Traditional owners in Queensland's Cape York region are concerned that a possible mining venture in the area could damage some of the oldest rock art in the country.
The Quinkan Galleries contain rock art that dates back 30,000 years, and covers over 200,000 hectares of sandstone.
A plan by Jacaranda Minerals - a subsidiary of Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting -to seek an exploration licence has prompted locals to ask the federal government to world heritage list the area in order to protect it.
Queensland Senator Larissa Waters has expressed support for the protective measures.
“You'd never see mining near Stonehenge, so why would you consider mining near a 30,000 plus year old Indigenous rock art site that really speaks of our history in this country?” she said. “It makes no sense to me it's even under consideration.”
Aside from damaging the art itself, locals are also worried mining will damage tourism in the area, with the Dreamtime rock art having become a highly sought-after tourism experience.
Thomas George, a local guide, says the tourism industry that stems from the art is invaluable. “That's the only job we can get around here, we can't get any other job. Tourism up here, that's our bread and butter.”
NITV News has requested comment from Hancock Prospecting in relation to Jacaranda Mineral's exploration application and the concerns expressed by traditional owners.
A delegation led by Mr George will fly to Canberra next week to urge the federal government to world heritage list the Quinkan rock art before an exploration licence can be agreed to.