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Gruyere clear in native title deal - National Mining Chronicle

Thursday, 2 November 2017

A recent native title determination does not pose a threat to the $532 million Gruyere gold mine in the northern Goldfields, according to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt, despite complaints from traditional owners that they were not properly consulted before the mine was approved.

The Yilka people, then the only registered native title claimants over the 12,000sqkm area east of Laverton, signed a native title agreement with Gold Road Resources in May last year.

A month later Federal Court Justice Neil McKerracher ruled the Sullivan Edwards group, which filed an overlapping claim in 2011, also held native title rights, before a formal determination on country at Jutson Soak on September 27.

Sullivan Edwards Spokesman Mervyn Sullivan said the families and other senior lawmen were concerned they had not been consulted on the Gruyere agreement, calling for renewed engagement from the mining companies and the State Government.

“We are very happy that our native title rights to this country have finally been recognised,” he said.

“But we are very concerned that mining companies are still not listening to us or respecting our native title rights.

“They have an agreement with the Yilka but we had nothing to do with that agreement.”

Mr Wyatt said objections from the Sullivan Edwards group were considered by the Aboriginal Lands Trust over the planned 270,000-ounce a year greenfields gold mine, which is set to produce its first gold in 2019 and operate for more than 13 years.

“Whilst their objections were considered, other stakeholders, including the Yilka native title holders supported the activity,” he said.

“Ultimately, the ALT recommended to me as minister that mining access permits be issued.”

A lawyer for the Sullivan Edwards group said it had also lodged objections under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, claiming heritage sites at the mine and along a 200km gas pipeline to service it would be disturbed.

A decision was still to come on the pipeline, he said.

A spokesperson for Mr Wyatt said a section-18 complaint was considered at an Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee meeting in August, with the developers given consent to continue.

Mr Wyatt said the Sullivan Edwards group would be consulted over future applications to mine in the Yamarna district, which is being explored for gold and base metals by a swag of listed companies.

The Yilka claim was part of the failed Wongatha claim in 2007, before it was registered in its own right by the National Native Title Tribunal in 2009.

Senior partner Gold Fields, the South African gold giant that paid $350 million to take 50 per cent of the project from Gold Road last year, said at the time the agreement was signed the Yilka were the only registered title group.

“Gold Fields has complied with all applicable legal obligations with respect to the project,” a Gold Fields Australasia spokesman said.

“This included obtaining consent from the registered native title claimants to the grant of the Gruyere mining lease as required under the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) which, at the relevant time, were the Yilka People.

“The company is confident that following resolution of the relevant legal processes, the native title agreement will provide the appropriate framework for continued engagement and co-operation, and will provide significant benefits for all native title holders.”


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