In Fortescue Mining Land Case, Australian Court Rules In Favor Of Indigenous Group

In Western Australia’s Pilbara region, the rights and claims over land used by Fortescue Metals Group to mine millions of tonnes of iron ore, of an indigenous Aboriginal group were withheld as the Australia’s Federal Court ruled in favor of the indigenous Aboriginal group.

Iron ore giant’s Solomon mining hub, a vast mineral-rich project capable of yielding up to 70 million tonnes of iron ore a year, will no longer be owned by the company as the ruling now gives the Yindjibarndi people exclusive native title rights over land covering the company’s mining hub.

Australia recognizes indigenous rights to certain parcels of land and therefore native title is a legal doctrine in that country. Filed against the government of Western Australia state, the case was brought on behalf of the Yindjibarndi people.

Because of the fact that Fortescue had built the Solomon operations without an appropriate land-use deal with the group, they would now seek compensation from the company, Yindjibarndi leader Michael Woodley said.

“There’s an economic loss, a cultural heritage loss and then the pain and suffering caused,” Woodley told Reuters in a phone interview.

However, the amount of money that would be sought as compensation was not specified be him.

By providing businesses opportunities, renumeration and housing while protecting heritage areas, the company had built strong relationships with the majority of the Yindjibarndi community, Fortescue Chief Executive Nev Powers said in a emailed statement to the media in Australia.

“We don’t agree with Michael Woodley’s comments and intend to appeal the decision to ensure the Native Title Act applies as intended,” Powers said.

The court decision would have no impact on the current or future operation of the mine and it did not anticipate any material financial impact from the court’s decision, Fortescue had said in an earlier statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Having started as a small exploration company in 2003, Fortescue is now a large corporation and its founder and chairman Andrew Forrest is one of Australia’s wealthiest men. And with annual revenue exceeding $7 billion last year, within 10 years it had become the world’s fourth biggest supplier of iron ore.

With most of the losses coming after the court ruling was made public, Fortescue stock fell 3.5 percent on Thursday despite gains in iron ore prices. It was Fortescue’s biggest one-day loss in a month.

The case is Warrie (formerly TJ) (on behalf of the Yindjibarndi People) v State of Western Australia in the Federal Court of Australia.

(Adapted from Reuters)


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