MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Australia Update

Published by MAC on 2006-04-13


Australia Update

13th April 2006

An agreement in principle between the Wajarri Yamatji Native Title Claim Group and Midwest Corporation Ltd. will allow Midwest to explore for iron while protecting culturally significant areas, while Environment Minister Ian Campbell has swallowed the nuclear industry's line (and hook and sinker) and says Australia should mine more uranium to help combat global warming. The waste won't be our problem, though.

Land Access Agreement Paves Way for Iron Ore Exploration by Midwest Corporation

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

5th April 2006

One of the most significant exploration land access agreements in Australia has been reached in-principle between the Wajarri Yamatji Native Title Claim Group and the mining and exploration company Midwest Corporation Limited (Midwest).

The agreement, which will give a significant boost to the developing iron ore industry of the Mid West region of Western Australia, is among the most comprehensive exploration agreement packages ever reached.

Most importantly it addresses the concerns and considerations of Wajarri people to ensure the highest level of protection for their country.

"This is an outstanding agreement," said Ike Simpson of the Wajarri people. "It means that we will have a real say in what happens to our country."

Mr Simpson said that Midwest Corporation had, through this in-principle agreement, demonstrated a genuine sensitivity to the many cultural concerns that Wajarri people had about the area.

Harry Thompson, Midwest's Chief Financial Officer, welcomed the agreement which would pave the way for the commencement of exploration in the area.

"This is a positive outcome for everyone. The arrangement benefits the traditional owners as well as facilitating Midwest's plans to explore one of the state's most significant undeveloped iron ore deposits," Mr Thompson said.

The in-principle agreement was negotiated by the Wajarri Yamatji Native Title Claim Group with the assistance of the Yamatji Land and Sea Council.

It covers exploration for iron ore in the Weld Ranges, located 65 kilometres southwest of Meekatharra and 50 kilometres northwest of Cue in Western Australia, and consists of a series of hills approximately 60 kilometres long and three kilometres wide.

Comprised of parallel ridges of banded iron formation, Midwest's tenements currently contain a JORC compliant resource of some 132.1 million tones of iron ore at a grade of 55.6% Fe Grades of up to 65 per cent iron have been recorded.

The agreement requires considerable sensitivity and understanding on behalf of the company because the Weld Ranges is an area of exceptional cultural significance for the traditional owners.

Significantly, it includes the reserve surrounding the magnificent ancient ochre mine Wilgie Mia - an area which will be protected from any exploration or mining by Midwest Corporation under the agreement.

Mr Simpson said that the Weld Ranges is not only an important area for the Wajarri People, but also for all Aboriginal people in the state. It was essential that any exploration activity was conducted in liaison with the traditional owners and he was pleased that this deal would mean that Wajarri people would always be involved in the process.

The in-principle agreement emphasises the cultural and historical importance of the area. The company has agreed to special conditions to ensure that exploration will be undertaken in close consultation with traditional owners and with a genuine commitment to the cultural concerns and obligations of the Wajarri people.

"The whole of the Weld Range is an important site for us because of the dreaming story that goes through there," said Mr Hamlett of the Wajarri people. "It is good that this deal shows how important the Weld Ranges are for Aboriginal people - and for the whole country."

The agreement comes with a raft of benefits for the traditional owners, particularly Midwest's agreement to exclusion zones for culturally sensitive areas of the Weld Ranges, including Wilgie Mia.

This will be overseen by a monitoring and liaison committee and a liaison officer, funded by the company as part of the agreement. Aboriginal monitors will also oversee any ground disturbing exploration.

"This deal has 'no-go' areas," said Mr Hamlett. "No-go areas are important because they mean that places that have importance in Aboriginal law and culture will be protected."

Mr Hamlett said that inclusion of the liaison positions and the monitors would be essential in ensuring that many significant areas of the Weld Ranges were protected.

The in-principle agreement also allows traditional owners to continue to have access to the area, with consideration always being given to issues of safety. Importantly, the group will also be able to maintain its practice of removing ochre from Wilgie Mia.

A financial package is included in the agreement. A series of dedicated funding provisions have been agreed, including training and education strategies. Importantly, the financial package also includes a share issue, which will provide the Wajarri Yamatji group with some equity in the company.

"Including shares in the agreement is meaningful as it ensures that traditional owners are part of the project," said Simon Hawkins, Executive Director of the Yamatji Marlpa Barna Baba Maaja Aboriginal Corporation, "It also means that the company will be accountable to its Wajarri shareholders."

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:

* The Weld Range contains numerous registered and unregistered sites of significance to Wajarri people as well the broader Aboriginal community. There are many ceremonial places in the Weld Ranges, including some of the largest and most important ceremonial areas in the state.

* YMBBMAC is a native title representative body which represents the traditional owners of the Yamatji (Murchison and Gascoyne) and Pilbara regions of Western Australia. In the Yamatji region it operates as the Yamatji Land and Sea Council and in the Pilbara as the Pilbara Native Title Service.

* YMBBMAC has a representative area of almost one million square kilometres - around 21 times the size of Switzerland.

* The organisation represents 30 native title claims across the Yamatji and Pilbara regions.

For further information, contact:

Marjorie Syddall, Public Relations & Communications Specialist
Yamatji Marlpa Barna Baba Maaja Aboriginal Corporation
Telephone: (08) 9268 7014
Switchboard: (08) 9268 7000
Mobile: 0407 645 646
Email: msyddall@yamatji.org.au

Harry Thompson, Chief Financial Officer
Midwest Corporation Limited
Telephone : (08) 9226 2033
Email : hthompson@midwestcorp.com.au

Chris Codrington
The NCS Group Pty Ltd
Telephone: 08 9486 7188 or 0412 911 107
Email: chris@ncsgroup.com.au

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