*Warning: This article contains abusive language.
On Friday, respected Aboriginal Elder Leo Thomas was left shaken and disgusted after waking up to a series of racially abusive messages and death threats left on his doorstep.
An unknown person (or persons) had left a series of signs with derogative slurs and violent innuendos around Mr Thomas's house.
“I’m just so upset and distressed with what has happened," Mr Thomas told NITV News.
Mr Thomas is one of the Aboriginal owners who work on the remote Pinjin Station, a small pastoral homestead located 140 kilometres northeast of Kalgoorlie, in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.
The station boasts a rich history; horses for the light infantry were trained on the property, and it's home to a famous watering hole and the largest windmill in the Southern Hemisphere.
The station, run under Tisala Pty Ltd, an Aboriginal pastoral company, has been at odds with Melbourne-based Hawthorn Resources, which operates an open pit gold mine nearby.
Leo and Lawrence Thomas, who are uncle and nephew, help run Pinjin Station. They allege they have been receiving racial abuse from the mining company since 2015.
Leo Thomas told NITV News the abuse he has copped has been ‘disgraceful’.
“In all my lifetime, I have never encountered a company who has been so disrespectful towards us as Aboriginal people, the Wongatha Elder says.
“Its just sickening but we have always tried to look forward.”
He says when the abuse began in 2015, he wrote to the Managing Director of Hawthorn Resources and received an apology. However, three years later, Mr Thomas says the abuse has continued.
'Black n****s holding up mine'
Although Mr Thomas has no proof that the posters come from the mining company, his suspicions are based on the fact that some posters do mention the Minister for Mining and the mining operations and on his past experiences with the company.
"Minister Johnston and DMIRS (Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety) support us," one of the posters reads.
"So eat out dust + put up with noise or piss off."
Mr Thomas has described the posters as “sickening, abhorrent and disgusting.”
“I am concerned I would be far better off going and living in Afghanistan or Syria or just committing suicide and anyone whom just looks at these posters can gauge the total seriousness.”
Another poster read, "Black nigars [sic] holding up mine" and, "we destroy black nigars [sic]".
Mr Thomas says he has been left traumatised, saying the matter has ‘turned his guts’.
One of the posters goes as far as suggesting the family would 'end up' like Elijah Doughty, the young Aboriginal 14-year-old who was killed in 2016 in Kalgoorlie after being run over by a man on a four-wheel drive that chased Elijah, claiming he had stolen his bike.
The irony is that Mr Thomas was one of the Elders who tried to calm crowds during the 2016 Kalgoorlie riots the followed Elijah's death.
Mr Thomas says racial abuse like the one he and the workers at Pinjin allegedly receive, harms the Goldfields community, where racial tensions remain high.
Hawthorm Resources told NITV News in a statement: "Management of Hawthorn Resources Limited, in its capacity as Manager of the Trouser Legs Mining Joint Venture, confirms that a number of threatening and highly offensive signs have been placed on Crown Land immediately adjacent to its mining lease at the Trouser Leg Gold Project, approximately 140 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie".
"Given this matter has been reported to and is now before the Western Australian Police Force the Company has no further comment."
Who are Hawthorn Resources?
Hawthorn Resources owns a number of mine sites in Western Australia.
According to the company’s website, they are “an Australian Stock Exchange-listed diversified gold and base metal explorer” who have five major gold mines within the state.
The mine site near Pinjin is the company’s “Trouser Legs Project”. Their website states the project is located 140 kilometres northeast of Kalgoorlie, on the same spot the station is located.
The mine site had been worked on by Hawthorn Resources in 1994, 2001 and in 2011. In 2012, the company announced they would commence drilling at their site after finding “numerous strong gold results” from the reserve.
Mining Minister Responses
West Australian Minister for Mining and Petroleum, Bill Johnston says the racial abuse is not a matter within his scope.
“Whoever is responsible for that should be ashamed of themselves, I wouldn’t in any way see that as acceptable and that’s why I would refer this matter to the police,” he told NITV News.
He says over the years Western Australia has built a good reputation, with Aboriginal people and mining companies having a good relationship. He says the government has an expectation that mining companies will treat Traditional Owners with respect.
“There’s no place for racism in the Western Australia resources sector,” Minister Johnston said.
Not just racial abuse
However, Mr Thomas says it’s not just the racial abuse he suffers from. The Elder claims the mining company is within 100 metres of his homestead.
He says his homestead is continuously being covered in dust and that a number of items on his property have been damaged or destroyed by the mining company. Mr Thomas says the mining company also set of blasts throughout the day with insufficient notice.
“The effects of dust and noise with large 777 dump trucks, excavators 24 hours a day, and now blasting operating so close, within hundreds of metres, is like being physically and mentally tortured from the impacts of the Mining Operations,” he said.
He says he has made several complaints to the Minister of Mining but the mining operations continue.
“[The impacts] have grown in magnitude, including the destruction of hundreds of thousands of dollars of infrastructure and equipment," he added.
“This is why I describe we would be far better off going and living in Afghanistan or Syria or just committing suicide because the regulator who is supposed to protect us is just supporting all of this which has been happening for over seven months."
Mr Thomas claims Hawthorn Resources has destroyed and or damaged sheds, bedding, personal items, lighting, water tanks, and water pipes which supplying the entire station. He says he has evidence of all his destruction and has sent it to the Minister.
Minister Johnston told NITV News he is aware of the range of issues and disputes between the station owners and the mining company but denies the mining company is within 100 metres of the homestead.
“My understanding is that they’re not mining within a 100 metres of a homestead, they’re mining within a 100 metres of farm out fielding, but that’s not quite the same thing,” he said.
“The department of mines has regularly sent inspectors out and I would expect the department to take the appropriate legal action if any element of the mine act in Western Australia aren’t being complied with.”
Minister Johnston also claims he has written back to the station owners and has had meetings with them.
Mr Thomas says he wants to see a full-scale inquiry into how the Department of Mines approved this mining proposal.