“Twiggy” fights attempts to mine his family farm

Iron-ore mogul Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest is fighting attempts to mine his personal cattle station in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

Founder and executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, Forrest is taking his plight to the courts as he moves to block the exploration for uranium on his Minderoo Station.

Last month Forrest failed to halt sand mining on his property, SMH reported.

Minderoo is a Forrest family property established in 1878 by his great, great uncle, Sir John Forrest, who was also the first premier of Western Australia, and his brothers Alexander and David.

Forrest previously worked as a jackaroo on the property, it was sold in 1998 to pay off debts but he subsequently bought it back in 2009 for a reported $12million.

Legal proceedings have been ongoing for almost two years.

"In Australia, by law, you only own the top metre. Everything underneath, that is owned by the people of Australia," Peter Strachan, a resources analyst at Perth-based StockAnalysis, said.

"If someone puts in a request to explore on your land, you have to deal with that and make sure you're compensated for access."

Requesting access to private land in Western Australia requires the approval of the Warden's Court, which deals with disputes over mining leases, and plays a role in negotiating compensation with the owner.

In a January 22 ruling, Warden Stephen Wilson described one of Forrest's proposed development conditions for sand mining on his property as "outrageous," and suggested he was seeking "dictatorial power".

One of the proposed conditions was the implementation of a performance guarantee by Yarri Mining, the company which plans to mine Mindaroo’s sand, of at least $200,000

Yarri Mining plans to use the sand mined from the property in the construction of natural gas projects being developed by  BHP Billiton and oil company Chevron.

"The proposed condition appears to be an attempt to create some form of dictatorial power that allows it to act as the investigator, prosecutor, judge and enforcer of the provisions of the Mining Act when it has no power to do so," the warden said.

Forrest's private company Forrest & Forrest argued against the mining-sand application, saying that machinery noise may scare cattle on the 226,000-hectare property.

According to the ruling Yarri proposes to use about 140 hectares for sand production, about 0.06 per cent of the total area of Mindaroo, SMH reported.

"Forrest & Forrest is disappointed at the Warden's decision to allow sand mining by Yarri Mining within the historical and environmentally fragile parts of Minderoo pastoral station," the company said.

Andrew Forrest does have the option to appeal the decision in the Environmental Resources and Development Court or plead his case directly with West Australian Mines Minister Norman Moore.

Forrest is also drawing up battle lines on a second legal front as he moves to fight exploration licences granted over some of Minderoo on April 4 for Cauldron Energy’s Yanrey uranium project.

Forrest & Forrest filed objections on May 8. A hearing date has not yet been set.

But according to the West Australian Department of Mines Fortescue Metals has also applied to explore for minerals at Minderoo and currently holds six pending applications.

"Andrew has a long history of jackarooing and working with the Aboriginal people in that part of the country," Strachan said.

"He doesn't want to risk that some of it would be spoilt by mining gravel for the foundation of an LNG plant."

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