Native Title Claim Upheld In Pilbara Region

The indigenous community has the right to sue Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group for millions.

The claim, which was first lodged in 2003 has been approved, granting the Yindjibarndi people native title over Western Australia’s Pilbara, including the area where FMG’s multi-billion-dollar Solomon hub mine is located. The same claim coincides with disputes over royalty payments from the FMG project.

Justice Steven Rares found that the Indigenous owners of the land had native title over the area:

"I have found that the Yindjibarndi are entitled to exclusive native title rights and interests over all of the unallocated Crown land in the claimed area and the Yandeeyara Reserve, except for a small area occupied by the Tom Price railway,"

This includes the unallocated Crown land occupied by FMG's Solomon Hub mine.

A historic day for Western Australia’s indigenous community. Michael Woodley, chief executive of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, explains:

You know we talk about legacies — we leave the legacy today for all Yindjibarndi, whether you're with us or against us, this is your moment too.

The case has been described as ‘landmark” and has set a precedent for other native title claim cases in the future.

The Solomon Mine’s impact on the local indigenous community has been devastating. The negotiations between the FMG and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation resulted in a paid division of the Aboriginal Corporation in 2011 the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation. This splintering left local indigenous families at war.

In a highly controversial move, the newly split division Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation sought wrest control –away from the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation’s leaders.

If successful, Fortescue would’ve been able to enter a formal agreement with Yindjibarndi on financial terms presented by Wirlu- Murra.

George Irving, lawyer to the group, said the Yindjibarndi group received everything they were asking for. But hinted further compensation might be sought.

Ben Wyatt, Aboriginal Affairs Minister, praised the efforts of the Yindjibarndi as “determined and committed advocates” who triumphed over extreme adversity.

Header: The Pilbara, Western Australia

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