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This week in WA - 10 years ago

State government loses to High Court over Native Title The fight against federal Native Title law in Western Australia was struck a blow by a High Court decision rejecting 1993 state Native Title legislation that challenged Aboriginal land rights, this week 10 years ago. It was reported the unanimous verdict would likely force the WA Government to reprocess as many as 10,000 land titles for mining and farming granted under the state legislation. The High Court ruled that the state act was invalid under laws banning racial discrimination and that it conflicted with legitimate federal laws. Then Premier Richard Court said at the time he would continue to fight the federal Native Title law politically as legal avenues had been exhausted. The forward-looking approach was shared by the Australian Mining Industry Council which urged for a commonsense approach to develop a workable system between all levels of government. Mining growth rolled on, however, in spite of the Native Title battle, with WMC (formerly Western Mining Corporation) announcing plans to construct a $145 million sulphur recovery plant at its Kalgoorlie nickel smelter. The development was part of a larger $800 million WMC nickel expansion that year. The addition enabled the smelter to convert most of the harmful sulphur dioxide generated by the smelting process into sulphuric acid, reducing the need for shutdowns in compliance with Environmental Protection Authority policies. The Harriet joint venture, operated by Apache was agreed on by BHP as the gas source for its new $300 million gas-fired Pilbara power station at Port Hedland. And the state’s Bronzewing Mine was officially opened as Great Central Mines owner Joseph Gutnick emerged as a key player in the Goldfields area, where the entrepreneur’s holdings were estimated at 11 million ounces. The new mine was expected to produce about 200,000 ounces a year. In transport, shipping companies gained a short-term windfall from an increase in domestic freight loadings between Fremantle and eastern ports following the severing of Australia’s transcontinental rail link. The line was broken as a spate of bad weather continued with severe rains flooding the track about 200km east of Kalgoorlie, where two areas suffered complete washaways. Meanwhile in cricket, WA kept its Sheffield Shield final hopes alive, with a four-wicket win over New South Wales. Regarded then as a middle-order batsman, Australian spin-bowler Brad Hogg secured victory unbeaten on 50, lifting WA to third place in the Shield standings.

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