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Gold Fields wins title case - West Australian

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The National Native Title Tribunal has ruled the Ngadju people cannot stand in the way of the granting of a mining lease at Gold Fields’ St Ives operations near Kambalda.

The South African gold mining giant on Monday won the fight to convert 2.24sqkm of tenure adjacent to its mothballed Argo underground mine into a mining lease 20km north-east of Widgiemooltha, despite opposition from the traditional owners’ group.

In a decision delivered in Brisbane, NNTT member James McNamara ruled the granting of the lease would be of significant economic benefit.

Gold Fields argued the application, covering a small portion of its 119,748ha landholding around Lake Lefroy, would secure existing infrastructure around Argo and support an expansion of St Ives’ existing operations.

“The grant of the lease will also secure existing infrastructure and SIGM contends that this bears economic significance in support for other productive mining tenure,” Mr McNamara said.

“The exploration of the palaeochannels and the securing of infrastructure is stated to play a role in the expansion of SIGM’s existing operations.

“With this in mind, I accept that the granting of the proposed lease has the potential to provide economic or other significance.”

Members of the Ngadju claimant group who said they regularly hunted on the lease area said they were concerned about the impact the proposed lease would have on their rights and enjoyment of the land.

Mr McNamara said there was no evidence to suggest the lease or other leases around St Ives were used by the Ngadju more than any other area of Lake Lefroy.

“In my view, the evidence does suggest the St Ives area is still used by Ngadju people for hunting and other purposes, but it is not clear to what extent,” he said.

“Although Ngadju have sought to emphasise the significance of the St Ives area, the evidence does not suggest it is utilised to any greater extent than other places on and in the vicinity of Lake Lefroy.”

Gold Fields directly employs about 475 workers at St Ives, and is currently wading through environmental approvals to expand its 2000ha plus mining footprint threefold by 2028.

In October,the High Court refused the Ngadju people leave to appeal a Federal Court ruling that the re-granting of 210 tenements of St Ives’ then 250 tenements by the State Government in 2004 did not contravene the Native Title Act 1993.

The Federal Court ruling overturned a July 14, 2014, decision that the re-grant was not compliant with the Act.

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