National law firm Slater & Gordon today called on Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) to deliver fair and just compensation to the Yindjibarndi community in Western Australia, as negotiations over native title access rights breakdown.
FMG has been accused of supporting a splinter group to divide the local Yindjibarndi community during negotiations for access to traditional Yinjibarndi land for the planned $8.5 billion Solomon Hub project, in the Pilbara region.
Slater & Gordon is representing the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation in its negotiations with FMG. Those negotiations have so far been unsuccessful.
In addition, legal proceedings are being pursued in the Federal Court challenging the validity of the mining leases granted to FMG by the WA Government in December 2010.
Slater & Gordon lawyer, Simon Millman, said the group was seeking a fair and just amount of compensation for access to their land.
“While FMG has put money on the table for compensation, this pales into comparison to the profits that will be made from this mine on our client's traditional land, and it pales into comparison to royalty amounts that have been paid to non-Aboriginal people.”
“Our clients are not being unreasonable in their claim with FMG,” he said.
“Together with our clients, Slater & Gordon are in this for the long fight. It’s about time that Australia hears about what’s happening in the Pilbara. Attempts to try and wedge the local community will not deliver a good result for anyone involved.”
Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, CEO Michael Woodley said he believed FMG’s interference began when the Federal Court legal action was launched.
"Before the Federal Court case started we were negotiating with FMG. Those negotiations were tough, and robust but that is what you would expect," Mr Woodley said.
"Since the Federal Court case we've now seen a new tactic. We believe that FMG is using hostile tactics in an attempt to divide and conquer our community.
“Questions have to be asked about FMG’s role in supporting a break-away group.
“If we don’t fight, we are not honouring our past or our future. Yinjibarndi have been in this land for a lot longer than Andrew Forrest, and we'll still be here long after he's gone.”