The Yindjibarndi people of WA’s Pilbara have opened another front in their war with Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue, calling for the WA government to impose tougher conditions on the miner to protect their cultural heritage and the environment.

Michael Woodley, chief executive of the Yindjibarndi Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation said Fortescue’s 400 square kilometres Solomon iron ore mine had destroyed or damaged 249 indigenous heritage sites and operated under more lenient conditions than more recently approved similar mines.

“Our community not only endures poor environmental and cultural management, which is a source of ongoing hurt and distress, but out native title rights and interests have also been disrespected,” he said.

Fortescue chair Andrew Forrest and Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Michael Woodley.

Fortescue chair Andrew Forrest and Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Michael Woodley.Credit: Composite image

Fortescue received environmental approval from the WA government to develop the Solomon mine in 2011.

Woodley said Fortescue’s own Eliwana mine, approved in 2019 and Sanjiv Ridge operated by Gina Rinehart’s Atlas Iron both had stricter requirements than Solomon.

In December 2023 YNAC made a detailed submission to environment minster Reece Whitby, calling on him to request the independent Environmental Protection Authority to investigate if the regulation of Solomon was adequate.

YNAC wants Fortescue to be required to protect cultural heritage at Solomon and adequately consult the Yindjibarndi.

It is also concerned about reduced flows into nearby creeks caused by water use at Solomon and a Fortescue application to increase its use of groundwater and whether there has been any use of toxic forever chemical PFAS that may have contaminated the water supply.

Woodley said the only way to resolve the concerns was for Whitby to approve an EPA review. Whitby’s office declined to comment.

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