Consideration of First Nations’ cultural values in mine site rehabilitation by environmental professionals

Will Kemp, Sean M. Bellairs, Janine Joyce, Jane Henderson

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Rehabilitation of mined land on First Nations’ country after mine closure must achieve particular criteria to be considered successful. Generally, these conditions are based on achieving a habitable condition that is more or less similar to analogue sites or to the pre–mining state. Rehabilitating a site to a habitable condition requires the restoration of cultural values, as well as environmental and economic values. This study investigates the extent to which First Nations’ cultural values are considered in mine rehabilitation in northern Australia. Interviews were conducted with environment professionals who had experience rehabilitating mine sites on First Nations’ land in the Northern Territory, Australia. The participants were asked about their experiences restoring First Nations’ cultural values to mined land. Thematic analysis found six main themes: “Values” (which need to be restored); “Planning” (of rehabilitation activities); “Impediments/barriers” (to successful rehabilitation); “Solutions” (to the barriers); “Traditional Owners” and “Principles”. This study shows that mining environmental professionals argue that, with suitable political and corporate support, many cultural values could be restored. However, it was generally agreed that government oversight and regulation in relation to reinstatement of First Nations’ cultural values needed to be improved. Several participants suggested that greater consideration should be given to closure plans generally, to financial means to carry out rehabilitation, and specifically to planning to identify and address the rehabilitation of First Nations’ cultural values prior to approval. Other findings were also that First Nations’ cultural values and environmental values are closely aligned, and that consultation and effective communication with Traditional Owners are the key to integrating awareness of First Nations’ cultural values into mine rehabilitation practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100757
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Challenges
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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