Western Australia to compensate Aboriginal community for mine damage Reuters

© Reuters. TOP PHOTOS: Members of aboriginal groups hold placards protesting what they say is a lack of detail and discussing new heritage protection laws, after mining giant Rio Tinto destroyed an old iron ore mine site.

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Western Australia’s government has agreed to pay compensation to an Aboriginal group over past incidents including mining leases on their ancestral lands, in a move aimed at giving Aboriginal people more say in the future.

The government has been strengthening its laws to protect the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples since Rio Tinto’s (NYSE: ) iron ore mines three years ago destroyed a rock deposit that showed human habitation dating back 46,000 years.

The Western Australian government said it had reached a “temporary settlement” with the Tjiwarl people of the northern Goldfields in the state’s far north over three compensation cases and finalized a future land use agreement.

The government will pay the Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation $25.5 million ($17.3 million) for things like road concessions and leases that damage or destroy the group’s rights in their lawsuits.

The new agreement gives Tjiwarl greater say over future actions by miners and others on issues such as water management and mining or petroleum leases, and removes the need for future compensation. It is also returning some land to Tjiwarl and expanding the group’s care facilities.

Bellevue Gold and lithium producer Liontown Resources Ltd, which operate in Tjiwarl’s fields, were involved in the compensation case.

BHP Group (NYSE:), which declined to comment, entered into a land use agreement in 2018 for its nickel operations and was not part of the settlement. Its Mt Keith and Leinster nickel operations are located in the Tjiwarl area.

Comments were sought from Bellevue and Liontown.

“(This agreement) will lay the foundation for a strong relationship between the WA Government and Tjiwarl Indigenous Peoples in the future,” the government said on Wednesday.

Tjiwarl Aboriginal Corporation was delighted to have reached the milestone, Chief Executive Greg Ryan-Gadsden said in a statement.

“We hope it provides a foundation to guide other community groups to achieve the same goals.”

Attorney Malcolm O’Dell of Central Desert Native Title Services, who participated in the negotiations, said nearly all of the mining parties that may have had title as part of the original interest have now settled the issue.

($1 = 1.4743 Australian dollars)

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