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Western Australia compensates the Aboriginal group for historical mining damages

The state of Western Australia has agreed to compensate an Aboriginal group for historic actions, including issuing mining leases on their traditional lands, setting a precedent that would give Aboriginal groups a greater say in future developments.

The state has tightened its laws to protect indigenous cultural heritage since Rio Tinto’s iron ore mining operations three years ago destroyed historic rock shelters attesting to human occupation dating back 46,000 years.

The Western Australian government says it has reached a “historic agreement” with the Tjewarl people of the Goldfield region in the north of the state over three Aboriginal property claims, and has finalized an agreement on future land use.

The state will pay Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation A$25.5 million ($17.3 million) for acts such as approving roads and issuing leases that have damaged or destroyed the group’s legal rights to their traditional lands.

The new agreement states that Tjiwarl will have a greater say in the future developments of the miners and other players, particularly in relation to water management and mining or oil leases, and will not have any further claims in the future. It also returns some plots of land to Tjaroll and expands the group’s protection area.

Bellevue Gold and lithium developer Liontown Resources Ltd, which operates on the Tjiwarl lands, has been involved in the compensation dispute.

BHP Group, which declined to comment, entered into a land use agreement in 2018 for its nickel operations and was not involved in the settlement. Nickel operations in Mount Keith and Leinster take place on Tjewarl land.

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Comments have been requested from Bellevue and Liontown.

“The agreement lays the foundation for a strong relationship between the Washington state government and the indigenous Tjewarl title holders,” the state government said in a statement late Wednesday.

Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation welcomed the agreement, its CEO, Greg Ryan Gadsden, said in a statement.

We hope it will serve as a basis for other Indigenous groups to achieve similar results.

Nearly all of the mining parties that may have been liable in the original claim have now settled that liability, said attorney Malcolm O’Dell of Central Desert Native Title Services, who was involved in the negotiations.

($1 = 1.4743 Australian dollars)

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