Fertiliser company urged to halt plans to remove Burrup Peninsula Indigenous rock art

Royce Kurmelovs
The Guardian Australia
Sat 12 Mar 2022

Environment minister Sussan Ley asks Perdaman not to go ahead until a review is carried out after traditional owners raise concerns

The federal government has asked a multinational fertiliser company to stop work on plans to remove Indigenous rock art from a world heritage-nominated area in the Burrup Peninsula after traditional owners raised concerns.

Perdaman is planning to build a $4.5bn fertiliser plant in Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula. The company is already contracted to buy gas used to make the fertiliser from Woodside Energy’s Scarborough gas field.

The plant has been strongly supported by both the Western Australian and federal governments, with $255m given to the company to build water and marine infrastructure nearby.

Building the plant would, however, require the removal of rock art at three sites.

The company has been given approval by the Western Australian government to go ahead with the removal but it is understood it does not yet have the work approvals required to start.

The Burrup Peninsula in the Pilbara – known as Murujuga to traditional custodians – is also an outdoor gallery home to over a million examples of Indigenous rock art produced over a period of 50,000 years.

The area was nominated for a world heritage listing in 2018. If successful, this would mean the area is protected in the same way as the pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal.

While Perdaman has claimed to have the full support of the traditional owners to remove the art, this has been contested.

Raelene Cooper, a Mardudhunera woman and former board member of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, said elders and members of the community had been misinformed about the nature of work.

“The elders never approved this,” Cooper said. “They had no understanding of it. No one had ever explained to them what was really going on.

“I mentioned that they were going to start removing the rock art and said they don’t want that. They said so repeatedly.”

Perdaman was contacted for comment.