth and critical minerals such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and lithium.

Joe Biden mining

Sen. Joe Biden rallies supporters at the United Mine Workers of America Annual Fish Fry in Castlewood, Va, Sept. Don Petersen | AP

Still, the consumer market for electric vehicles and the burgeoning product landscape for the Internet of Things (IoT), which is projected to be worth trillions of dollars worldwide over the next five years, represents the next frontier of capitalist growth. Packaged as a compact to save nature, it is anything but. So-called “green” technologies have the potential to do more damage to our environment than any previous modality of resource consumption humanity has engaged in.

Keystone XL might have been halted, but it is unlikely that the huge copper mine slated for Oak Flat will run into any problems from the Biden administration. After all, the average electric vehicle uses approximately 80 kgs of copper and the EV sector will require 250% more copper for the charging stations alone, to say nothing of emerging EV markets like India, which is angling to replace gas-powered vehicles by 2030.

 

The unacceptable price of tech

Mining operations will still need fossil fuel-generated energy to power their earth-shattering equipment, not to mention the transportation and shipping required to move the payload to their respective markets. At the same time, the exponential increase in demand for these raw materials will result in scores of people – men, women, and children – being exploited for their labor as many of these resources can only be found in poor nations, which have been kept in debt by the sophisticated mechanisms of financial oppression of the West in order to have cheap access to these same resources.

In 2019, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla were sued by a rights advocacy group on behalf of Congolese families of children who were killed or maimed in the process of mining for the precious cobalt that these companies use to make their products. The class action was filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia based on the research of Siddharth Kara, an anti-slavery advocate, and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In an open letter Kara addressed to “anyone who uses a smartphone, drives an electric car, or flies on a plane”, he details some of the gruesome discoveries in the thirty-one mining sites he visited and the stark reality of the more than 35,000 children as young as six who toil in the oppressive heat and inside the dangerous tunnels, which mining conglomerates like Glencore operate in the Congo.

One of the victims’ relatives represented by International Rights Advocates in the lawsuit tells the story of her nephew, who was forced to work in a cobalt mine after the family was unable to cover the child’s $6 monthly school fee. The small boy was buried alive inside a tunnel that collapsed as he was collecting cobalt rocks for some kind of shiny tech device; maybe one of the latest iPhones people get free with a two-year contract with a carrier. His body was never recovered. Apple, Google, Tesla and the other tech firms named in the complaint have all filed motions for dismissal on the grounds that they cannot be held liable for the use of cobalt in their products.

Feature photo | Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Solar Power International Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif., Sept. 16, 2015. Christine Cotter | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Biden’s Faux Revolution: “Green Energy” Slated to Become World’s New Oil Industry appeared first on MintPress News.

But Belfield, Churchill was a White Supremacist!

A few days ago right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield put up a video expressing his outrage yet again at those evil lefties and their attacks on great British heroes. The lefties in question were the awesome Ash Sarkar, Michael Walker and co. of Novara Media, and the great British hero was Winston Churchill. Sarkar and Walker had dared to call Winnie a White supremacist and chuckle about it! How terrible! And so Belfield put up his video attacking them for daring to scoff at the great man.

The problem was, he did nothing to refute their accusation. He played a clip of Sarkar and Walker calling Churchill a White supremacist and laughing, but didn’t actually provide any facts to prove Churchill wasn’t a racist. All he did was attack Sarkar and her comrades for saying he was. And I don’t think he could have argued that Churchill wasn’t a White supremacist. In the clip he used, Sarkar states that Churchill was a White supremacist by his own admission. And I find that entirely credible. Churchill is now a great, molten god thanks his inspiring leadership during the Second World War. So much so, that he is supposed to stand for everything good and right and be absolutely above criticism. Or at least, he is to members of the Tory faithful. But such attitudes obscure just how controversial Churchill was in his own day, and the real racism in British society. Churchill is still hated by proud, working class Welshmen and women today for sending the troops in to shoot striking miners in one of the pit villages. He was responsible for the debacle of Gallipolli during the Second World War, a bloodbath that in my opinion has tainted the relationship between us and the Ozzies. It shows Johnson’s complete lack of any real historical sympathy for the victims of his blundering that in his biography of the great man, he gives it a ten for being both a colossal mistake and for showing ‘the Churchill factor’, whatever that is. Churchill was so bloodthirsty and keen to use the army to suppress the general strike, that Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin was determined to keep him away from it as far as possible. Irish nationalists also hate him for sending the Black and Tans in to crush the Irish revolution. Churchill spent many years in the political wilderness. What saved him was his tour of Africa in the 1920s. At the same time, his opposition to Nazi Germany wasn’t based on any hatred of their racism and suppression of democracy. The historian Martin Pugh in his history of British Fascism between the two World Wars states as an authoritarian himself, Churchill liked the Spanish dictator General Franco. He considered Mussolini to be a ‘perfect swine’, possibly because the Duce declared that his Blackshirts were the equivalent of the British Black and Tans. But nevertheless, Churchill still went on a visit of Fascist Italy. Churchill’s real reason for opposing Nazism was because he was afraid that Germany would be a threat to British interests in the North Sea.

I got the impression that Churchill was without question an imperialist, which means that he believed unquestionably that White Brits were superior and had every right to their empire and dominion over the darker races. Imperialism was so much a part of official British culture, that I think it’s forgotten just how powerful a force it was and how deeply embedded it was. Empire Day was a national holiday, the British empire was lauded in books like Our Empire Story, and one of the strips in the Dandy or the Beano was ‘The Colony Nigs’. Some British scientists also shared the biological racism that served to legitimate discrimination against non-Whites. As late as 1961 wannabe dictator Oswald Mosley cited articles and papers by British scientists claiming that Blacks were less intelligent than Whites in his book Mosley – Right or Wrong.

If Churchill had only believed that non-Whites were inferior, but otherwise treated them with the benign paternalism that Britain was supposed to show towards its subject races, then his White supremacist views wouldn’t have been too bad. It would have been patronising, but no harm would have been done. But his racism was partly responsible for creating the Bengal famine, which carried off 3-6 million Indians. Churchill had ordered their grain to be sequestered as a reserve food supply for the troops in Europe. This left the Bengalis unable to feed themselves. Many of Churchill’s senior military staff pleaded him to release the food, but he refused, stating that the Indians were a filthy race and that it was all their fault for ‘pullulating’ – in other words, breeding and having too many children. It’s an atrocity that could be compared to the horrific murder of the Jews by the Nazis, and some of Churchill’s generals certainly did so. It’s a monstrous stain on Churchill’s character, but very few Brits are probably aware of it.

