The environment minister of Australia said on Friday that she is reviewing an indigenous group’s request to cancel a proposed A$4.5 billion ($3.1 billion) fertiliser plant owing to worries about the facility’s possible effect on historic indigenous rock art.

Two members of the Murujuga indigenous community wrote to the two-month-old Labor administration this week, urging it to stop Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers from commencing construction on the urea factory on the Burrup Peninsula, which has secured Western Australia state government clearance for works.

The organization wants the federal government to assess the project’s possible effect on indigenous heritage before banning it.

“I will give the application my complete attention. I have not taken a decision, “Tanya Plibersek, the Environment Minister, said on Friday.

She said that she has been informed that Perdaman does not intend to commence construction at the site in the next weeks.

The state administration said that if specific rock art was removed from the region, the project, which is projected to take two years to complete and to generate more than 2 million tonnes of urea per year at full capacity, may continue. The indigenous group, on the other hand, is opposed to damaging the place.

The Burrup Peninsula already has multiple industrial operations, but it also has over a million rock carvings, some of which are over 40,000 years old and have been submitted for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Murujuga women Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec have urged the current and former federal governments to investigate the consequences of pollutants from the planned fertiliser plant and other facilities on the Burrup Peninsula, including Woodside Energy Group’s (WDS.AX) Pluto LNG facility, on ancient rock art. 

Woodside has a 20-year agreement with Perdaman to deliver gas to the new plant from its offshore Scarborough project, which is now under development and will feed the Pluto facility.

In a letter to Plibersek dated July 18, the Murujuga women said that “the Perdaman project constitutes a completely inappropriate act of desecration of one of the most important Aboriginal cultural sites in Australia”

Vikas Rambal, Chairman of Perdaman, refused to comment till the minister made a decision.

Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill sent questions about the urea facility to Perdaman.

Source: Reuters

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