Bauxite mining operations are increasingly sited on Indigenous-owned land, particularly in tropical areas, including northern Australia. The environmental impacts of bauxite mining are significant. Native vegetation, including commercially valuable forests, is cleared and typically windrowed and burnt. For many Indigenous Australians, mining of their land creates much concern about biocultural, community health and livelihood impacts from the loss of access to traditional lands and resources, and the ability to ‘care for country’. Improved pre-mining utilisation of forest resources and effective mine rehabilitation can mitigate some of these impacts and it is important to Indigenous communities that they are engaged in these processes. But Indigenous peoples' expectations are rarely considered or adequately addressed in site clearing activities or mine completion criteria, and there is limited guidance on how their expected outcomes can be monitored and evaluated for mine closure and relinquishment. This paper reports on a case-study of the Western Cape York Peninsula bauxite mining region in northern Australia. The paper reviews mine rehabilitation in the case-study region, including related Indigenous forest livelihoods initiatives, presents local Indigenous peoples' expectations for pre- and post-mining forest and landscape management as an integrated mining-community forestry ‘vision’, and discusses implications for mine completion criteria, mine closure and relinquishment. The findings highlight the need for Indigenous peoples' full and transparent free, prior and informed consent participation in all aspects of mine closure planning, and for further research to trial the development and assessment of mine completion criteria linked to local biocultural landscape restoration and Indigenous livelihoods. The findings can inform mining policymakers, regulators and industry professionals on the design, implementation and monitoring of mine completion criteria and associated pre- and post-mining management that will improve environmental outcomes and socio-cultural benefits for Indigenous communities impacted by mining.
Annandale, M., Meadows, J., & Erskine, P. (2021). Indigenous forest livelihoods and bauxite mining: A case-study from northern Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 294, 113014–113014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.113014