Negotiating Cultural Heritage? Aboriginal–Mining Company Agreements in Australia
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Mining and other forms of industrial development can result in profound and often irreversible damage to the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples. Fear of such damage regularly results in indigenous opposition to development and, in many cases, to delays in construction of development projects or even to their abandonment. Government legislation has generally proved ineffective in protecting indigenous heritage. An alternative means of achieving protection arises from the growing recognition of indigenous land rights and the opportunity this creates for negotiations with mining companies regarding the terms on which indigenous landowners may support development. To evaluate the potential efficacy of negotiated approaches, this article analyses forty-one agreements between mining companies and Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It argues that negotiated agreements do have the potential to protect indigenous cultural heritage, but only where underlying weaknesses in the bargaining position of indigenous peoples are addressed. This finding has wider implications given that negotiation and agreement making are increasingly being promoted as a means of addressing the structural disadvantages faced by indigenous peoples and of resolving conflicts between them and dominant societies.
Development and Change
© 2008 Institute of Social Studies. Published by Blackwell Publishing. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. The definitive version is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/
Political Science not elsewhere classified