Federal court decision on Fortescue native title deal

The Federal Court has dismissed the appeal by the Yindjibarndi native title claim group.

The court unanimously dismissed the group’s appeal against the previous grant of mining leases to Fortescue for its Solomon Hub operation.

The appeal is part of along running saga between Fortescue and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, which lodged the claim.

As part of the mining leases, Fortescue offered the local aboriginal community $10 million annually in education, training, infrastructure and cash as compensation.

However, it announced it would only provide $4 million per year in cash.

Former Fortescue chief Twiggy stated that it was focused on the reconstruction of the local community and township or Roeburne.

While the offer was accepted by parts of the indigenous community, the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi people, it was rejected wholesale by the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC), which said it preferred a deal similar to those Rio Tinto has made with other traditional land owners of .5% in uncapped royalties.

But the miner stated it would not increase its cash component.

“It’s not going to happen because we know it’s not going to do any good (for the community)," Fortescue CEO Neville Power said.

"We’ve done everything we could possibly do to try to reach an agreement and in fact, we have reached an agreement with the majority of the Yindjibarndi to that deal."

He went on to say the YAC is “trying to exercise power over the whole deal”.

The YAC appealed against the decision.

Following its dismissal, Fortescue said it welcomed the decision which granted validity to the three mining leases at Solomon Hub.

“We are pleased this judgment confirms previous decisions granting these mining leases for our Solomon Hub mine. This verdict vindicates Fortescue’s philosophy to support an entire community to become independent and move on from welfare. We look forward to continuing with Fortescue’s expansion and delivering outcomes to the Yindjibarndi community as promised," Power said.

"Fortescue now looks forward to completing construction of the Solomon Hub and continuing its close co-operation with the Yindjibarndi and Roebourne communities," he added.

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