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Western Australian official condemns racist signs near Hawthorn gold mine

The director general of Western Australia's mines department has condemned the posting of racist and offensive signs around an eastern Goldfields station owned by Aboriginal people who have reportedly been in a dispute with Hawthorn Resources Ltd. since 2015.

In a statement issued July 2, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, or DMIRS, Director General David Smith noted that police were investigating a series of racist signs around the station near the Trouser Legs gold mine, of which Hawthorn has a controlling interest.

One of those signs allegedly threatened the station's owners — Leo and Lawrence Thomas, brothers and elders of the local Wongatha people — by referring to a local Aboriginal teenager who was killed after being hit by a car in August 2016.

"We do not support anyone who would stoop to the level of intimidating an Indigenous community by making unfounded accusations and death threats in order to achieve their aims," Smith said. "We wholeheartedly denounce the actions of the person or people posting these racist signs and circulating offensive photos."

Western Australia Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston told The Guardian he was "very angry" that his name was mentioned in a sign that claimed that the official supported the racist comments. "I don’t hold any sympathy with racist people," Johnston was quoted as saying. However, he stopped short of suggesting Hawthorn was responsible for the signs. The Guardian said in its June 28 report that Johnston had met the Pinjin community as recently as May.

Station owners under siege

Speaking under parliamentary privilege on the night of June 26, One Nation party politician Robin Scott accused Hawthorn of "racially taunting" the owners of the Pinjin Station, located 140 kilometers northeast of Kalgoorlie, and that the ongoing legal battle between Pinjin operator Tisala Pty. Ltd. and Hawthorn had reached "a new level of racist and threatening behavior."

The Thomas brothers have made a number of reports of racist abuse and threats by mine employees which they say has continued despite Hawthorn having previously issued an apology, The Guardian reported.

The DMIRS' Warden’s court ruled in Hawthorn’s favor in December 2017 as to whether station infrastructure including sheds, stockyards and water pipes were built within a pastoral lease or on unallocated Crown land. Tisala accused Hawthorn of unlawfully destroying a water tank and roads and ripping up water lines, but the miner says they were illegally built on Crown land.

Hawthorn Resources said in a statement that its management, in its capacity as manager of the Trouser Legs mining joint venture, had confirmed that "a number of threatening and highly offensive signs have been placed on Crown land immediately adjacent to its mining lease at the Trouser Legs gold project."

"Given this matter has been reported to and is now before the Western Australian Police Force the company has no further comment," the statement said.