FARA member Dr John Black has been pursuing express concerns about the adequacy of the science conducted to substantiate claims made by industry and government such as, “… it is unlikely that the relatively small quantities of NO2 and NH3 that would be emitted from (industrial development) would have a significant impact on rock art in the surrounding areas.”

The two most important issues are:

i) The original studies with concentrated acids and ammonia examined the effects on iron ore and not the surface of Burrup rock (patina) which contains the art and,

ii) No statistical information was provided in any of the fumigation experiments to justify the claims of the major scientific studies.

The latter is of particular concern when the Premier of WA replied in a letter to FARA, “Any substantial developments on the Burrup Peninsula are assessed with regard to the CSIRO (2007) study.  The results of the study, when appropriately analysed and interpreted, indicate that the relatively small quantities of air emissions from the proposed industries when combined with emissions from existing industries on the Burrup Peninsula are unlikely to have a significant impact on rock art.”

John Black has had close contact with a new body set up to continue monitoring colour and mineralogy changes of rock surfaces on the Burrup and to conduct further scientific studies.   The group (Burrup Rock Art Technical Working Group, BRATWG) has initiated a new study to repeat the investigation of effects of concentrated acids and ammonia on rock patina colour and mineralogy and not with iron ore as used in the initial study.  BRATWG has also agreed to undertake a Power Analysis to determine the number of replicate measurements that need to be made to obtain a significant difference of less than 5% change in rock surface colour and mineralogy for future experiments.

Furthermore, BRATWG sent John Black a copy of the report, “Burrup Peninsula Aboriginal Petroglyphs: Colour change and spectral mineralogy 2004-2012” for comment prior to its release.  As a result of John’s concerns with the variation between measurements being so great that statistical significance in change was impossible to confirm and the conclusions drawn were misleading, the scientists conducting the research are reanalysing the data prior to release of the report.

John has just received permission from the WA state government to access the raw data from the CSIRO 2007 report so that he can reanalyse it.  John plans to write a report on the reanalysis, which he expects will show the conclusions drawn in the original report were grossly simplified and inaccurate.