Does that mean that it’s acceptable to deface Churchill’s statue, as one irate young man did during the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted earlier this year? The lad scrawled ‘was a racist’ on it, an act which raised right-wing hackles. It was ostensibly to protect his and statues like it that prompted mobs of White Brits to stage their own counterdemonstrations. No, I don’t believe it is, even though it’s true. It is thanks to Churchill’s leadership that western Europe at least remained free from Nazi domination or that of Stalinist Communism. Spike Milligan in one volume of his war memoirs states that if Britain hadn’t entered the War, the Iron Curtain would have stopped at his home town of Bexhill. Churchill, monster though he was in so very many ways, deserves respect and credit for that.

But that doesn’t mean that he should be above criticism either. There’s another video put up by Belfield in which he complaints about a planned re-vamp of Have I Got News For You. Apparently the Beeb is going to replace long time contestants Ian Hislop and Paul Merton as part of their diversity campaign. This involves sacking middle-aged White men in favour of more women and BAME presenters and performers. In his video, Belfield complains about how this change will deprive British television of the pair’s comedic talents. Which is true, but I wonder how he feels about Hislop’s magazine’s attitude to his great hero. Private Eye when it started up was deeply critical of Churchill, running cartoons and articles lampooning him as ‘the greatest dying Englishman’ and criticising him for betraying just about every cause he ever embraced. The Eye and its founders were never radical lefties. They were all public schoolboys, but nevertheless the magazine was regarded with intense suspicion and distaste by many. When it first began many newsagents refused to stock it. One of my co-workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in the ’90s and first years of this century shared that dislike. Seeing me reading it over lunch one day, he asked me if I really read it. I dare say that it was the magazine’s willingness to poke fun and attack respected figures like Churchill that provoked some of that intense dislike. But nevertheless, Britain remains a free country – just! – because we are able to criticise our leaders and point out that they aren’t flawless idols we have to revere and obey, like some monstrous dictator. And that includes the right to criticise and spoof Winston Churchill.

Belfield constantly sneers at the younger generation as ‘leftie snowflakes’, but he’s the one with the delicate sensibilities here. I’m not denying Churchill deserves respect for his stern resistance to Nazism, but he was a racist whose supremacist views caused death and suffering to millions of Indians. Getting annoyed with Sarkar and the rest for calling him a racist and White supremacist won’t change that.

Belfield had therefore do what he’s always telling left-wing millennials to do, and show a bit of backbone and get over it.

Scared Alex Belfield Mockingly Rants about Diane Abbott Leading the Labour Party

Yesterday right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield put up a video expressing his surprise and horror over a discussion on Twitter about the Labour party. The peeps there were saying that Keir Starmer had finally had enough of leading the party and was about to stand down. Ready to take over from him was Diane Abbott. The rest of the video was just Belfield doing a very unfunny impression of the veteran Black MP making some kind of acceptance speech for the leadership. Abbott is one of the most vilified MPs in parliament. She receives half of all the misogynistic letters received by female parliamentarians. Belfield appears to be one of the people, who has a singular dislike of her. He’s been presenting her as thick as ever since she made a stupid maths mistake talking to one of the presenters of Talk Radio about Labour party policy and how it would be funded a year or so ago. He’s also played up the fact that Abbott has been extremely critical of the police, who I think she feels are racist, but had to call them for help when she was threatened by her privately educated, drug addict son.

I can’t say that Abbott is my favourite MP, and while I can see her being many things, stupid is not one of them. Plenty of Tories have been caught out being unable to do basic Maths as well, but Belfield and the Tories are obviously determined to push the idea of Abbott being massively thick in the hope that it will colour public perception of her. This says to me that they’re afraid, desperately afraid of her. Belfield put up a video a month ago ranting against Abbott’s nomination as MP of the year. I think he may have been one of the right-wingers, who was outraged at a similar vote by a sizable number of the British public in favour of Jeremy Corbyn for the same award a year or so ago.

Last week the Groan published an article from one of the leaders of Operation Black Vote arguing that the Tories were trying to set the working class against Blacks. This is absolutely correct. Belfield constantly harps on about how White working class boys are the most disadvantaged group in the UK. He has a personal chip on his should about this, as he is also constantly talking about how he is a working class lad without a degree from a pit community, in contrast to the ‘woke’ leftie snowflakes at the BBC, who are over-promoting Black performers and drag queens. I’ve no doubt that Belfield is right that about the disadvantaged condition of working class White boys. But he is definitely using it as a weapon for party political purposes by placing them in opposition of Blacks. Part of the reason White British youths are disadvantaged is due not to affirmative action programmes for Blacks and other minorities, although these have played their part, but to Tory policies that have devastated working class White communities. This included the closure of the mines which supported villages like Belfield’s. The Tories have absolutely no interest in helping the working class, whether White, Black, Asian or whatever. They’re only interested in using their underprivileged condition to generate hatred against the Labour party and programmes designed to improve the situation of Blacks in the UK.

As for Starmer giving it all up and deciding to pack it as leader of the Labour party, oh! If only! He’s been a disaster as leader. He has no policies, no real opposition to the Tories and, I would argue, no morals. He’s a typical Blairite. His only real opposition is not to neoliberalism and the Conservatives – he seems to be following Blair’s example of adopting Tory policies while trying to present Labour as better able to carry them out – but to the real socialists in his own party. He and Rayner have been doing everything they can to carry on the witch hunt against true Labour centrists – the peeps who want a return to proper Labour policies and values – by smearing and expelling them as anti-Semites. He has done everything he seemingly can to protect the plotters and intriguers, who conspired to sabotage Labour’s chances at last year’s elections and in 2017. These individuals were also guilty of real racism towards BAME MPs and activists. But no action has been taken against them, to the disgust of the party’s Black members and supporters. His leadership is also becoming a personal autocracy, as he and the new head of the NEC impose rules silencing local parties from voicing their criticisms of his leadership. Local leaders and officials have been suspended for breaking these rules.

I and many, many other Labour members and supporters would be delighted if Starmer went. And while I have problems with Abbott – I think she does go too far in her accusations of racism – I would certainly rather have her as leader of the Labour party.

And that, I think, is what’s behind Belfield’s constant mocking and pillorying of the MP. He’s afraid. Afraid that others like me would also prefer to have her as leader of the Labour party. White peeps from working class families. The same people he and the Tories are trying to turn against Blacks.

As far as I know, Starmer isn’t planning to retire from the leadership anytime soon. But I’d be highly delighted if he did. He has done nothing for the working class. And the Tories aren’t going to do anything for them either, except make them poorer and even more desperate. Only the Labour left is going to do this, and that includes Diane Abbott. I don’t think she’d be popular with the general public, as Tory propaganda has probably gone too far.

But I think intellectually she’s more than a match for right-wing loudmouths, and has and will do more for working class peeps than he and the Tories ever will.

