Title pressure may ease

FEDERAL Senate willing, WA should get a state-based Native Title system that will help alleviate the 11,000 mining title backlog.

With signs of commodity prices improving, any loosening of the Native Title system will be a boon for WA’s struggling mining industry.

Though the Northern Territory has already tried and failed to get its Native Title legislation through the Senate, the WA Government seems to be confident of success.

Two pieces of legislation have been introduced into the WA Parliament.

One concerns validating mining activities that have taken place between the Wik decision and the recent Native Title amendments.

This affects some 1,300 leaseholds along with public works and the land they are on.

The second involves the establishment of a state Native Title tribunal and a consultation regime as opposed to the current right to negotiate one.

If the legislation passes, only 40 per cent of WA will be under a right to negotiate regime as opposed to the current 90 per cent.

However, before WA gets its state tribunal, the legislation has to pass a number of steps.

With MLC Richard Nevill leaving the Labor party and opting for independence, the chances of the legislation passing through the WA upper house have improved.

If the legislation passes the WA Parliament it then has to receive Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams’ approval before going through both houses of the Federal Parliament.

However, Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Ian Satchwell believes the chances of the Bill getting through the Federal Senate are not high.

Mr Satchwell said many of the titles held in Native Title limbo represented investment opportunities.

“The title applications cover an area the size of Victoria,” he said. “Mining companies can’t have certainty of title because their applications are caught up in the Native Title system.

“Because their applications are held up in the system, mining companies can’t seek out investors.”

Mr Satchwell said the sooner the better would be a good time to unblock the Native Title system.

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