Fresh approach to Native Title

INDIGENOUS Land Use Agreements such as the one signed earlier this week between Hamersley Iron and the Eastern Guruma Aboriginal Community are being touted as the way forward.

“Not only is it the way to go, it is the way we are going,” Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Tim Shanahan said.

Mr Shanahan, acknowledged it was consuming to broker such agreements but said the Native Title process was adversarial and litigious, whereas the process encouraged discussions between the two parties.

He said the agreements still occurred in context of native law and Aboriginal cultural heritage considerations and smaller mining companies did not need to fear the risk of setting a precedent.

“Each agreement will be negotiated on a case by case basis,” Mr Shanhan said.

“We will see more of these consensual outcomes. But that does not mean to say that the agreements will be easy.”

The Eastern Guruma Indigenous Land Use Agreement will allow Hamersley Iron to mine and explore a large area near Tom Price in the Pilbara, subject to conditions including respecting an Aboriginal heritage protocol.

In return, Hamersley Iron will contribute up to $38 million over the life of any new mines developed in the agreement area to a trust that will fund education, training, business and community development for the Eastern Guruma people.

The agreement took six years to broker and follows the signing of a commercial agreement between the parties in late 2001.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Renwick said they were delighted to be one of the first large-scale mining companies in Western Australia to reach such an agreement.

He said it enhanced their ability to pursue new commercial opportunities in the future.

Eva Connors, of the Eastern Guruma Aboriginal Community said the agreement had been strongly supported by the Elders and community members.

She said it would secure economic advancement and independence for the Eastern Guruma people in the future.

Deputy Premier Eric Ripper said the agreement would potentially unlock millions of dollars in business for Hamersley Iron and bring substantial benefits to the traditional owners, the Eastern Guruma people.


“We will see more of these consensual outcomes. But that does not mean to say that the agreements will be easy.”

-         Tim Shanahan



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