The Mine at Oak Flat: A Timeline of Government Bad Faith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 12:30am in

Federal land is scheduled to be handed over to private industry. The copper mine planned would be the largest in North America, sinking a section of the Tonto National Forest into a two-mile wide crater. Continue reading

The post The Mine at Oak Flat: A Timeline of Government Bad Faith appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Government Announces New Welfare Initiative: MineKeeper

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 9:09am in

The Australian Government has reacted swiftly to news that China will no longer be accepting the country’s coal by setting up a new welfare initiative, Minekeeper.

“The very second I heard that our coal was not being taken I got on the blower to Treasury and said do what needs to be done to keep Twiggy and Gina going,” said Prime Minister Scotty from marketing. “My Government is a quick acting Government.”

“A Government that looks after those most in need.”

When asked why his Government was so quick to look after the mining industry as opposed to their glacial reaction to the down fall of the entertainment industry, the Minister said: “I reject the premise of your question.”

“My Government has always been there for the entertainment industry. Why just the other day one of my Ministers chucked some loose change in a buskers hat.”

“Coal miners can’t sell their product on the streets you know.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Gina’s end of year soiree. Apparently the catering will be better than Engadine Maccas, woo hoo.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Again and Again: Settler-colonial extractivism and the Juukan Gorge inquiry’s interim report

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 3:01am in

‘Never Again’ will we see the destruction of sites of such extraordinary antiquity and cultural significance as those at Juukan Gorge. So insists the Hon. Warren Entsch MP in his emotionally charged foreword to the interim report  of the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia’s inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction of the 46,000-year-old habitation sites belonging to the Puutu, Kunti, Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples. There is no reason to believe that this is anything other than heartfelt. Indeed, we believe that most Australians would ‘never again’ want to see Australia’s version in 2020 of the destruction of the unique Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001.

But there is little in this interim report, hyperbole aside, that fills us with any confidence that such destruction will not occur again. This is because such destruction is structurally embedded in the settler-colonial extractive logic on which the Australian nation was founded and on which it continues to prosper. Emblematic of this, the country’s only broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, reported on the release of these preliminary findings and recommendations on page 5, while on its front page it noted that China’s 2020 trade hit list excludes iron-ore exports, valued at $84.8 billion, that are almost exclusively sourced from the Pilbara region.

Coverage in the Australian Financial Review predictably focused on the negative economic implications of the inquiry’s recommendations. WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith, a member of the joint committee, lamented that the report’s recommendation of a stay on the destruction of sites as allowed under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) would ‘be a handbrake on the resources sector’. Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group weighed in, as did Western Australia’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt, both suggesting, in similar terms, that such a stay would not be a ‘practical solution’.

‘Never again’ is a catchcry that First Nations people in Australia have heard on many occasions: never again will we tolerate stolen generations, as child removal accelerates; never again will there be deaths in custody, as numbers in incarceration grow; never again will wages be stolen, as remote-living Indigenous unemployed people are subject to modern slavery-like conditions; never again will there be rationing of food, as the parliament debates and then passes punitive and racially targeted income-management measures; never again to unacceptable socioeconomic disparities that successive governments have failed to address in the past decade or more. History is replete with fine intentions and many ‘never agains’, articulated with great sincerity by politicians to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

Much of the interim report, along with the media coverage that has followed its release, focuses on the particulars of Rio Tinto’s appalling corporate culture, actions and attempted cover-ups. Incrementally and systematically, the report moves from the particulars of Juukan Gorge and Rio Tinto up the responsibility food chain to the deficient Aboriginal Heritage Act (under protracted review), to the broader Western Australian experience of extraction and environmental and cultural-site destruction irrespective of the wishes of traditional owners; to the experience only briefly alluded to beyond Western Australia; to the apex Commonwealth laws—a tripartite layered set of legal arrangements covering Indigenous heritage: the ineffectual Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (currently under review); the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHP Act) that has remained largely dormant during the Juukan debacle; and the overriding Native Title Act 1993 that was carefully designed to ensure that holders of native-title rights and interests are rendered impotent to oppose mineral extraction. This impotence is evident even on lands where native-title holders are vested with so-called exclusive possession, since this ironically excludes possession of minerals reserved for the Crown. Hence the mining activity that accesses subsurface deposits and inevitably destroys the sentient ancestral landscape—open-cut mining has been described by a Yolngu elder in the Gove region as being the equivalent of running a grader across the flesh on one’s body, demonstrated graphically by running the fingernails across the chest.

The report’s language is stronger than many and its consideration of the need for the provision of free, prior and informed consent to Indigenous owners is commendable in intent. This might well reflect the composition of the joint committee, which includes several members who have championed Indigenous rights on many occasions. Yet ultimately the recommendations to date contain very little that might move settler-colonial Australia towards the report’s stated, titular intention, ‘Never Again’. Instead, it issues words of ‘strong encouragement’ and polite requests for voluntary improvements to a set of agencies antithetical to the Indigenous interests they are now being ‘encouraged’ to protect: from Rio Tinto to other mining companies in the Pilbara, all the way through to the WA government (whose coffers, it must be noted once again, are quite literally filled with royalties from those very same companies), to a federal government that has consistently and persistently participated in and benefited from ongoing processes of invasion and dispossession.

The interim report quickly summarises the legal and administrative shortcomings of the EPBC Act and the ATSIHP Act and identifies the main role of the Native Title Act in heritage protection as arising through agreement making. This is because holders and claimants of native title are only vested with a ‘right to negotiate’ over extraction, with no right to veto. The extent of the bias inherent in this agreement-making process is revealed in the interim report: just three of 163 so-called ‘future act’ applications have been successfully opposed in Western Australia under native-title law. Even this is superior to the protection afforded to Indigenous owners under the prevailing WA legislation: of the 463 applications lodged by mining companies to legally destroy sites of significance under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act since 2010, not one has been rejected. The latter statistic is not mentioned in the interim report.

By focusing on the particulars of Juukan Gorge and Rio Tinto, the interim report is looking to apply a sticking plaster when serious suturing is required. It is recommended first and foremost that Rio Tinto negotiate a restitution package with the traditional owners of Juukan Gorge, the PKKP peoples, for the destruction of the site, and that the obliterated habitation shelters be reconstructed. The latter is a preposterous idea. Even if such high-tech ‘plastic surgery’ were possible, post-dynamite obliteration would result in a bizarre Disney-style avoidance of re-colonial reality.

The interim ‘Never Again’ report was completed seven months after the Juukan Gorge destruction, after what an Aboriginal friend from the region described as ‘the bombing’. The committee now has an unspecified deadline in 2021 by which to further expose the systemic problems in the current native-title system. These are manifest at Fortescue’s Solomon Hub, where extraction of iron ore continues unabated, even after the High Court of Australia affirmed that this was occurring counter to the law and in the face of sustained and strident opposition from native-title holders, without consent, and without any agreement in place. Even should the proposed ‘voluntary moratorium’ on new section 18 applications and reassessments of existing approvals invited by the inquiry be taken up by mining companies (many of which have already indicated their opposition to these non-binding recommendations), there is nothing in the interim report that deals substantively with literally hundreds of existing section 18 approvals.

