The High Court has dismissed Fortescue Metals Group’s application to appeal a native title decision regarding the Solomon Hub iron ore mine in Western Australia.
Fortescue challenged a 2017 federal court decision that found the Yindjibarndi traditional owners to hold exclusive native title rights on site of the Pilbara mine.
The High Court ruling recognised the Yindjibarndi people’s native title rights – including that of exclusive possession to 2700 square kilometres of land in the Pilbara, the Solomon Hub site.
The Yindjibarndi people lodged their claim in 2003, making it one of the longest-running native title claims in Australia.
Fortescue said the decision will have no impact on its current or future operations at Solomon Hub and it does not anticipate any financial impact.
“Fortescue has a strong history of working with our traditional custodians and native title partners across the Pilbara, delivering native title royalties, training and assistance to over 1600 Aboriginal people and over $2.5 billion in contracts to Aboriginal businesses,” Fortescue chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said.
“We accept, and have always accepted, the Yindjibarndi people’s non-exclusive native title rights and interests over the relevant area.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome, as we believe this is an important point of law regarding the test for exclusive possession with potential implications for a range of industries, we accept the High Court’s decision.”
Fortescue will have to negotiate a land use agreement with traditional owners, or pay millions in compensation.
“We remain open to negotiating a land access agreement to the benefit of all Yindjibarndi
people on similar terms to the agreements Fortescue has in place with other native title groups in the region,” Gaines said.
Fortescue currently has agreements in place with seven native title groups in the Pilbara which cover training and education, employment, business opportunities, heritage management and native title royalties.