Adani coalmine project frozen by shock land rights ruling
- Category: Mining
- Created: Saturday, 11 February 2017 21:53
- Written by Michael McKenna - The Australian
Adani’s $16 billion coal project in central Queensland has ground to a halt after the freezing of a critical land-use agreement with traditional owners that was to pave the way for construction of the massive mine.
Cancellation of yesterday’s scheduled registration of the deal by the National Native Title Tribunal is the first consequence of a shock Federal Court decision last week that has invalidated native title deals across Australia.
More than 120 indigenous land use agreements have already been identified by the tribunal as under threat in an ongoing audit of the ramifications of the precedent-setting ruling over a native title deal in Western Australia.
Indigenous groups, the mining industry and the Queensland government this week demanded that federal Attorney-General George Brandis introduce amendments to the Native Title Act in response to the ruling.
The “McGlade’’ decision applies to agreements with indigenous groups which have made a native title application — and enjoy full legal rights over their land — but are still waiting for a Federal Court determination.
Under the decision, any agreement without the signed approval of every designated claimant in the clan’s native title claim is invalid, despite the many years that majority decisions were accepted.
Adani’s controversial Carmichael project — set to be Australia’s largest ever coalmine — is among at least 40 proposed or operating resource projects in Queensland alone that are hit by the decision.
The tribunal was yesterday set to formally register a lucrative land-use agreement between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou people that had taken years to negotiate.
Registration is required for the agreement to have legal effect, following an independent vetting, to allow Adani to mine on traditional land in exchange for jobs, training and business support for the indigenous clan.
Traditional owner Irene Simpson said the Turnbull government needed to take urgent legislative action to “fix the mess’’ and get the project moving after years of legal challenges, mostly by environmentalists.
Although the 12 formal native title applicants were split 7-5 over supporting Adani a formal “authorisation meeting’’ last year of clan members voted 294-1 to endorse the agreement.
“We followed the letter of the law in ensuring that this agreement was properly and legally supported by the mob,’’ Ms Simpson said.
“The deal we struck with Adani would allow the mine to go ahead, which is good for Australia, the region and our people.
“It stood to benefit our people for the next 60 years with jobs and small business.
"The government has to do something, or it will be lost.’’
In the past two years, The Weekend Australian has revealed evidence that a foreign-funded group of Australian environmentalists offered financial support to members of the Wangan and Jagalingou people — including native title applicants — to oppose the Adani mine.
A spokesman for Senator Brandis this week said the federal government was considering amendments to the Native Title Act in response to the ruling.
Until the McGlade decision — which related to a $1.3 billion deal struck between the Noongar clan and the West Australian government — the 2010 “Bygrave’’ decision in the Federal Court made clear a majority of applicants was sufficient for a legally binding indigenous land-use agreement.
The tribunal yesterday confirmed there was a freeze on registering land use agreements and that an audit of agreements affected by the decision was under way.
“To date, the audit has identified a possible 123 area ILUAs that relied on QGC v Bygrave (2010),’’ the tribunal said in a statement.
“The majority of these ILUAs are in Queensland.
“The McGlade decision raises a number of complex legal and procedural issues which the Acting Native Title Registrar (Robert Powrie) is currently examining.
“In the meantime, the Acting Native Title Registrar has declared a moratorium on the registration of all area ILUAs currently in the registration/notification stage that may be affected.’’
Adani yesterday declined to comment, but earlier in the week the Indian company issued a statement saying it was considering the decision.
“It is important that these laws operate to meet the aspirations of the majority of native title holders and can’t be used by minority elements to simply disrupt projects,’’ the company added in its statement.
Source : http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/adani-coalmine-project-frozen-by-shock-land-rights-ruling/news-story/7f6d1e581fe8d5ba8b690253b44e9938