Is it possible for representatives of the Diceyan Australian parliament, established by invader constitutional fiat that asserts its own sovereign powers (including to own and extract mineral wealth in corporate and national interests), to adequately represent pre-existing sovereign interests? Can the settler state’s parliament ever deliver the radical reform needed to ensure Australia’s compliance with internationally agreed standards for self-determination as articulated in key articles in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Australian government belatedly endorsed? These are difficult questions requiring definitive answers, not polite words of encouragement or invitation. Otherwise, if native title is successfully determined in Australian law while the land remains available for mineral prospection, nothing will ensure ‘never again’. As it stands, it seems the First Nations of Australia will be left with another empty promise that governments and mining companies, together so invested in their ongoing dispossession, will act in good faith to ‘protect’ them and their heritage. Surely nobody can reasonably believe this by now.

There are competing, arguably irreconcilable logics at play here, one dominant, one subordinate: will the Australian settler state ever willingly engage in its own recalibration? Ensuring ‘never again’ will require a new logic, one that overturns the prioritisation of rampant mineral extraction (be it iron ore, gas or coal) irrespective of any economic gains and ensures that corporations that transgress non-negotiable heritage protocols are punished with the automatic loss of their licence to operate—not merely socially, but legally as well. This will require an Australian state that properly prioritises the Indigenous interest over the so-called ‘national interest’, although we might once again emphasise that settler-colonial Australia’s continuing reliance on mineral extraction and its contribution to anthropogenic climate change is antithetical to the human (and indeed non-human) interest overall. Sadly, nothing in living memory suggests that any government is up to embracing such a challenge.


Fracking on Trial in the Northern Territory

Lauren Mellor, 19 Nov 2020

As carbon dioxide in our atmosphere pushes 410 parts per million, fuelling a dangerous climate emergency, the world simply cannot afford to let the Northern Territory become the fossil-fuel industry’s next fracking frontier.

Juukan Gorge Destruction: Extractivism and the Australian Settler-colonial Imagination

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 2:59am in

In the days leading up to National Sorry Day and the opening of National Reconciliation Week in May 2020, the mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed two Juukan Gorge sites belonging to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples. These sites were said to contain some of the earliest human expressions of symbolic meaning on the planet. They are the only known inland sites showing evidence of continual human occupation back into the last ice age, 46,000 years or more.

Despite Rio Tinto’s initial claims that the destruction was the result of an unfortunate ‘misunderstanding’ and its issuing of a series of correspondingly underwhelming non-apologies, recent revelations of the company’s deliberate duplicity have provoked a widespread backlash. This has in turn compelled actual apologies from Rio Tinto, accompanied by a round of executive resignations (‘by mutual agreement’ and with golden parachutes attached) and promises of improved corporate behaviour. Rio has even paid for its now ‘unreserved’ apology to be prioritised in related Google search results, presumably in the hope of salvaging its reputation.

So far, media coverage has focused largely on either the failures of Rio Tinto’s corporate behaviour and decision-making processes or on the outdated nature of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA). Corporate and political responses have by and large followed suit. In a recent article published in Arena Online, Jon Altman offered several important correctives to the received narratives regarding this act of destruction and desecration. In particular, he highlighted a series of important underlying issues with the native-title regime as an ostensible means of protecting Indigenous rights to land, and pointed towards the settler-colonial logics of contemporary Australia as an overlooked factor in the destruction and its aftermath.1 Still, several months later, these logics and their ongoing implications are rarely, if ever, identified as the primary issue involved.

This essay elaborates these two aspects of corporate decision-making and heritage protection, but it does so in a broader context. I want to reveal the underlying dynamics of this specific act of destruction as representative of the contradictions of contemporary settler colonialism at large. While the promised improvements to corporate behaviour and heritage-protection laws are welcome, the persistence of a settler-colonial and distinctively settler-capitalist system of relations undermines any reasonable expectation that these reforms will prove to be meaningful. Indeed, the deep structures of settler-colonial Australia point in entirely the opposite direction. Extractive settler-capitalist economies founded in ongoing processes of Indigenous displacement, dispossession and erasure stand as one of Australia’s most enduring national features.

***

Settler colonialism is primarily about land. Settler-colonial formations are premised on the foundational projection of permanent territorial sovereignty. The clue is in the name: unlike the temporary colonial sojourner, the settler stays. The peculiarities of the sovereign intentions of the settler project, which seeks to establish exclusive territorial sovereignty over expropriated Indigenous lands, produce what Patrick Wolfe described as a ‘logic of elimination’. Access to land is the primary motivation for elimination. Settlers—and the settler state—aim to displace the pre-existing (and inconveniently persisting) Indigenous presence in order to establish their own direct connection with the land. This sought-after connection, which has both economic and cultural dimensions, continues to have far-reaching consequences for the peoples on whose presumed absence both dimensions proceed. In the settler-colonial equation, as Deborah Bird Rose has suggested, ‘to get in the way all the native has to do is stay at home’.2

The destruction of Juukan Gorge and the ‘half-assed’ non-apologies that followed were not simply another example of racism-in-action, as Jeff Sparrow, writing in the Guardian,seemed to imply.3 As Ghassan Hage has argued, racism in itself provides little to no imperative to act, unless or until provoked by an actual or perceived threat to national unity or coherence.4 Nor, indeed, was the destruction just a failure of the prevailing heritage-protection and native-title regimes that are ostensibly there to protect First Nations peoples from precisely the kind of cultural devastation the PKKP peoples have suffered here.

In much the same way that black deaths in custody are best understood as a feature rather than a flaw of the settler-colonial ‘justice’ system, this and parallel acts of destruction and desecration take place as part of an ongoing settler-colonial project of displacement. They are allowed, excused and often actively facilitated by overlapping agencies concerned to ‘open up’ the land (to use the language of the frontier) for the purpose of extractive exploitation. In this instance, as in innumerable others, mining interests and governments can be seen working hand-in-glove to further the ends of the settler-colonial project: the displacement of sovereign Indigenous peoples from the land so as to render that land available for exploitation and economic gain.

This is not to suggest that Rio Tinto was somehow enacting a settler-colonial will on behalf of Australian society when it proceeded to destroy Juukan Gorge sites 1 and 2. It is perfectly accurate to say that Rio Tinto was acting both in accordance with the profit-making imperative and within the law. What I want to highlight here, however, is how the heritage-protection and native-title regimes are themselves conditioned, if not determined, by the underlying logics of settler colonialism and their current conjuncture with the trajectory of late neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, it is the contemporary combination of cultural and economic logics that renders Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge so representative, and so revealing.

