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5 July 2001

Historic agreement between miners and Aboriginals

An historic agreement was struck between the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and NSW Minerals Council last week.

This marks the first statewide agreement between a peak industry body and an aboriginal group. A commitment has been made between the two bodies to work together to help overcome the many sensitive is sues which may hold negotiations back.

Susan Streeter, speaking on behalf of the Mining Industry Council acknowledges the different structure of the opal industry at Lightning Ridge, whilst we liaise with the Lightning Ridge Miners Association we are in no way affiliated," she said. '

An understanding has been reached between the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council and the New South Wales Minerals Council as to the conduct of negotiations with a view to establishing mechanisms for the resolution of exploration and mining issues.

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, a statutory corporation under the NSW Aboriginal Lands Rights Act 1983 and representative body for NSW under the Common-wealth Native Title Act and New South Wales Minerals Council Limited, the mining industry association in New South Wales representing the interests of mineral producers, explorers and extractive mineral producers acknowledge that:

1 The High Court of Australia in Mabo v Queensland (No 2 )(1992) held that the common law of Australia recognises a form of native1itle that reflects the entitlement of indigenous inhabitants of Australia, in accordance with their laws and customs, to their traditional lands.
2 Land is of spiritual, social and economic importance to Aboriginal people.
3 In 1993, the Commonwealth Parliament acted the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) ('NTA") whose. Objects are, interalia , to provide for the recognition and protection of native title and to establish ways in which future dealings affecting native title may proceed ,and to set standards for those dealings. The legislation was amended by the Native Title Amendment Act1998.
4 Exploration and mining companies have rights and obligations under the NSW Mining Act1992 (as amended).
5 This protocol establishes the framework in which Parties will proceed, but is not binding on the Parties to it.

The long awaited Western Division Native Title Test Case will be heard by the High Court over two days on September 11 and 12. This case will finally determine whether native title continues to exist on leasehold land in the Western Division. The NSW Farmers' Association argues that native title has been extinguished by nature of the current land use and as a consequence of the Western Lands Act.

The High Court has six months after hearing the case to hand down its decision. The Test Case came about as a result of the High Court Wik Decision.

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