Smith, HD 2009, 'Strangers in a foreign land — developing cultural closure criteria for mines in Australia’s Northern Territory', in AB Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2009: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Mine Closure
, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 3-11, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_repo/908_Smith
The Northern Land Council is a statutory body created under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (1976) to
protect the rights and interests of traditional Aboriginal landowners. An important part of this work requires
the Land Council to deal with appropriate restoration of leased Aboriginal lands following cessation of
industrial projects such as mining. This paper seeks to demonstrate that cultural, as well as ecological
matters can and should be addressed at closure.
Using an example from the Arnhem Land region of Australia’s Northern Territory, it is shown that cultural
information is an important factor that can be integrated into the mine site rehabilitation and closure
process during the planning phase. When archaeological and anthropological records are supplemented
with extant traditional cultural knowledge, it is possible to develop a cultural landscape, or map, that defines
locations of special significance. If the location of the mine and its sphere of impacts is referenced against
this map specific work required to redress cultural impacts can be undertaken.
It is found that by focussing on the physical attributes, ecology and keystone cultural species for each
culturally important location, micromanagement of this part of the rehabilitation process is required. This
requires links between cultural and ecological knowledge to be defined if the overall cultural integrity of the
landscape is to be reconstructed. Outcomes are dependent upon the quality of information that can be
recovered, the willingness of traditional custodians to discuss its importance and the extent of damage that
has been done.
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