***

It is possible that the reputational damage incurred by Rio Tinto will temper its corporate behaviour now and for some time into the future. Other participants in the extractive industries’ ongoing exploitation of the Indigenous estate may well follow suit, since their reputations have been tarnished by association, and they too now find themselves, for once, the subjects of critical public-political attention. BHP has very publicly announced a ‘pause’ to any further expansion of its South Flank iron-ore operation, for example. It has also come out in support of increased rights to consultation and appeal on the part of Indigenous owners, perhaps in an attempt to bolster its own credentials in comparison with its competitors. At the same time, however, chief executive Mike Henry refused to rule out the possibility that the South Flank expansion would proceed in the future. Rio, for its part, has insisted on its willingness to learn from the Juukan Gorge disaster. It has announced a similar pause on its extension of Brockman 4 (of which Juukan Gorge formed a part) and has signalled its intention to ‘make sure this does not happen again’. 

Yet hopes for meaningful and long-lasting voluntary improvements to corporate behaviour seem optimistic at best, and, more realistically, misplaced and diversionary. Any such improvements are almost certain to be fleeting, and mining companies are likely to return to their default settings of displacement and destruction once public attention moves on. In much the same way as the exploitative relations of capitalism are not reliant on the good or ill will of any individual actor, the current model of a ‘good’ (that is, profitable) mining company cannot realistically be reconciled with the substantive protection of Indigenous lands and cultural heritage. Considered in combination with the eliminationist logics of settler colonialism, such hopes appear less plausible still. 

Heritage manager for the Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation (WGAC) Dr Kathryn Przywolnik observed in the organisation’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of Juukan Gorge that there was a ‘significant power imbalance’ in the existing agreement between Rio Tinto and the WGAC that put the latter in the position of having to rely on the company’s ‘better nature’ to respect their cultural heritage. As Apache and US environmental groups pointed out in the wake of Juukan Gorge’s destruction, plans by a subsidiary of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to build a major copper mine on one of their sacred sites, underneath Oak Flat in California, thoroughly undermine the idea that anything of substance has changed in Rio’s attitudes towards Indigenous peoples. WGAC representatives seem to agree. When asked at the inquiry how much confidence they had that Rio Tinto would maintain its ‘pause’ on destruction once the media spotlight had moved on, they responded, ‘None’.

While BHP has followed Rio’s lead in hitting pause on its projects in the Pilbara, Fortescue Metals Group, Australian Potash, China Shenhua and others appear ready to continue theirs in the region and beyond. A recent Guardian investigation found that more than 100 sites in the Pilbara are currently at risk of destruction.5 The pattern is well established by now. Of the 463 applications to destroy or disturb sites of significance to local Aboriginal people lodged by mining companies since mid-2010 in Western Australia alone, not a single one has been denied.

***

Promises of legislative reform on the part of governments that have similarly operated on the presumption, and towards the enactment, of Indigenous elimination are also likely to remain partial, if history is anything to go by. The overarching pattern of relations between governments, mining companies and sovereign First Nations peoples seems self-evidently to bear this out. The prevailing heritage-protection regimes in Western Australia and beyond, as numerous submissions to the federal parliamentary inquiry have emphasised, are heavily stacked in favour of non-Indigenous economic interests at the expense of Indigenous rights to land, culture and heritage. The Banjima people in the Pilbara, for example, could lose up to eighty-six significant sites in BHP’s planned (but ‘paused’) South Flank expansion (the destruction of forty sites was approved five days after the destruction of Juukan Gorge). Banjima representatives told the inquiry that Indigenous owners have ‘no choice’ but to ‘trade away their heritage’ to mining companies. In the absence of a right of veto, their ‘choice’ is a Hobson’s choice: accept the mine with whatever agreement is on offer, or have the mine imposed without any agreement at all. 

Worse still, such agreements often contain ‘gag’ clauses preventing Indigenous owners from publicly raising concerns about mining companies’ destructive behaviour, while the current WA Aboriginal Heritage Act grants them no right of appeal. Indeed, recent revelations regarding Rio Tinto’s preparations against a potential injunction in the days leading up to the Juukan Gorge destruction suggest that the company was relying on just such a provision—the so-called ‘non-disparagement clause’ in the company’s agreement with the Indigenous owners—to prevent the PKKP from speaking out in a last-ditch attempt to protect the caves. 

According to Carol Meredith, chief executive of the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation, lawyers representing Rio Tinto not only warned them against speaking out but also insisted that they could not apply for an emergency declaration to halt the caves’ destruction without first seeking the company’s permission and providing it with thirty days’ notice of their intention to do so. The company’s focus in the lead-up to the blast remained firmly on its legal standing. As Calla Wahlquist reported in the Guardian, ‘the significance of the site was not discussed’.6 In its submission to the ongoing parliamentary inquiry, the Australian Archaeological Association noted that Aboriginal sites of significance are ‘routinely destroyed’ under the existing protection regime. As Marcia Langton remarked in the Guardian, in its current guise, ‘far from protecting Aboriginal heritage’ the WA Act ‘provides a fast-track for mining companies to destroy it’.7 The default setting of the WA government, as with mining companies and other interests, seems ‘stuck on destroy’.8

Media coverage since the destruction of Juukan Gorge has consistently emphasised the fact that the outdated Aboriginal Heritage Act is being revised to improve the level of protection afforded to Indigenous owners. And the recently released Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2020 (WA), intended to replace the 1972 Act, contains several promising provisions, including harsher penalties for land users who engage in unauthorised acts of destruction (although again we should note that what occurred at Juukan Gorge was not ‘unauthorised’). Other measures are intended to provide greater transparency with respect to governments and increased rights of consultation and appeal on the part of Indigenous owners. However, all existing section 18 approvals will remain in force despite the proposed improvements. Rio Tinto alone has current approval to destroy approximately 1780 Aboriginal heritage sites under the existing Act, and these approvals are set to remain in place. The perversity of ‘improvements’ to heritage-protection laws prioritising mining companies’ rights to destroy the very cultural heritage the laws are ostensibly designed to protect is startling in its audacity, if not in the logic and principles it so clearly reflects. 

Robin Chapple, Greens MP for the Mining and Pastoral Region in Western Australia, has also raised concerns over the period and process for Indigenous consultation with regard to the proposed legislation. The time frames, which would allow Indigenous groups just over a week between the commencement of consultation and closure of public comment, echo the sham ‘consultation’ processes used by the Gillard Labor government to claim Indigenous consent for continuing the NT Intervention under its perversely named Stronger Futures package of 2012.9

***

It is telling that while BHP has come out in support of greater consultation and appeal rights for Indigenous owners, it, Fortescue Metals and Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill are united in seeking to keep the federal government out of the matter altogether. They appear intent on keeping heritage protection with the WA government, whose coffers are filled with royalties from the state’s mineral and petroleum producers, to the tune of $5.6 billion in the 2018–19 financial year. The profitable nature of this relationship is more than reciprocated, with $22 billion of Rio’s $29 billion in earnings over the same period the product of its destructive/extractive activities in the Pilbara region alone.

WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt has promoted his proposed legislation on the basis that it will bring Western Australia’s heritage protections into alignment with Commonwealth native-title laws. This is a mixed blessing at best. The native-title regime has arguably always operated in the way it was intended: against Indigenous interests. And the absence of a right of veto, which produces the Hobson’s choice the Banjima people highlighted, has been the central enabler of its ongoing adverse implications. The proposed restructuring of the native-title regime to include the right of veto, as advocated by Altman and others, therefore strikes me as more urgent and necessary, and correspondingly more difficult to achieve. The inclusion of a right of refusal in Australia’s native-title and heritage-protection regimes would bring Australia into line with at least one of its international legal obligations with respect to Indigenous rights: the right to ‘free, prior and informed consent’ guaranteed under international law. Yet the economic and national-cultural implications would be extensive, to say the least.

Former Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, in full damage-control mode in the aftermath of the caves’ destruction, recently conceded that the question of whether Indigenous owners should be granted veto powers over mining projects was an ‘absolutely valid’ one to ask, albeit one he stopped short of answering. If past behaviour offers any indication of future behaviour, the evidence suggests that the company will remain opposed to such a right, given the impediment it would present to the destructive/extractive activities it depends on. Rio’s choice of non-executive director Michael L’Estrange to lead its internal review into the destruction of Juukan Gorge, having found no First Nations person prepared to do so, seems to bear this out. In the interests of the transparency Rio has been trumpeting of late, we should recall the fact that in 1997 L’Estrange headed John Howard’s cabinet policy unit when, in response to the High Court’s Wik decision, it devised its infamous 10-point plan to provide, as then deputy prime minister Tim Fischer boasted, ‘bucketloads of extinguishment’ in relation to native title.

At face value, some of these potential shifts of policy and behaviour on the part of mining companies and governments might be seen to provide grounds for optimism. Perhaps more positive still has been the formation of a national coalition of Aboriginal native-title and land-rights councils to seek legislative reforms in Western Australia and beyond, although the extent to which they will be able or willing to remain outside of and in opposition to the dominant trajectory remains to be seen. As has been the case with even the modest gains in recognition and protection of Indigenous rights over the course of Australia’s settler-colonial history, Indigenous agency and activism will undoubtedly be key to any future improvements as well. But until the underlying currents of settler colonialism and extractive settler capitalism are addressed, all of the proposed remedies canvassed above remain unconvincing, as the very notion of a ‘pause’ implies.

***

Ernest Renan famously suggested that forgetting, as much as remembering, is fundamental to all national/ist traditions.10 This certainly applies in settler-colonial contexts, where the task has been to undermine, interfere with or eradicate the sovereignty conceded by the Crown in the originary act of entreating with ‘the natives’. In settler-colonial Australia, premised as it is on the imagined non-existence of pre-existing Indigenous societies, however, the task has not been to forget, or even to actively disremember, but rather to erase all traces of Indigenous occupation—of Indigenous sovereignty—at the moment or, better yet, before they appear.

In recent decades it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the outright strategies of erasure and disavowal that characterised Bill Stanner’s ‘Great Australian Silence’ in the wake of the revolutions in archaeology, anthropology and history that First Nations activism in large part provoked. Yet far from a reversal of preceding attitudes and relations, the post-1967 period has been marked by the development of new strategies to submerge, subsume or otherwise evade the implications of Indigenous sovereignties, as they are asserted and reasserted by their living bearers. Far from a form of recognition and protection of Indigenous rights to land—let alone sovereignty—native title, properly understood, represents precisely one such strategy.

Ben Silverstein has written of how the High Court’s decision in Mabo no. 2, and especially the Keating government’s response to that decision, acted to ‘submerge’ Indigenous sovereignties at the very moment they (re)appeared.11 When the court ‘overturned’ the terra nullius doctrine in its application to the colonisation of Australia, it acted immediately to constrain the obvious implications of that determination. On the question of the Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty, so clearly and fundamentally challenged by the court’s recognition of the Meriam people’s pre-existing native title, the court refused to engage in existential questioning and simply ruled the matter beyond its jurisdiction. Its determination that Australia’s settler-colonial sovereignty was not ‘municipally justiciable’ effectively displaced the question of its own legitimacy, and the sovereignty it supposedly represents, into an international arena premised on the prior and presumed recognition of that very sovereignty.

Paul Keating’s introduction of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) in response to the Mabo decision is often regarded by small-l liberals and ‘progressives’ as a crowning achievement in the reign of their acerbic political hero, and an important step in his principled march towards a reconciled republic. Patrick Wolfe, however, characterised it more accurately as signalling the ‘fulfilment’ rather than the removal of terra nullius—as marking the point at which it had ‘completed its historical task’.12 Under the native-title regime, Indigenous rights to land have been constructed as both inherently limited and peculiarly fragile—uniquely susceptible to ‘extinguishment’. In its requirement that claimants prove their uninterrupted and continuing ‘traditional connection’ with the land in question, for example, the native-title regime displaces the burden of proof, and of history, from coloniser to colonised. The implications of this displacement were starkly illustrated by Justice Olney’s infamous conclusion that the ‘tide of history’ had ‘washed away’ the Yorta Yorta’s native title.

As Altman pointed out in relation to the destruction of Juukan Gorge, the Native Title Act ‘quite intentionally’ failed to provide Indigenous peoples with the sought-after right of veto over mineral and other forms of exploration and exploitation on their land.13 By placing decision-making power with the vested interests of mining companies and government agencies, affirming the Crown’s (and Commonwealth’s) acquisition of sovereignty, guaranteeing existing non-Indigenous interests in land, and radically circumscribing both the number of potential claimants and the implications of their claims, the Mabo decision, and the native-title regime that followed, can best be understood in line with Wolfe’s characterisation. In the context of the longue durée of attempted elimination and erasure that has defined the Australian settler-colonial project, native title can be seen to represent not an inversion but rather a further enactment of settler-colonial invasion.

