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Miner to plead guilty over sacred site

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DARWIN, Feb 7 AAP

February 07 2013, 7:08PM

A mining company says it will plead guilty to damaging an Aboriginal sacred site in the Northern Territory, but still plans to contest two charges of desecrating it.

OM (Manganese) Ltd, a subsidiary of OM Holdings Ltd, is facing two counts of desecrating an Aboriginal sacred site, and one count of damaging the site.

The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) has alleged the manganese miner damaged and desecrated a site at Bootu Creek, about 170km north of Tennant Creek.

Cracks were allegedly detected around the site on July 7, 2011, but despite its imminent collapse the miner set off a blast two weeks later, which split the rocky outcrop in half, AAPA alleges.

In court in Darwin on Thursday, counsel for OM (Manganese) Peter Quinlan SC said the miner would plead guilty to the count of damaging the site.

"The defendant intends to plead guilty to count two," Mr Quinlan said.

Such an offence carries a maximum penalty of about $130,000, depending on when it is determined that the damage occurred.

But Mr Quinlan indicated the company would fight the charges of desecrating the site.

The site at Bootu Creek was said to have immense spiritual significance to several groups of Aboriginal people and was known as Two Women Sitting Down.

Magistrate Sue Oliver instructed both sides to return to court on February 20, with a trial pencilled in to begin on March 4.