Govt has no power in FMG, Aboriginal land debate

The dispute between Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation over mining on traditional land will not have any state government involvement, because it has no legal power in the situation.

Attorney general Chris Porter made the revelations following calls from some land rights groups for the government to step in on the issue in the Western Australian Pilbara region.

"Under the Commonwealth Native Title Act the State Government has no authority or role whatsoever in private commercial negotiations between native title claimants and miners," Porter told The West Australian.

"Those now calling for WA State Government intervention must surely know that we have no legal or statutory ability to intervene and in fact the WA State Government has not been invited to any of the private meetings between the two parties in this case.

"Further, and in any event, as the State administers the Mining Act 1978, it would not be appropriate for the State take on the role of mediator in this dispute."

The state government aims to have disputes between native title owners and any parties they are at odds with settled out of court where possible, Porter said.

He did say the state government would be willing to meet with the parties concerned if requested.

Over the last three years, several mediations have been conducted by the National Native Title Tribunal, but the parties have failed to reach a resolution.

During the dispute, FMG founder Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has been labelled a racist and received death threats over what some local Aboriginal people say has been mistreatment in the situation.

Forrest has hit back at claims he or his company are acting inappropriately and yesterday stood by his decision not to increase the amount of cash compensation given to the indigenous community.

FMG is offering $10 million per year in education, training, infrastructure and cash, and Forrest says the community, currently in “complete social breakdown” would not benefit from “mining welfare”.

Forrest recently stood down as chief executive of the company he founded to focus on his other endeavours, including the Generation One campaign he started, which aims to end the disadvantage of Indigenous Australians in one generation.

President of the National Native Title Tribunal, Graeme Neate told The West he convened mediation between the parties in but no agreement was reached and the mediation stopped after several months.

Neate said he had advised the tribunal would consider a request for further mediation on request.

Image: Roebourne; Perth Now

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