Crucially, the continuation of the destructive activities of Australia’s extractive economy on Indigenous lands contributes to the ongoing erasure of Indigenous sovereignties the settler project has always sought to enact and maintain. The interruption of Indigenous peoples’ ‘traditional connection’, the fundamental basis from which native-title claims and entitlements proceed, as with the destruction of evidence thereof, has the effect of contributing to the ‘extinguishment’ of native title and associated rights. This is the context in which the destruction of Juukan Gorge—along with the many other, less widely reported acts of settler-colonial desecration, past and planned—took place, with the tacit approval of state and federal governments alike. To the extent that acts such as those that occurred at Juukan Gorge have the effect, from a settler-colonial perspective, of undermining the availability of acceptable, admissible evidence of First Nations peoples’ profound and continuing connections to Country, these actions and their broader context can be understood as another wave in the relentlessly destructive settler-colonial ‘tide of history’. From this point of view, WA senator Pat Dodson’s suggestion that the mining industry is engaged in ‘a form of incremental genocide’ rings true.

***

Marcia Langton’s refusal to lead Rio Tinto’s internal inquiry into the Juukan Gorge disaster and her attacks on the company’s leadership seem to signal an important shift away from the contradictory alignment of Indigenous and mining interests she vehemently promoted in her 2012 Boyer Lectures (themselves based on research partly funded by Rio Tinto) and beyond.14 Noel Pearson seems to have followed suit, publishing a scathing attack in the Weekend Australian against Rio Tinto’s ‘astounding silence’ on ‘any spiritual, if not spiritual then moral, if not moral then ethical, if not ethical then philosophical, reflection of the loss that the traditional owners, the nation and the world have suffered’.15 

At the same time, however, the announcement that mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest will deliver the 2020 Boyer Lectures—not incidentally the same series of public lectures in which Stanner, in 1968, first highlighted and elaborated the ‘Great Australian Silence’—suggests the absolute integration of contemporary settler-colonial culture and economy. Epitomised here in the figure of Forrest delivering one of Australia’s premier ‘intellectual’ events, culture and economy appear unified in the promotion of an exploitative relation to the land at the expense of the Indigenous interests that might otherwise stand in their way. Australia’s ‘biggest philanthropist’, lauded by politicians and the media for his company’s treatment of First Nations people and for his (largely unfulfilled) promises of bringing ‘real jobs’ to remote Australia, this is the same Twiggy Forrest whose Fortescue Metals Group fought (and ultimately lost) a long and bitter battle with the Yindjibarndi people over compensation for the destructive/extractive activities it has been carrying out on their lands for over a decade. 

In spite of Forrest’s well-documented attempts to undermine the Yindjibarndi’s claim, in a rare instance of the system responding to Indigenous interests the Yindjibarndi were recently awarded exclusive possession rights over land in the Pilbara that includes the site of Fortescue’s multi-billion-dollar Solomon Hub. Nevertheless, running counter to this decision and Fortescue’s announcement of a ‘pause’ on the relevant part of the Solomon Hub expansion to allow for additional consultation with the Indigenous owners, the company seems intent on proceeding with plans to expand its Queens mine, also part of the Solomon Hub—on Eastern Guruma lands. Fortescue is seeking approval under section 18 of the current WA Act to destroy the first of several sites in the area, including two rock shelters showing evidence of human use and occupation dating back 47,800 years in one and 60,000 years in the other. 

Recent revelations from the Eastern Guruma regarding Fortescue’s decision to withhold $1.9 million in royalties in apparent response to their refusal to sign off on new mining leases while awaiting further information on the company’s plans underscore Fortescue’s—and by extension Forrest’s—consistent opposition to Indigenous interests. Fortescue’s rejection, on the basis of a minor technicality, of shareholders’ calls for a moratorium on the destruction of other sites of significance to Indigenous owners in the wake of Juukan Gorge further attests to this position. The company wasted no time in taking advantage of its avoidance of the proposed moratorium, applying within weeks to convert its existing prospecting licence into a mining licence on land within an area of ‘high cultural sensitivity’ currently protected by a separate six-month moratorium negotiated between the PKKP and Rio Tinto in the immediate aftermath of the latter’s act of destruction. Cutting against Fortescue’s claim that it opposed the more far-reaching moratorium on the grounds that it would ‘disempower’ Indigenous owners, PKKP cultural-heritage manager Heather Builth described Fortescue’s apparent attempt to work around the existing moratorium as ‘insensitive at best, unconscionable at the worst’.16

***

Culturally, the settler-colonial drive towards displacement is compelled by what Wolfe described as a sought-after ‘fusion of people and land’ in the formation of a new society.17 In Australia, the economic base of the new society has been constructed around the unfettered exploitation of land rendered available by the presumed absence—actual or imminent—of the original custodians. This encompasses early and subsequent forms of pastoralism and agrarianism through to the contemporary dominance of Australia’s extractive industries. While the cultural significance of that extractive economic base has always been overstated (mining makes up only 10 per cent of Australia’s GDP, for example), this only reinforces the entanglement of cultural and economic forces in the ongoing processes of settler-colonial displacement and erasure. 

In light of the current conjuncture, it is revealing, appropriate even, that Forrest has been chosen to deliver the 2020 iteration of the national broadcaster’s foremost lecture series (presumably in a pair of R. M. Williams boots, since he has just acquired that iconic company). Whereas historically the settler–land relation was constitutive of Australian identity in the guise of national archetypes such as diggers, bushmen and battlers, formed through the direct domination and exploitation of a ‘hostile’ and ‘empty’ land, today the relationship is far more mediated by and aligned with market ideals. In this sense, Twiggy Forrest represents the new Coming Man: Australian man remade for our contemporary age, the personification of a settler-colonial Australia written in and on the absence of First Nations peoples and almost entirely given over to the demands and seductions of the market. 

Here, now, the settler-colonial logic of elimination—of displacement for the purpose of replacement—has come to align in ever more destructive ways with the economic logic of neoliberal capitalism that David Harvey terms accumulation by dispossession.18 The ‘direct relationship’ Altman identified ‘between the coffers of the state and the extraction of minerals owned by the Crown that is now conferred upon Commonwealth, state and territory governments’ cannot be excluded from consideration here.19 The reciprocal and mutually reinforcing relationship in which state funding is funnelled back to mining companies in the form of subsidies and infrastructure used to underwrite their unfettered extraction of mineral resources from Indigenous lands is similarly fundamental. This destructive system of relations results in a ruinous cycle akin to—and indeed entangled with—the spiralling feedback loops of global warming and environmental destruction.

In summary, Australia’s First Nations peoples—as in the other settler colonies, including Trump’s United States and Bolsonaro’s Brazil, to which we might well add Trudeau’s Canada, though perhaps not now Ardern’s Aotearoa/New Zealand—once again find themselves ‘in the way’. Yet the contemporary coupling of the eliminationist cultural logics of settler colonialism and the extractive economic ones of neoliberal capitalism represents a clear and present danger not only to Indigenous peoples, whose lives and lands are directly in the path of these twinned and revivified forces of destruction, but also, now, to all of humanity.

Notes

1 Jon Altman, ‘The Native Title Act Supports Mineral Extraction and Heritage Destruction’, Arena Online, 16 June 2020, https://arena.org.au/the-native-title-act-supports-mineral-extraction-and-heritage-destruction/.

