Fears Woodside’s Scarborough gas project threatens the rock art, the Pilbara community

Traditional owners of Pilbara have raised concerns that a $ 16.5 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project could harm the pristine environment.

More than 50 people gathered at a community meeting in Karratha on Saturday to express their opposition to Woodside’s Scarborough project, which is set to become one of the largest oil and gas developments in Australia.

Ngarluma woman Camelia Samson said she did not believe the community had been properly briefed on the Scarborough project and its potential impact on Murujuga’s environment.

“We heard about this project that is going to happen here in our country and Burrup, which is worrying for us,” she said.

“It has the most rock art in the world.

An old rock engraving depicting an animal.
Murujuga National Park has the largest concentration of rock cuttings in the world.(ABC Pilbara: Laura Birch)

Last week, Woodside and BHP announced that they had signed the final investment decision.

The project, off the coast of Dampier, will include a floating production unit, 13 wells to be drilled over the life of the project, and a 430-kilometer pipeline to transport the gas back to the coast.

Construction of an LNG treatment plant on land is scheduled to begin in 2022.

The Scarborough project has received environmental approval.

A large industrial area lit up at dusk.
The $ 16.5 billion project includes the upgrade of the Pluto plant on the Burrup Peninsula.(Delivered by: Woodside Energy Ltd)

‘Actually ruins the place’

More than a million petroglyphs are located in the immediate vicinity of the Burrup industrial area at Murujuga – the largest concentration of rock art in the world.

The petroglyphs depict the ancient culture of the traditional owners, their song lines and history.

There is some fear that the expansion of the activities of Woodside, Rio Tinto and Yara Pilbara may lead to the fading of art.

Two native women in dark shirts speak at a joint meeting.
MAC board members Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec expressed their views at the community meeting.(ABC Pilbara: Ashleigh Davis)

Ngarluma woman Josie Alec, who spoke at the meeting, has spent the last 10 years creating a database of bush medicine in Pilbara.

She said she had seen a dramatic change in the plants at Murujuga.

“What the hell is that? [the Scarborough project] will do with the plants, the animals? [Industry] actually destroys the place as it is, “Alec said.

“It’s not very well documented, and I suppose that’s why people are really ignorant of it, but I think the thing is, it’s so sacred.”

Mrs Alec said it was the duty of her people to protect Murujuga.

“Why do not we use resources and energy and money to actually do something good and sustainable for Mother Earth?”

Old rock formations in the desert.
Deep Gorge at Murujuga National Park.(Delivered by: Clinton Walker)

MAC to work with industry, government

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) says it has no role in approving projects within the Burrup Strategic Industrial Area.

“The MAC takes its responsibility to protect and preserve Murujuga’s cultural heritage seriously,” a spokesman said.

“We will continue to work with industry and government to ensure that no development that takes place on Murujuga will affect its significant cultural heritage values, and we will hold all stakeholders accountable for any impact they have on cultural heritage values ​​throughout Murujuga. -the country.”

The MAC said there was no scientific evidence that emissions affected the ancient rock art of Murujuga, but a monitoring program was underway.

“If research finds that emissions have an impact on the state of preservation of rock art, then the MAC will expect the state and the Commonwealth government to adjust any existing approvals to ensure the protection of cultural values ​​at Murujuga,” the spokesman said.

Woodside has been contacted for comment.

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