2 See Patrick Wolfe, Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event, London & New York: Cassell, 1999; Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

3 Jeff Sparrow, ‘Culture Warriors Obsessed with Statues Ignore Rio Tinto’s Vandalism of Indigenous Heritage, Guardian, 17 June 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/17/culture-warriors-obsessed-with-statues-ignore-rio-tintos-vandalism-of-indigenous-heritage.

4 Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society, New York: Routledge, 2000.

5 Lorena Allam and Calla Wahlquist, ‘More Than 100 Aboriginal Sacred Sites – Some Dating Before the Ice Age – Could Be Destroyed by Mining Companies’, Guardian, 28 August 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/aug/28/more-than-100-aboriginal-sacred-sites-some-dating-before-the-ice-age-could-be-destroyed-by-mining-companies.

6 Calla Wahlquist, ‘Juukan Gorge: Rio Tinto Hired Lawyers for Potential Injunction Against Blasting of Aboriginal Site’, Guardian, 5 September 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/05/juukan-gorge-rio-tinto-hired-lawyers-for-potential-injunction-against-blasting-of-aboriginal-site.

7 Marcia Langton, ‘We Need a Thorough Investigation into the Destruction of the Juukan Gorge Caves. A Mere Apology Will Not Cut It’, Guardian, 28 July 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/28/we-need-a-thorough-investigation-into-the-destruction-of-the-juukan-gorge-caves-a-mere-apology-will-not-cut-it.

8 Emma Young, ‘“Default Setting Stuck on Destroy”: FMG’s Plan to Blast 60,000-Year-Old Site’, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/national/default-setting-stuck-on-destroy-fmg-s-plan-to-blast-60-000-year-old-site-20200608-p550ld.html.

9 See Alastair Nicholson et al., Listening but Not Hearing: A Response to the NTER Stronger Futures Consultations, June to August 2011, Sydney: University of Technology Sydney, 2012, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/ListeningButNotHearing8March2012_1.pdf.

10 Ernest Renan, ‘What Is a Nation?’ [1882], in Homi K. Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration, London & New York: Routledge, 1990, pp. 8–22.

11 Ben Silverstein, ‘Submerged Sovereignty: Native Title within a History of Incorporation’, in Julie Evans, Ann Genovese, Alexander Reilly and Patrick Wolfe (eds), Sovereignty: Frontiers of Possibility, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013, pp 60–85.

12 Wolfe, p. 203.

13 Altman, n.p.

14 See, for example, Marcia Langton, ‘The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom’, the 53rd Boyer Lectures, ABC, 2012, https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/boyerlectures/series/2012-boyer-lectures/4305696 and From Conflict to Cooperation: Transformations and Challenges in the Engagement between the Australian Minerals Industry and Australian Indigenous Peoples, Forrest: Minerals Council of Australia, 2015, https://minerals.org.au/sites/default/files/MCA%20Monograph%207%20-%20From%20Conflic~on%20by%20Professor%20Marcia%20Langton.pdf.

15 Noel Pearson, ‘Rio Tinto’s Poor Excuses on Juukan Gorge, Australian, 5 September 2020, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/rio-tintos-poor-excuses-on-juukan-gorge/news-story/35f4ef04cf4add0254d4945059e4dd46.

16 Keira Jenkins, ‘“Immense Grief and Guilt”: PKKP Say the Destruction of Juukan Caves Has Taken Toll, NITV News, 12 October 2020, https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2020/10/12/immense-grief-and-guilt-pkkp-say-destruction-juukan-caves-has-taken-toll.

17 Patrick Wolfe, Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race, London: Verso, 2016, p. 34.

18 David Harvey, The New Imperialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; David Harvey, ‘The “New” Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession’, Socialist Register, 40, 2004, pp 63–87.

19 Altman, n.p.

Momentum’s Stand With Corbyn Rally

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 31/10/2020 - 9:17pm in

Yesterday Momentum held an online rally to support Jeremy Corbyn on YouTube. The speakers included Diane Abbott, Jess Barnard, Howard Beckett, Sonali Bhattacharyya, Rivkah Brown, Richard Burgon, Deborah Hermanns, John McDonnell, Roger McKenzie, Barnaby Raine, Chardine Taylor Stone, and Jon Trickett.

They paid tribute to Jeremy Corbyn’s tireless work opposing racism, which some of the speakers had personally experienced. Jon Trickett is Jewish through his mother’s side, and suffered anti-Semitic abuse recently from a real Nazi. They acknowledged that there was a problem with racism and anti-Semitism in the Labour party and society, and felt that it was growing, and needed to be fought. They also attacked the Conservatives for their continued attacks on working people.

Some speakers made it extremely clear that the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn weren’t actually motivated by any concern about real Jew hatred, but were instead an attempt to stop the emergence of a genuine socialist Labour party. This was shown in a Torygraph article that day calling for Starmer to purge the party completely of Corbynism. They made the point that what frightens the Tories and their supporters is that Labour has a membership of 500,000. The Labour party isn’t the leadership, it isn’t MPs, it’s the members. They also pointed out that Corbyn’s problem was that no socialist could become a Labour MP during Blair and Brown’s tenure of power, and so the parliamentary MPs from this time, who have only been MPs for a few years, are naturally opposed to the Labour leader.

They described how immensely popular Jeremy Corbyn and his policies were. One of the speakers told how the manifesto was clapped and cheered by everyone at one Labour rally or conference. This was astonishing, as it wasn’t a person, but a manifesto. One northern MP also described how, when Corbyn came to speak in a small northern pit town, the rally was packed with a thousand extra people, who had walked there. He believed Corbyn was more popular than Arthur Scargill.

They acknowledged that it was going to be a struggle to recover from this crisis and get back into government. But it was never easy, and the press and media will always be opposed to Labour. It’s not called ‘the struggle’ for nothing. Nevertheless, they urged their audience to remain in the Labour Party and join Momentum to create a united left that can fight and win. And they had other demands for the reform of society and the removal of the Tory policies that are harming and killing the British people. One of the MPs condemned the way the Tories could find billions for their cronies in industry, such as giving money for a test and trace system, that doesn’t work, but couldn’t find the paltry amount for free school meals for starving children.

It was an inspiring rally uniting Blacks, Whites, Asians, Jews and gentiles in support of an inspiring Labour leader. A leader who was brought down by conspirators in his own party, and who still now terrifies the right-wing political establishment. A great politician, who should never have been suspended and deserves to be back in the Labour party.

Here’s the video:

What kind of Citizen’s Dividend from Goa mining would promote intergenerational justice?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/09/2020 - 10:02pm in

Wealth distribution can liberate from the incentives that poverty produces. You have the chance of posing and giving space to these important questions.

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